Tag Archives: children

The role of the family in the reading habits of children.

Earlier this week, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released an interesting report which examined the important relationship between the family and the reading habits of children.

Photo by Alec Couros

This article used data from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) which is a major study following the development of 10,000 children and families from all over Australia. The study began in 2004, looking at families with 0 -1 year old children and 4- 5 year old children. These same families and children were the studied six years later in 2010.

Data from the LSAC indicates that there are three major influences in the development of a child’s reading habits: having books in the home, visiting the library and reading aloud.

The children in the study had their engagement in reading measured using a time-diary which recorded the sequence of all activities the child engaged in during the day prior to being interviewed for the study. Various factors affecting the reading habits of children were mentioned in the report, such as the education levels of parents, family type and the language spoken at home. You can read the full report here.

The most interesting part of the report for me is that of the Family Reading Context, which discusses the influence a child’s family can have in determining their reading habits later in life. The following factors were most relevant:

  1. Children who lived with 30 or more books when aged 4 – 5 were more likely to enjoy reading at age 10 – 11 years than those who lived in households with fewer than 30 books.
  2. Visiting a library when aged 4 – 5 years was positively associated with children’s engagement in reading at age 10 – 11 years. Children who had visited a library when aged 4 – 5 years were more likely to enjoy reading than those who had not.
  3. Children aged 10 – 11 years who were read to when aged 4- 5 years were more likely to enjoy reading.

Whilst this study does not really provide us with any new information in children’s reading habits, it helps to reinforce our beliefs about the important strategies in how we get children to read and become readers. Interestingly the above three findings relate well to the Reading Rules, especially Reading Rule no. 1 Create the right environment; Reading Rule no. 2 Be a role model; Reading Rule no 3. Read to them and Reading Rule no. 8: Ask an expert.

Every day in my work I am reminded of the power of reading. Just last week there was a public speaking competition in the library, and one of the speakers, an articulate and confident young lady, gave an impassioned speech about her love of books and reading. This made me quickly scan the faces of the entrants from my school and I noted that every one of them was a regular library user and regular reader. I have no doubt that there is a direct correlation between their reading habits and abilities as confident public speakers.

Developing positive reading habits is the key, and as the LSAC report illustrates, it all starts with a few simple routines in the home.

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Top 10 settings in children’s books.

When it comes to children’s books there are so many wonderful settings to choose from, but after careful deliberation, these are my Top 10.

1. Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. What’s not to love about this amazing setting? Hogwarts has it all in terms of mystery and magic. There is a Great Hall providing sumptuous feasts; a room of requirement which changes its properties just like its designation; common rooms requiring magical entry; secret passages; moving staircases; endless grounds and a Forbidden Forest.

Photo by nathanaels

2. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. The Enchanted Wood itself is a magical place but it is the majestic Faraway Tree with its different land at the topmost branches which has entertained generations of children for nearly seventy years . Enriched by such wonderful characters as Moonface, Silky, the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot, I spent much of my childhood in the Faraway Tree, as did my own children and countless other generations.

3. Wonderland from Alice’s Adventures by Lewis Carroll. A true fantasy world with a talking rabbit, a smoking caterpillar, a grinning Cheshire cat, a Mad Hatter, a Mock Turtle and a Queen of Hearts whose tarts are stolen by the Knave of Hearts. Sheer nonsense in a perfectly mystical and fantastic setting.

4. Peter’s Rabbit Hole from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, because it is the biggest and best animal home ever. It has its own kitchen, furniture and even a shop. Mr McGregor’s Garden is a pretty fun setting too, because it is the scene of great battles between the cheeky Peter Rabbit and the curmudgeonly Mr McGregor.

5. Camp Half-Blood from the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, because a training camp for the sons and daughters of ancient gods is pretty cool.

6. Treasure Island or Smuggler’s Cove or wherever else Enid Blyton’s Famous Five found themselves: exciting settings complete with a mystery to solve, devoid of pesky interfering parents, and all washed down by lashings of ginger ale.

7. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl created a luscious fantasy factory which satiated the appetite not only of Charlie but children everywhere. With rivers of chocolate and edible gardens tended by the curious Oompa Loompas, the factory provided a stark contrast to the poverty of Charlie’s home.

8. The Emerald City, capital of the Land of Oz. In the  Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Emerald City is built of green glass, emeralds and jewels,  and its residents wear green-tinted glasses to protect their eyes from the brightness. A magical place at the end of the yellow brick road, it offers hope to Dorothy and friends.

9. Neverland from J. M Barrie’s Peter Pan, the small island upon which the eternal boy spends his endless childhood. I like the fact that each child’s Neverland is unique, according to the whims of the individual imagination. Home to Tinkerbell, other fairies and the Lost Boys, Neverland really is a magical, mystical place.

10. The Underground Fairy City from Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl, because it is full of high-tech gadgetry and is the antithesis of any fairyland in other books.

Special mentions must go to: Narnia from the Chronicles by C.S. Lewis; Misselthwaite Manor from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett; the Paris of Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeline and the London of P.L.Travers’ Mary Poppins.

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Words can’t change my face

Wonder

R.J. Palacio

The Bodley Head (Random House), 2012

This is the book of the year, and if Hollywood doesn’t pick this story up and make a beautiful movie out of it, I will be very, very surprised.

