Over the last decade, more and more celebrity books are appearing on children's bookshelves in bookshops. Amazingly, the likes of Madonna (The English Roses), Dolly Parton (I Am A Rainbow) and Jennifer Anniston (The Prettiest Actress) considered themselves worthy additions to the creations of AA Milne (Winnie The Pooh), Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) and Dr Seuss (The Cat In The Hat).
I wonder in a "Blind Submission" whether a celebrity's book would still make the grade. Would Jamie Lee Curtis (Is There Really a Human Race?) make it to publication or Sarah The Duchess of York (Tea for Ruby), for that matter, without her name on the cover or the press attention it creates? Would a child or a parent choose a celebrity title when placed along side a new Eric Carle (Very Hungry Caterpillar) or Ludwig Bemelmans (Madeline)?
The publishers choose to accept the book because they know, sadly, that the general public will buy a book by a celebrity rather than a non-celebrity, but nonetheless excellent other author, despite the fact it may not be as good! The publishers, naturally want to make money!
It must be frustrating for genuine, hardworking, long suffering children's authors. The celebrities' books probably get the best spots on the shelves and zoom up the publisher's lists, demand greater advances and win more publicity. The celebrities probably get the best interview requests and go on the better tv shows to talk about their books. And, as they are probably not trained, they don't understand the "rules" of children's publishing so the end result is not that good!
For example, when writing for children it is vital that the author doesn't scare the children; they should create suspense without terrifying them. The words must be understandable but not patronising. The story must be structured but not so much that it is confusing. The writing shouldn't be too moralistic or try to teach too many lessons. Overall, and most importantly, it needs to be a good story! It's as simple as that.
Of course, some would argue that children don't know who Whoopi Goldberg (Sugar Plum Ballerina) is and she actually made it to the New York Times Best Sellers List! is. But the parents, the ones paying for the books, do! Julie Andrews has written children's books, but under her unmarried name. This is more like it!
Learning the concept of big and small may seem quite simple, but in fact, learning about size is a part of mathematical concepts. Here are a few activities for the children to try out to help them learn sizes:-
Teddies and Wellies - Line up some wellie boots or shoes and grab a few different sizes bears and dolls. Try putting the dolls and teddies in each of the pairs of shoes. Predict whether the toys are too big or too small to fit in!
Dress-up time - Take a selection of hats, shoes and coats that belong to different members of the family. Try them on and decide if they are too big or too small!
Messy time - Make some hand prints with other children or do some yourself. Look at the prints together and say which are bigger and which are smaller. Measure them with a tape measure if you have older children or cut them out to compare them.
Story time - Read Goldilocks and the Three Bears and act out the story using chairs, different sized bowls etc.
Tubs and pots - Take a few tubs and pots of different sizes. Look at them and compare them. Fill some with water. Transfer the water between them to see which hold more and which are bigger than the others.
Books - Go to a bookshelf and look at all the books. Compare the sizes of the books and sort them in size order. You'll end up with a tidy books shelf too!
Last summer on a family outing to Buckler's Hard in Hampshire, our children were enthralled by the tale of a ship builders daughter who, 300 years ago, would stand in the window of her cottage, reading a large antique bible. She stood in the window for two reasons, first because 300 years ago, before electricity, it was the lightest place at which to read, but second, her proud parents wanted her to be seen by the whole village, so that they could show off their affluence in society by demonstrating that they were wealthy enough to educate their daughter who, in a time of widespread illiteracy, was able to read. Most likely, the bible was the only book that this family owned.
This week the Evening Standard is running a special report uncovering shockingly low levels of literacy in some parts of London. The stories are desperately sad. In one instance a class was asked to bring in a book from home. One nine-year-old brought in an Argos catalogue saying that it was the only book in his house. At one level we might laugh and think this is an amusing anecdote, but the Standard goes on to state that as many as one in three children are growing up without access to books in the home. This doesn't come about because of a shortage of money - 85% of children have games consoles in their home, and most have televisions and hi-fi's. No, this lack of access to books is the result of parents making certain choices, choices that could have a fundamental effect on the lives of their children.
In this modern day, there is absolutely no excuse for parents not to expose their children to books. Books are more readily available today than at any other point in history. If family's cannot afford books then they can borrow them from libraries or school.
The knock on effect of children not being encouraged to read is that 16% of adults aged 16 - 65 living in London have the reading skills of an 11 year old. 40% of employers in London claim that poor literacy skills has a detrimental effect on their business.
