When it comes to story books for younger readers there are so many on the app store that it's hard to know when to stop downloading. These are my personal favourites:
1. Hairy Maclary - One of my children's favourite series many years ago so I was already prepared to fall in love with it and luckily it more than met my expectation. Read by David Tennant (a bonus!) the book features colouring pages, you can record your own narration and clicking on individual words will cause them to be repeated. All of the dogs have different barks too, which is a nice touch.
2. Elmer's Special Day - Another old favourite, the colourful patchwork elephant translates beautifully onto the ipad screen. Tapping on the pictures brings up additional vocabulary and you can opt to have the story read to you or read it yourself.
3. Winken, Blinken and Nod - A twist on a classic storybook this one won't advance until you read the words on the screen aloud. Wonderful for early reading practice and speaking and listening.
4. Wheels on the Bus - One for every parent that's ever been exhorted to 'read/sing it again!' Interactive element on every page, but I warn you the singing will become.....irritating and unfortunately with this one you can't just 'lose' the batteries!
5. The Monster at the End of This Book - How could you not love an app that stars Sesame Street's Grover? Very cleverly done, Grover's character comes across strongly, and if you don't turn the pages quickly enough he reminds you to do so.
6. The Lettermen go to the Seaside - This series of books have always been popular and the app is bright, colourful and fun to read. There's a spelling task on each page and you can choose to have the narration on or off as with most titles.
It was hard to choose just 6 but these are a good starting point for little ones I think.
Tomorrow being the 14th February it's going to be a day that's all about luuuurve! Yep ok classically it is a day for sweethearts and couples but it will also be a day for lovers of a different kind - book lovers. It is International Book Giving Day, a day designed to get new, well loved or borrowed books into the hands of as many children as possible. You are asked to give a book to a child you know, maybe leave one in a waiting room somewhere or to find some other way to surprise a young person with something new to read.
When I was a child my dad worked in London Bridge train station and every now and then he would pop into Smith's on the way home and buy me a new book, often on the subject of animals. Wonderful books he bought, full of bright pictures and information and they meant even more to me because they were presents from my beloved parent. We would look through the books together and I still have most of them, and will never part with them. When my own children were small my husband and I didn't have much money and toys were usually kept as birthday/Christmas treats but both of the kids knew that their chances of getting mum to buy them a new book or comic whilst out shopping were very good! Sweets - often no, reading matter - always yes!
Tomorrow I intend to gift some books to my local public library for local children to enjoy and also will send a couple in with my husband for a work colleague's very young daughter. After nearly 25 years of marriage Valentine's day is perhaps not as exciting as in my younger years but the thought of encouraging young people to share my book love is always thrilling!
(Information about International Book Giving Day can be found on the Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/BookGivingDay or you can follow @bookgivingday on Twitter).
The Guardian has today published a list of 10 books chosen by former librarian Ellen Ainsworth to encourage boys to read. There are some brilliant titles there and yes I agree they have all been popular with boys in recent years but I would have liked to see more new books there. Also I was disappointed to have the list narrowed down to boys - reluctant readers can be boys or girls! The books suggested do seem to be a bit adventure heavy too, I don't think we should generalise about boys reading tastes. This is the list I would have chosen (and note the title mentions young people, not just boys!)
1. Scream Street, Tommy Donbavand - I would describe these books as comic horror, with plenty of gross out humour for those that like it. The main character is a boy called Luke Watson who much to his dismay begins to transform into a werewolf at very inopportune moments. Luke's adventures with friends Cleo (a mummy) and Rhesus (a vampire) will have kids chuckling out loud. There's a good website for the books too, www.screamstreet.co.uk
2. Young Samurai, Chris Bradford - Full of adventure and battles won and lost these stories , centred on shipwrecked Jack Fletcher and his subsequent samurai training, provide a thrill a minute. There is a strong female character too, Akiko to keep the girls interested. Another great website too , www.youngsamurai.com
3. Bare Bum Gang, Anthony McGowan - the title's a winner straight away - what's not to like about books with the word 'bum' in the title?! One of them even has instructions on how to make fart bombs......yes I know a few boys and girls that would have hysterics at the very idea.
