Easter Eggs – Or Books?

Easter Egg Book

Short and sweet today. (No pun intended!)

When yet another family member asked me which Easter Egg my children would like, I wondered why they felt so compelled to buy them chocolate?? They don’t even like it very much and often ends up giving them a sore tummy.  When I suggested that they buy a book/ book token or a magazine, I had a few comments.  I’m not against them having an Egg or two, but a book would be something that we could enjoy long after the Eggs have disappeared! It could even have a written message inside the cover.  Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Anyway rant over I’m off to eat my Easter Egg 🙂


Winnie the Witch – Review with a difference!

Winnie the Witch

Winnie the Witch was first published in 1987, written by Valerie Thomas and Illustrated by Korky Paul.  This has to be one of my favourite stories, which I read to my now 24 year old and have just read to my 3 year old! A timeless classic.

The story is about a Witch called Winnie and her black cat Wilbur.  Winnie lives in a black house, black on the outside and black on the inside.  When Wilbur goes to sleep Winnie has trouble seeing him so she falls over him and even sits on him.  Winnie decides to change Wilbur’s colour by magic so that she can see him wherever he is.  Wilbur is not so happy and hides up a tree, where even the birds laugh at him.  This in turn makes Winnie unhappy.  She then comes up with the solution of changing Wilbur back to his proper colour and transforming her house into many colours.  Now everyone is happy!

One the surface a simple tale told with humour, but one of the best things about this story is that it explains the social model of disability.  Without lecturing or dictating both to children and adults, this is how it works.


The house represents the environment.

Winnie (represents society) can’t see Wilbur she thinks that Wilbur is a problem to be fixed.

So she changes Wilbur (Wilbur represents people with impairments or differences).  She thinks she knows best.

Winnie leaves the house (the environment) the same.

The birds laugh at Wilbur (representing attitudes of society)

She then realises it would be better to change her house than to try and change Wilbur.  Wilbur doesn’t need changing he is just fine the way he is!

This subtle story quietly displays its message, children understand that it is better to change attitudes and the environment rather than to change people who are different.

A great read and one that heartily recommend!

D.E.A.R – Drop Everything And Read!

Bath Book

In how many places can you read?

I was just watching my daughter reading in the bath (with a plastic bath book) and wondered just how many of us encourage our children to think of reading as a filler activity.  For example children could read on a car journey, they might read whilst waiting for an appointment (doctor, dentist).  They could read to each other, they could read on the train, they could read to you!

But what if they don’t have a book available, well then there are reading apps for smart phones and tablets, there are games that involve reading on the Leappad, and on the Nintendo DS.  Or you could play a reading game on a journey by reading signs, posters etc.  Maybe buy a kids magazine that follows their favourite TV show.  There are many ways to encourage reading and make it fun.

A recent study published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility states: “Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books.”

So there you have it happy reading dear!

Lashings of Ginger Beer!

Enid Blyton

Trawling through the Internet I happened upon an Enid Blyton site. Ohh happy memories! I spent my childhood avidly reading Enid Blyton, waiting eagerly for bedtime so that I could read the next instalment of ‘The Magic Faraway Tree.’  Would Sliky and Moon-face  visit the Land of Birthdays? Would the Land move on before the children leave?  Or I might find out if the midnight feast at Malory Towers would be foiled.  I would go adventuring with the Famous Five, thinking how much fun they had and how brave they were.

Whenever my Mother tried to suggest I read another author I strongly resisted! But why I would ask, this author has everything I want?  And now in adulthood I am saddened to read how Enid Blyton was considered a racist, and a snob and that she instilled stereotypical roles amongst her characters.  Really? Do I remember any of that?  No.  I just remember being transported into yet another land/adventure where something exciting would always happen.

I wonder did it influence my adult reading preferences? I don’t think so, I read prolifically and enjoy books from all genres.  Am I a racist? A Snob? Or stuck in a clichéd role? Er no I don’t think so.

Do I still enjoy going to bed and snuggling down with a good book, emphatically yes I do.  So then I can safely assume that all those years of Enid Blyton just taught me to enjoy books for sheer pleasure and escapism.  Will I read them to my children? Indeed I will!

Thanks Enid!

AR – The Way Forward?

Accelerated Reader

Accelerated reader is a software tool widely used in primary and secondary schools to monitor children’s reading levels. In fact more than 20,000 schools are using it in the United Kingdom.

Children are assessed through a computerised reading test and from that they are given a book level that covers a range of books that encompasses their comprehension.  They then choose and read a book within that given level and at the end complete a computer quiz, usually comprising of between ten and twenty multiple choice questions to assess whether or not a they have fully understood the book.   Results less then 60% are not considered a pass.  Each book carries a point value which is often used to reward children when they have a certain amount of points.  The results enable the teacher to assist and motivate reading, monitor progress, and target instruction. Children are often given certificates, or have a class target to reach.

There has been a large amount of controversy surrounding the whole AR programme, which I will attempt to sum up in this blog post!

The biggest complaint from parents is that children are forced to choose a book within their given reading range.  However the school library may not have a huge choice of books in that given range, the book must also have an associated AR test if it does not then that particular book can’t be chosen.  Therefore a child might become demotivated by the choice of books.  Often local libraries are unaware of the system and can’t tell a parent if a given book is part of the AR scheme.

Parents often say that their children are able to read well above the reading range they have been given, but are not allowed those books and therefore become demotivated.  Books that are ‘easy’ often hold children back and if they get less that the required 60% they are encouraged to read the book again!

Some parents suggest that their children now regard reading as a chore, reading books just to pass quizzes and not for pleasure.  Children are also encouraged to take the test no longer than three days after finishing the book, so that they don’t forget any facts.  This again dis-encourages children to read in the holidays as they are ‘missing’ tests.  AR is replacing the intrinsic reward gained from reading to an external reward such as a certificate, or extra playtime.

There has also been some evidence that children are cheating at the tests by cribbing the answers from the Internet, or watching the movie of the book.

However other parents say that their children enjoy the challenge of reading and passing a test which earns them points and ultimately a reward. Through testing children the scheme has encouraged poor readers to improve, or to want to compete against more proficient readers, and become self-sufficient in their reading.

What are your experiences of the AR scheme?

World Book Day – Alternative!

World Book Day

So World Book Day is 18 today! For those of you who don’t know about World Book Day, every child in Pre-school / full-time education in the UK and Ireland is entitled to receive a £1 World Book day Book token every year.  This can be redeemed against one of the eight World Book Day Books or it can be used against a book worth £2.99 or more in participating bookshops. The idea is to promote reading amongst children.

Additionally, you could write a story with your child that you put together with a couple of photos or drawings.  You could make a fold out book (accordion style)

Accordion, fold out, concertina book

This could be about anything from their first day at school, to going on holiday, or even choose a favourite character from a book/television programme and write a simple story involving your child.  You could use; stickers, glitter, tissue, ribbon, paint.  The list goes on.  By spending quality time together you will both have something to treasure and a lovely memory of World Book Day.