Books are a great source of inspiration for children - they're entertaining, educational, exciting and fun! Get familiar with all the different types of books that we use and have a session sharing them with your children. Talk about different books, look a their pictures (or lack of pictures), and talk about what each different sort of books does or helps us with. See how many different types of book you can find! Here are a few suggestions:
Enjoy looking at all the different books together!
The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has said that children as young as eleven years old should read about 50 books a year. This would be part of a national drive to improve literacy standards throughout schools in our country. He claimed literary demands put upon children have been too low for so long that they don't expect to read more than they have to. Instead, children should be reading a novel a week!
He said that primary schools should encourage children to read lots of books too in preparation for secondary education. A December report stated that British teenagers rank 25th in an international league table of teenage literacy!
Along with his Coalition Government, he stated that standards had to rise after he discovered that the vast majority of teenagers read only their GCSE core book and no others.
Many pre-school children will be taking comfort from this as so many parents and carers read numerous books to their children each day let alone each week! Starting the enjoyment of reading at an early age - even before the children can read or talk or even understanding the story - is the best start.
A new Mr Man book - or rather a Little Miss book - will be published in time for the Royal Wedding featuring a lovely, kind princess who moves into a lovely shiny palace. It has been suggested that this new addition to the Mr Men and Little Miss characters is based on Prince William's fiancee, Miss Kate Middleton. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the titles, Little Miss Princess And the Very Special Wedding will be published in April.
Adam Hargreaves the author, was inspired to create the character in honour of the royal wedding later this year and is probably hoping for an invitation! Adam is son of Mr Men's original creator, Roger Hargreaves.
The Little Miss Princess is described as "not rude or spoilt, but kind and generous" and is said to be "privileged but caring" and apparently she can "be a bossy boots at times!"
Over the past 40 years, more than 100 million Mr Men and Little Miss books have been published by Egmont Publishing Group. They have been sold worldwide and more than three million Mr Men and Little Miss books are sold every year.
Whether they are learning to read, just looking at the pictures or starting to sound out letters, whatever stage your child is at, it is vital to get them enthusiastic about books. No matter the style of book, whether it is the latest release or an old favourite from your own childhood, or if it is from a book shop, a library or is borrowed - get them excited about books. Here are some easy ways!
Bring it alive: That doesn't just mean fun voices and emotion in your voice when you read... why not introduce some sensory experience too. If it's a book about a fish, swimming in rough water, panting to get to the party on time to eat cake... why not get them to take their socks off and paddle in a few inches of water in the bath, then run on the spot and have a mouthful of cake for them to eat along with the characters!
Pictures: There are some super illustrations in children's books, so sometimes just look at the pictures. Spot things, talk about what's not mentioned in the story but that feature in the pictures. Focus on one thing and make up your own little story.
Familiar books: If you have read a book too many times for your liking, talk about changing the ending and decide what else could happen. Change the character and discuss how different animals or people would make the story different.
Other means: Try all sorts of books, cloth books, out sized books, ones with lots of words or just a few. No matter the age of your child, they will get something out of looking or reading a new book, even if its not officially aimed at their age.
Get everyone involved: If you have family visiting get them to read a book or if your little one is starting to read, get them to read to your family or act out their favourite book. Do a puppet show with teddies or dress up in the characters and do a version as a play.
Library: The library will have books in different forms: A book you may have read may also be available in audio CD/spoken word format or as a cartoon or film on DVD. Use these formats too.
Write your own story together: Take some photos of things and print them. Then create your own story. Write the words in a book, stick in the pictures and it will become your own, unique masterpiece!
Teaching your child to enjoy reading, to love stories and grow their imagination is really a very easy thing to do and you will both reap the rewards. Reading is not only essential at school but it is great fun too!
Local libraries offer a fabulous resource, but at a time of severe funding cuts, there's every danger that your local library may be targeted for closure. When evaluating the value of local services, local authorities will look at how well utilised their services are. If you want to keep your local library open, then make sure you are using it and are appearing on the local radar!
Local libraries offer all sorts of services in addition to simply lending books. It would be a shame to lose these facilities, yet they can only be justified if they are being used. Make sure that you use your library with your children, and help local authorities justify keeping libraries open so that your children's children can one day enjoy them too!
There are lots of ways to liven up story time, both for you and your little one! Try some of these tips!
We all know how important reading is for children and that reading to even the tiniest toddler will help them in so many ways, but it can be frustrating if you find that your child loses interest after a little while or simply won't settle when you are ready to read a book.