4. Bone, Jeff Smith - graphic novels are one of the easiest ways I've found to turn non readers into bookworms and this series are very popular whilst not giving any worries about inappropriate content. Whether it's a comic, graphic, non fiction title or story they're reading doesn't matter in my opinion, as long as they are enjoying the experience.
5. Invisible Fiends, Barry Hutchison - What if your imaginary friend from childhood suddenly came back ....and wanted to harm you? Scary right from the very first paragraph I love these books but youngsters might want to sleep with the light on whilst reading them!
6. Hero.com/Villain.net, Andy Briggs - these two series run alongside each other giving the differing viewpoints of the same events from the perspective of a superhero and a supervillain. The series starts with children finding a website from which they can download superpowers, and the differing ways they decide to use their powers for good or evil prove very interesting.www.whichsideareyouon.co.uk
7. The Knife That Killed Me,Anthony McGowan - gritty title that deals with bullying, gangs and violence. Sadly of course a book that is on the subject of knife crime is all too topical, the story is tense from page one until the end. A film is now being made of this one and I can't wait to see it.
8. Wereworld, Curtis Jobling - one for fantasy lovers now, the nobles in Wereworld can transform into animals when riled and our main character here becomes a wolf. This is an interesting take on the werewolf genre, thoroughly enjoyable and with something for everyone - a little romance, battles, shocks etc. Can't wait for the next one!
9. Beast Quest, Adam Blade - when I worked in a school library I couldn't keep up with demand for these, they just flew off the shelves. Encouraged more reluctant boys to read in that school than any other series.
10. Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman - romance but with an edge of class divides, prejudice and subversion. I cried at the end of this book and I have recommended it to so many people since, both young and old. Everything Ms Blackman writes is first class but this series is amazing.
It's hard to keep to 10 but these are my absolute favourites and I think they would keep any young person happily enthralled for hours - what would you have suggested? please let me know in a comment.
Only a few days until the big day and I can't wait! I'm well known for being a festive freak and I've been reading themed books for ages to get ready for it. Thought I'd share some of my favourites here;
A Pussycat's Christmas - when my daughter was young she was asked to read this to her whole primary school, with the pictures on overhead projector sheets and I can still see her now, so seriously reading. It's a beautiful book.
Tosca's Christmas - by the same author, illustrations are delightful and Tosca looked similar to Lady, our cat at the time
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey - moving story told without too much sentimentalism and the pictures are quietly wonderful
Spot's First Christmas - who can resist Spot? my son certainly couldn't and we read this book so many times, we probably all learnt it off by heart!http://tinyurl.com/bntuehc
Santa's Twin & Robot Santa - I read a lot of Dean Koontz when I was younger and was delighted to discover these two picture books written by him about Santa's naughty brother http://tinyurl.com/cjcpxfl http://tinyurl.com/cg9dl4t
The Night Before Christmas - classic of course, we always read it as a family on Christmas Eve before bed, even though my kids are grown now. We still have this old copy of it that was published in the year my son was born and it is much cherished.
I'm not ashamed to admit it, I find romance makes for very relaxing reading, especially books that have a festive theme and these have been my favourites this year:
Christmas at Tiffany's - loved the glamour and travel description in this book, didn't want it to end
1225 Christmas Tree Lane - I only discovered Debbie Macomber this year , her books are as comforting as a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows on a cold night and this book was no exception, left a warm fuzzy feeling lol.
What else have I read this December? well I have returned to an old favourite, Rumpole at Christmas, his irascibility and the dry humour in John Mortimer's writing are very amusing. Finishing with the best I am also re reading Christmas Carol but on my ipad this year, excellent Padworx version that I am very much enjoying.
Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas, hope you get all the books you've been wishing for (I'm hoping Santa will bring me the Amazon voucher I've been hinting at!)
Whilst browsing Twitter this morning I came across a link to a new app for the iPad; The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore and decided to have a look. I have numerous apps on the iPad, some that are functional, some that are for fun but none of them are in any way near to the quality of Morris. This is the most beautiful, moving app I have ever seen , it made me laugh and I'm not ashamed to say, at the end of it I even shed a tear. It is the first app released by Moonbot Studios and at £2.99 is a real bargain. I can't wait to show it to .......well everyone really, it is that good. This app has justified my spending on the ipad all by itself, I defy anyone , child or adult to not be captivated and spellbound by it. I will eagerly await more apps from Moonbot but not sure they can top Morris!
Now, I am not a political animal. Politics and politicians normally do not impinge on my life at all - yes I know that is a shameful admission but to quote Bob Dylan 'the times they are a changing'. This government seems to be contradicting themselves at every point, one moment saying literacy for all is one of their key goals, in the next breath taking away funding from organisations that promote reading and writing to young people. The latest ridiculous idea is that primary schools are to be given a set list of the books they must study - what a sensible idea that is ...not! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-13320661 How can you decide on certain books that will appeal to all children, boys and girls from every area and cultural diversity and who is going to make this decision? Surely we should have faith in teachers and librarians to have the specialist and local knowledge to be able to choose books to study that will appeal to children in their school without dictating to them about their book choices - after all they know the kids in their school best. Children are not 'one size fits all' and they are all at different stages in their reading journey, will this be taken into account? I suspect not. Having set texts at secondary school has had the effect of turning lots of young people away from reading - even a great work of literature that would normally appeal to a certain age group becomes boring and tedious when one 'has' to read and indeed, dissect it endlessly. Yes we should be encouraging children to read widely, there are so very many fantastic books written for primary kids from brilliant authors that really understand how to enthrall kids but to generalise and say 'all seven year olds should read this book' is quite ludicrous and will not encourage students to explore authors and genres to find things that excite, amuse maybe even terrify them and 'turn them on' to reading as a pleasure for life . If the government want to encourage more primary school kids to learn to love books perhaps they should be looking to ensure that every school has a visit every week from a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, qualified librarian - this would have far more impact than dictating which books should be studied.
Today to show my support for Save Libraries Day I joined my local public library which is only 10 minutes walk away. I'm ashamed that I have not done so before, but in my defence it is only open for roughly 9 hours a week and is very poorly publicised. It is small, rather shabby outside and sits back from the road and I'd be surprised if many of the other residents are aware that it even exists. The residents association website doesn't mention the library and apparently the council publicity department are aware of this but haven't yet got round to writing anything. (Funny that, you would almost think they don't want to increase loans............) . Whilst I was there a young girl was getting some help from the librarian to choose books from different genres that she had on a list and two people were engrossed in surfing the internet.
The stock shows a lack of funding for the last few years at least but there are still gems to be found - I took out 14 books of the possible 30 I am allowed. Browsing the shelves encouraged me to break out of my usual favourite genres (although naturally some slipped into the bag!) and I'm looking forward to curling up with them. Didn't borrow any DVDs this time but will do in the future.
The librarian was lovely, so welcoming and she lives very local to the library so is a mine of information. She told me that a new toddler group they have recently set up is very well attended. The area around is full of new housing and there must be hundreds of potential borrowers but they do need to be shown that the library is there!
At the moment I don't think the library is at threat of closure but the policy of making libraries in the area self service will inevitably have an effect. The librarian, Ms Jones is the biggest asset this poor forgotten library has - long may we keep her in Greenhithe!
