The Importance of Reading to Children

adult baby book boy

We can never underestimate the importance of books in our lives and in our children’s lives.  We can appreciate our ability to read in the first place, a gift denied to so many, through circumstance or no fault of their own. However, before you can shout ‘Mother Goose’ – it can be a minefield of issues. As an educator and an advocate for helping our parents and the people who attempt to instill that the idea of reading to children is a good thing in the first place, here are four things to think about:

  1. Once Upon a Time?

This can be one of the challenges of reading to children – giving it the time.  I grew up in a family of seven and I remember my mother ‘reading the pictures’ in our picture books – at times she bypassed the words altogether. Research tells you that this is still very much reading to children as they are hearing words. Even five minutes a day can make all the difference.  It is a lovely time to connect with your child and also – it helps to develop oral language skills – key to literacy skills.

  1. I do not like green eggs and ham!

Now, this can be a massive pain in the pumpkin carriage – that situation when your child absolutely ADORES a book that you hate reading! Personally, I am not crazy about Dr. Seuss, but my daughter loved those books. My boys went through a phase of a book entitled Cows in The Kitchen – it’s basically plotless and rhyming (the children’s book equivalent of Twin Peaks or something!! Just kind of weird!). I had months of torture reading it!

At times it’s good to remind ourselves that it is for their benefit and entertainment – not ours. Let them choose. Soon they will be in the land of nod and you can go back to Downton Abbey boxsets or whatever floats your boat.

  1. What if Cinderella was black?   

Something that was brought to my attention recently – what if Cinderella was black? Or if Harry Potter was a little boy from say, New Delhi? Would it make a difference to the story? There is a serious lack of ethnic minorities/people from difference races and colour reflected in stories – according to recent literacy research in the UK. Hoping this will change so our kids get to read about other worlds and other experiences.

Hey – we have a Taoiseach who is half Indian – and a more diverse society – isn’t it time for it?

It is always a good idea to talk about the universality of stories rather than the children in them.

  1. So many distractions!

These days, there are so many things to compete with books – iPad games, busy lives – you name it. But to quote the great Roald Dahl:

‘Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.’


 A few books to recommend! 

My Top 4 up to Age Four!

  • Mr. Topsy Turvy – the best of the Mr. Men books for me. Great for pre-writing skills as he mixes up sentences in the funny way. But any Mr. Men book will do.
  • The Day the Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffers – excellent for teaching colours and the the importance of colours and their meaning in our culture
  • Tyrannosaurus Drip – Not a huge Gruffalo fan, but love this Julia Donaldson one – it is basically a new version of the Ugly Duckling. Teaches the importance of kindness and difference
  • The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers (again!)


My Top 5 up to Age Ten!

  • The Dogman Books by Dav Pilkey – graphic novels/comic books from Captain Underpants author. Addictive to the six or seven-year-old boy
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – excellent for the kid who finds it hard to engage with books.
  • Wonder by R. Palacio – brilliant for making kids more empathetic to other kids
  • Horrible Histories Series – wonderfully dip-in-and-outty!
  • A Place called Perfect by Helena Duggan
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events Series – dark, hilarious and addictive if your kids like them!





September was the cruelest month?

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The poet TS Eliot once said April is the cruelest month. Can I meekly put my hand up and register September as taking that honour, or if not winning a close second?

Does anyone love September? You put up with it, we might go for coffee with it, but you don’t actively seek out a date with September.

Ok, admittedly, the weather is beautiful, the ochres of autumn and all that, but it also signifies the new term.

If September was a person, it would be the younger, better looking sister of January. Auburn haired perhaps, mostly affable, sometimes moody. Less harsh than January.  If you ever went on holiday with September, it would be the kind of person- we all know the ones – who are the first up, making plans, planning the route for the next day trip to Camino de Torres in the Camino, while you sit luxuriating and slumbering on the bottom bunk of some hostel bed.

September for many is about beginnings. The beginning of a new routine, one which we are all sent hurtling into whether we like it our not into. Tumbling like the autumn leaves in the park, despite ourselves and with little control, we are carried along into a new path.

It is comforting to know that there are common fears everyone experiences when embarking on those new beginnings. For many starting a new group, the thoughts are the same– will I fit in? Will I be able for it? Will I be asked to do something I can’t do?  Will I be in the oldest/youngest in the group? Will people think I’m crazy if I express an opinion? (And that’s just the teachers/tutors in the staff room!)

One of Seamus Heaney’s most well-known quotes – So walk on air against your better judgement – is something I am trying for September.  It is about giving things a go and not thinking too much.  Who wants to come into the deep end with me? What’s the worst that can happen? Ok, you may not emerge dignified but I say,  we embrace our inner deep sea diver. You know it is there. It may need a little coaxing to the diving board, but it is there.

Most new groups form in September – the new adult learning group, the evening palates group, the children starting in Junior Infants for the first time or even starting a new year. We’ve heard of the stages of the group, the memorable rhyming Tuckman’s theory, the storming, norming, forming thingamajig. A new group is like the birth of a new living thing. In some ways a blank slate, in others a life and personality of it’s own –  or it is subject to its environment? The people in the group? The teacher? Dumb luck?

It is true that every new group takes a while to get going.  We are in the group, we are there – that is the most important thing for now. The work will get done in time.  I call it group survival mode. Choose your battles wisely.  You’re in the forest, camped out, but you’re not at the Bear Grylls stages yet of actually being so at home that to feel comfortable enough to kill a deer and cook it on the fire.  In September, if I’d successfully worked out how to open and pitch my tent, my job is done!

We might look at the map, we might think about our next move (our next move could be planning the next class, addressing that issue that arose in week two but you noted it, or something else you intelligently put on the long finger as at the time you thought to yourself – too soon). As an educator, teacher and quite frankly, as a human being – we must lower the bar in September.  We are here. That is all.

Let’s see where October takes us, shall we?

Interesting links on group dynamics in the classroom: 




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