The first thing to remember, is that this is not unusual. Every child is different and while some love the idea of a book, the pictures, the page turning the flaps etc, others are not interested. They don't want to lift flaps or look at the pictures. They consider reading a book as something passive, they sit back and listen and perhaps fall asleep rather than get involved. Or, they will just lose interest and walk away. The answer is not to force them to sit, be still and listen. It is our job to inspire them.
Research has shown that habits made in early years will stay with a child for life; learning is part of that so when the children are young it is a great time to set up some habits that will be good for their learning later in life. All children benefit from reading books. If you get into the habit of reading every day at a certain time of day it becomes part of your schedule and is easy to remember. With a huge selection of books on offer, which are best to choose for your child at different stages of their early years?
Books for Babies and Toddlers Under 2
Children are never too young to enjoy books. They may not speak, or follow a narrative, or be able to turn a page, but sitting with someone, having a cuddle, reading a colourful book becomes a lovely, comfortable, happy experience and that is what they recall. They enjoy the attention and the sound of a parent or carer's voice. They like the feel of the books, the sound of the pages and the colourful pictures. They like the rhymes and the funny voices.
Once they can hold things in their hands, touchy-feely books are great for little ones. Cloth books are soft (washable!) and gentle to touch. Activity books have strings, buttons, and fabric to touch. Flap books have pages that fold out and pictures behind secret little doors. Board books are great to hold and have even been know to be good for chewing too! There is so much fun to be had!
Books for 2-3 Year Olds
Toddlers love the colours and pictures in books. They enjoy rhyme and the repetition of some story lines. They will join in and anticipate what will happen next. Books that explain or deal with every day occurrences are good for this age (going to nursery, going to ballet lessons, having a new baby etc). They may even create their own stories.
They will often look at the same book day after day. The know what happens next and love the idea of anticipating the next page. Pop-up or flap books are great for this age as they can do it themselves. And, sturdy board books are advised as they may get handled frequently and roughly!
Pre-School Books for Children Age 4-5
At this age, children love to learn about the world and books that explain this are always popular with pre-schoolers: bugs and animals, schools and hospitals, the Egyptians etc. so they needn't just have fictional stories, non-fiction is of interest too. Try all sorts of books and discuss each one. What are the pictures like? What is the text like? Can they find certain letters in the text or count certain elements of the pictures? Try and bring the books alive and be led by your child. If they ask about dinosaurs, get hold of a book about them and show them. Visit your local library for access to books on hundreds of interesting topics.
Enjoy the time you have reading with your child and make it as fun as you can.
Toddlers can't read, so why do we bother with reading them books? The answer is simple: one day they will have to learn to read and if they like books, associate them with fun and good experiences, they will be more inclined to want to learn about letters and sounds and eventually reading.
Being able to read a book is a huge and marvelous gift. It opens the world up for little children and allows them to enjoy the fantastic stories that are available and help them learn at school. So, by reading to the toddlers and even babies, you're helping them for when they need to learn to read at school and indeed helping on their journey through school. Plus, even more important at this stage, introducing them to a wonderful world of stories and adventures!
So, what to do to make books fun! Here are a few tips:
There are lots of activities you can do with your child to introduce them to reading, that don't necessarily involve learning to read in the traditional sense. Here are some tips to make learning to read an easy, fun and inspiring time for both you and your children!
Most importantly, have fun when reading with your child. Don't get annoyed if they don't understand immediately or struggle on words they knew yesterday. Certainly don't force them to read or make them do it if they're tired or not in the right mood.
Enjoy... learning to read can be so much fun and they will make you so proud when they try hard and make progress.
World Book Day 2010 falls on Thusday, 4th March (in the UK) and events all over the country are already underway to embrace and celebrate reading, why not attend an event in your area? The World Book Day website has a list of events largely focused on public libraries. If your children don't already borrow books from your library, then this offers the perfect opportunity to join up and introduce your children to the wonders of books!
World Book Day was designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading. In the UK events are organised by a charity with financial backing from National Book Tokens, publishers and booksellers. The aim is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of reading and encourage book ownership. World Book Day is celebrated in over 100 countries, although most countries celebrate it on St. George's Day (April 23rd).
Even if there aren't any events local to you, you can always organsie your own World Book Day event in your own home! Why not dress your children as characters from their favourite books and have a special reading in the afternoon where you read their favourite books to them? Visit the shops and let them choose a new book to buy, or arrange with friends to lend your favourite stories to each other so that you can share the delights of your own library!
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