I've just finished listening to a programme on Radio 4 with Letts discussing libraries and it has left me disheartened, annoyed and generally shouting at the radio. The entire programme gave such an old fashioned, elitist view of libraries as silent places with worthy books and none of that annoying technology to spoil them. The short quotes from Alan Gibbons helped a little but apart from that the impression that libraries should continue to stagnate and not try to attract younger people or move with the times was quite ludicrous and extremely irritating. Letts patronising and snobbish tone did the save our libraries campaign no favours at all , indeed the damage done will put back the cause.
Why get caught up in semantics - whether a library is called a learning zone, learning resources centre or dream zone it still does the same thing - provide reading material, research opportunities and support to the community, no matter their age or reading tastes. Of course that's just a few functions and to list all of them would take more time than I have. To suggest that libraries being run by volunteers is a good idea is insulting to professional colleagues and devalues the vital role they fulfil.
Think this was the first time I've listened to Radio 4 - will probably be the last too! Let's hope the day improves....... can't possibly get more depressing one would hope.
Twitter hashtag - #r4lettsdoeslibraries
My husband and I visited our son in his new flat yesterday, and I admit it was purely to watch the first England match as we don't actually have a TV! I am not usually a football fan but I do watch the World Cup and I really enjoyed the evening, although I was enjoying the banter on Twitter as much as the football. What gave me the most pleasure however was seeing the men in my life so enthused and engaged and happy to be sharing the experience together and it got me thinking...... how fantastic would it be to have a wow televised event that promoted reading! This World Cup will bring families and friends together as they watch, it's the camaraderie and fellow feeling we all enjoy, if only there was a way we could harness that and the excitement to focus on encouraging reading. It's a shame that the television companies haven't used this chance to make programmes based on sports writers, or dramatised sports based fiction, or even had a discussion programme with authors that focus on sports of different nationalities talking about their team. (I apologise if they have done this - no telly lol!) Yes I know I'm dreaming and for reading to be given this sort of focus just isn't going to happen but it would be so amazing. Tying in reading with such a high profile sporting event would undoubtedly have made it a bit more cool and less geeky surely? Of course I am very aware that colleagues in schools all over the country are indeed doing this but we can never do enough and a national emphasis on reading is needed, I'm sure we would agree.
The National Year of Reading was great but we need every year to be a year of reading and the media can play such a huge part in ensuring this is so, they just need to do some creative thinking and make encouraging reading a part of their planning. This would help more families to see reading as a shared pleasure, it is not just young people that are reluctant readers after all. The World Cup and other sporting events appeal to a wide ranging clientèle and could be such a powerful force for literacy. Ok back to reality now, realise my wishes don't have much chance of coming true but it's always fun to think what if and daydream .
I've just finished Unlocking the Reader in Every Child so that probably refocussed my attention on reading. It's a good book, interesting and useful for anyone with an interest in reading promotion and it's easy to dip in and out of when more inspiration is needed.
Maybe one day we will have a Reading World Cup - will live in hope - but until then I guess it's up to librarians, teachers, parents etc to see the potential in marrying books with popular events, same as it always has been!
This will be the first World Book Day in a very long time that I am not in the school library coordinating events which will be strange but I am very lucky that I will be in Guernsey instead. I will still be in a school library - I am visiting Elizabeth College the school that won the Write Path this year and we will be launching the Write Path books on the day - it's very exciting! Last year for WBD we wrote a Twitter story with other schools and one of our year 11 students made a video - we had themed the day around the excellent Trapped By Monsters website (www.trappedbymonsters.com) and he had great fun getting staff to wear monster masks and running around school like a mad thing! I also made a longer video with colleagues in international schools, they were asked to prepare a video not longer than 3 minutes of their students talking about their favourite books. I then collated all of these wonderful videos into one and if anyone would like to use this to show on Thursday it can be accessed here:
It is a long video, aprox. 45 minutes but you could just show part of it if you would like to. The students on it are quite fantastic and very articulate, apologies if the sound is a little erratic it was one of my first moviemaker projects. Happy World Book Day everyone!