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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!