Why we should avoid controlling what children read

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It's been a while since I've blogged, but a lot of things have been going on behind the scenes.  I've been working on a new middle-grade fiction novel - this will be my longest one by far and I'm so excited by it.  I've also been working on various picture books - getting one ready for publication in an anthology later this year, entering a couple into competitions and sending a few more off to publishers. I've also been doing lots of reading, reading far and wide: picture books, middle-grade novels, adult novels, and a non-fiction book called The Opposite of Worry (I highly recommend this to parents of anxious kids!) In the world of my children, Mr Six participated in his first school concert last week.  He was very nervous beforehand but the school really made it easy on the children (and the parents) and he had an absolute ball.…

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Getting Organised with Sensory Kids

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I've been a bit quiet this week, on the blog and in my writing.  I managed to submit a handful of manuscripts to two competitions early last week and so have been feeling less pressure on that front and have been slowly chipping away at a couple of picture book manuscripts. However, it's a universal truth that as one part of your life calms down, another goes haywire.  It's been quite tense in our house over the past few weeks as Mr Six seems to have hit a developmental growth period which somewhat resembles teenage-hood.  I won't go into details, but let's just say it hasn't been pretty and has probably disturbed the neighbours on more than one occasion. As is my style, I go into analysis mode and try to figure out a) the cause and b) the treatment.  I came to realise that Mister Six needed further support with his routines and…

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Tell Stories

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We had my parents over for lunch a few weeks ago.  My dad was telling jokes, the kind of “Dad” jokes that made me laugh as a kid.  My six-year-old son was doing these beautiful big belly laughs that remind me of me when I was his age.  My heart melts a little each time he does them because it means he’s totally relaxed and light-hearted.  And for my father to be the reason for them melts my heart a little more. We somehow got onto the topic of books (a foregone conclusion in my house).  It all started with Mr Men books.  Mr 4-year-old loves Mr Men and Little Miss books (no gender discrimination here!), he's got quite the collection, and he was giving the members of his family their very own Mr Men or Little Miss names. He named his dad Mr. Mean.  Ouch! I, apparently, am Little Miss Fussy. Not completely unwarranted, I suppose.  Then…

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What little boys love to read (4-7 years)

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(Disclaimer: I do realise that much of this applies to girls.  I was one once.  I was also a tomboy and read “boy” books.  I started my working life as a computer scientist. Even now I prefer spy thrillers over chick lit. I don’t mean in any way to infer that these are exclusively boy traits or exclusively boy books.  But there are biological differences between boys and girls, and here I’m focusing on boys.) Ah little boys.  They love to move, they love to play, they love to laugh, they love to pretend, they love to fart on cue.  They dual, spar, build, break, leap, run, wipe snot on their sleeves and when they come home from school or preschool they want nothing more than a big hug from their mum. And food.  Lots of food.  They have the emotional capacity of an entire planet and the emotional expressiveness…

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Why bed-time stories are so important

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It's 7.15pm on a weeknight.  Mr Ueckerman is out at a dinner.  The boys and I have eaten and I'm cleaning up.  I ask Mr 6 to help Mr almost-4 to put on his pyjamas and read him a book, though not entirely sure how that will pan out.  He happily agrees; he loves being a helpful big brother... mostly. Ten minutes later, I peek in to their bedroom.  There they are, on one of the beds, Mr 6 reading a book to his little brother. It's one of those moments that make you stop, absorb the scene and file it away for later.  It doesn't matter that 45 minutes ago they were both complaining because I didn't cook spaghetti for dinner.  This is one of those moments that I'll cherish forever.  My two boys, together, reading, sharing a book.  The family ritual of us parents sharing a book with them before…

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Building your children’s library: 6 places to buy books

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Young children love hearing their favourite stories over and over (and over) again.  However, as they grow older and want to hear longer books, they prefer novelty.  Which means more books.  The library is a great help and we visit the library every week, but it's also nice to have a selection of books at home, that children can read again themselves when they are ready.  It's also great for them to have books to pour over alone, even if they can't read all of the words yet - see my blog post Books Around the House: Normalising Reading. Building a home library sounds expensive, but it doesn't have to be.  Here are six sources (in no particular order) that I use to build ours without it costing a fortune: 1. Source secondhand books I have picked up lots of great books for very low prices at "Opp" shops, garage sales, school…

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Books around the house: normalising reading

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When I was ten years old, we lived with my grandfather for seven months.  He lived in an old stone house surrounded by lush farmland in Cornwall, in the south of England.  The house had once been a butter factory and in his younger days my grandfather ran a nursery - he had a shop room, greenhouses and what he called a "meadow" (rows and rows of different varieties of trees).  It was a young girl's dream - countryside to explore, lots of places to play hide and seek, a cubby house that my grandfather build for my sister and I, and treasures to find in the old shop that was now a store room.  We had very few toys and books there as most what we did own was in storage, waiting to be shipped to Australia (as were we).  When we'd exhausted ourselves outside, my favourite thing to do was to make my way…

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Sparking the joy of reading

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My eldest son is nearly six (how on earth did that happen?) and he recently brought home a reader from school called Rough and Smooth.  He has been trending towards non-fiction readers for a while now, so it's hardly surprising.  However, he refused to read this book to me beyond the first page, and in all honesty I don't blame him because it was pretty dry.  Actually, very dry - honestly, who wants to read on and on about things that are rough and things that are smooth when there are adventures to be had?  How could I force him to read that book when I saw the excitement in his eyes at the opportunity to hear me read a book that will take him on an adventure? The reader sat on the shelf unread for a few days, so loving mum that I am, I went to the library and brought home a stack…

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