Encouraging Children to Read
My eldest daughter has recently turned into a bit of a book worm. What’s surprising about this is she has struggled so much with her reading that it hasn’t interested her much up to now. She has always loved stories though, but enjoyed being read to more than learning to read alone.
When my daughter started school, the first books she brought home were picture books i.e. no words; the idea being for the child to tell the story themselves by looking at the illustrations. It was a real struggle for me to get my daughter to sit down and go through these books; they didn’t inspire her and she wasn’t interested in even trying.
Looking back I think it was quite hard at the time to sit down and spend a quiet few moments going through the books. I had a newborn and a two year old to deal with, so there was plenty to keep me occupied and the only time we had to sit down together was at bed time. That was always too late; tiredness would only make her worse and we used to end up falling out. I used to tear my hair out in frustration at her inability to grasp the whole concept of sounding out the words and recognising repeat ones.
At the end of reception year, my daughter had still not grasped the concept and she almost had to start again in year one. I blamed the reading scheme, as a lot of the books that were included at each level were factual and not aimed at girls. I remember one book where we had to read about pipes underground; everything from water mains to electricity cables and telephone lines. I challenge anyone to find that interesting.
So for a while we did our own reading; I bought some books from another reading scheme and things finally started to fall into place. Then last year I was at my mum’s house and I discovered all my old books in the loft. I brought them home with me and started reading them to my daughter. I didn’t push her to read them by herself, but I wanted to read to her some of the stories that had inspired me; stories that had such an impact on me that I can still remember them to this day.
It has been fantastic to re-read some of my old favourites, and to see my daughter enjoying them too is even better. I think that is has inspired her at last, as she has now started to read them on her own. Every night she reads before she goes to sleep and is often reluctant to put the book away when it’s ‘lights out’, as she’s become so absorbed in the story and its characters.
These are some of the books that were my favourites:
Heidi – Johanna Spyri
Beezus and Ramona/Ramona the Pest – Beverly Cleary
The Enchanted Wood/The Folk of the Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton
The Wishing Chair – Enid Blyton
The Famous Five – Enid Blyton
Malory Towers – Enid Blyton
My Naughty Little Sister series – Dorothy Edwards
Gobolino the Witches Cat – Ursula Moray Williams
Little Old Mrs Pepperpot – Alf Proysen
James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dhal
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dhal
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing/Superfudge – Judy Blume
Are you there God, It’s me, Margaret? – Judy Blume
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgeson Burnett
What Katy Did – Susan Coolidge
Little Women – Louisa M Allcott
Recently, my daughter finished reading ‘Lily Alone’ by Jacqueline Wilson. She was left feeling let down because the ending wasn’t as she expected and she didn’t know if the children in the story were going to be ok. Jacqueline Wilson books are often about socially deprived children in difficult situations and things don’t always work out as you hope they would; a bit like real life you might say, but my nine year old isn’t ready for that yet. She still needs a happy ending. It doesn’t have to be fairytale style, but one where you are left feeling that everything will be ok.
I quickly directed her to ‘Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing’ by Judy Blume; an easy to read introduction to a fantastic author, who, not unlike Jacqueline Wilson, wrote about real life situations, but with a lighter touch. When I heard my daughter laughing out loud at the antics of one of the characters in this book, I knew that we were ok again.
I know there are some fantastic new authors out there for today’s generation, but it’s great to see that the old ones have stood the test of time.
What were your favourite books as a child?