August Pullman is a little boy living a hugely complicated life. Ten years old, he was born with extensive facial deformities which numerous surgeries have somewhat improved, but failed to fully correct. His loving family have surrounded him in a protective cocoon until now, at age ten, they think it is time for Auggie to go to school.

Thus he begins life in the middle school at Beecher Prep. The novel follows his journey as he tries to fit in as an ordinary kid, and find acceptance from his peers. Predictably, this is no easy task but what is unpredictable is the beauty of Palacio’s narrative, such as at the end of Auggie’s first traumatic day: “(Mum) said soft words that I know were meant to help me, but words can’t change my face”.

Cleverly structured and narrated from various perspectives: Auggie, his older sister Via and their acquaintances; the reader gains insight not only into August’s emotional journey, but also that of those sourrounding him. By choosing children and teenagers as the only narrators, Palacio is able to describe human reaction to disfigurement with honesty and clarity, often with brilliant humour.

This debut novel is funny, frank and incredibly heart-warming with an ending that moved me to tears. Whilst suitable for older children, I think most adults will embrace Wonder and like me, will find it very difficult to put down.

Recommended for ages 10+

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New books on my reading list

My favourite bookseller visited the library last week and I bought a large number of children’s and young adult books. From the huge pile of books purchased, these are the ones I’ve chosen to read first. (This is the first time I have seen my bookseller since last year, so some of these books are newer than others ).

 

The future of us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler. I’ve started with this one and am half way through. Set in 1996, the plot is based on a clever premise: when a couple of teenagers install AOL on a new home computer, they somehow stumble upon their future Facebook pages. The only problem is Facebook, indeed any type of social networking, has not yet been invented. As they ponder a strange world where people display both intimate and mundane details about their lives for the world to see, they also realise that they are in control of their futures.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

Pure by Julianna Baggott. The hottest thing in YA fiction at the moment. The first in a trilogy, this is a post-apocalyptic novel which is said to be utterly disturbing but impossible to put down. I can’t wait. The film rights have already been sold.

 

 

 

 

Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams. This is described as ‘subterranean fiction’, and the series has been a huge success overseas. Tunnels is the first book and the fifth was released at the end of 2011. The sixth book will be the final instalment. The movies rights have been snapped up by Hollywood.

 

 

  

VIII by H.M.Castor. Described as “Wolf Hall for the teen market”, this is the story of a young man named Hal who would be become Henry VIII.

 

 

 

 

 The fault in our stars by John Green. Green is the author of the hugely successful Looking for Alaska. This YA novel deals with cancer and is said to be irreverent, raw and profoundly moving.

 

 

 

 

Diary of a soccer star and Diary of a Cricket God by Shamini Flint. I’ve had a quick look at these and whilst the publisher may be cashing in on the popularity of the Wimpy Kid franchise, my Year 7’s will still enjoy these books.  Definitely for upper primary and Year 7. May tempt reluctant readers.

 

 

 

Dark Lord: the Teenage Years by Jamie Thomson . A book about a misplaced thirteen year old with a dark secret – he thinks he is a Dark Lord trapped in the drudgery of earthly existence. Said to be hilarious – I am really looking forward to this one.

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Reading to your children

Reading Rule no. 3 Read to them is one of the most important Reading Rules of all. I was reminded of this as I read a recent PISA study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

PISA is the OECD Programme for Internation Student Assessment. It evaluates education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-olds in participating countries.

The PISA in Focus 10 report states that fifteen year old students whose parents read books to them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher test scores than students whose parents read to them infrequently or not at all. The average benefit of teens whose parents read to them every day, or almost every day, when they were 4 or 5 years old was equivalent to six months of extra schooling. Best of all, the advantage gained by reading to children was evident regardless of socio-economic status.

Reading is so important to the development of your child, and reading to your child clearly has numerous advantages. Just remember to follow the advice of Rule no. 3 and keep reading to your child long after they can read independently.

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How many of these books have your kids read?

Dymocks recently published its list of the Top 51 books for kids. You can see the original list here with recommended reading ages.

I’ve added a few annotations to the list – how many books on the Top 51 list have you and your children read?

 1. The Harry Potter series. J. K. Rowling.

First place is really no surprise and reflects the popularity, quality and longevity of the Harry Potter series. (The first book was released fourteen years ago). Perhaps these are the reasons why the Harry Potter books also rate a mention on nearly every one of my Top 10 lists .

2. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Eric Carle.

A classic picture book first published over forty years ago. It should be on the bookshelf in every child’s room.

3. The Very Bad Book. Andy Griffiths

This is classic Andy Griffiths, and definitely a book that to which some parents and teachers will need to apply Reading Rule no.6  – loosen your filter.

4. Where is the Green Sheep? Mem Fox & Judy Horacek

This is a great book to teach younger children that despite external differences we are all the same.

5. The Vampire Academy novels. Richelle Mead.

These books are extremely popular with teenage girls which is clearly reflected by their place in this list. They also hold third place in my Top 10 books for teenage girls .

6. The Hunger Games trilogy. Suzanne Collins.

This is a fabulous series, equally popular with girls and boys. The much anticipated movie release due in 2012 will only serve to heighten both the awareness and popularity of the book.

7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Jeff Kinney.

Hilarious for all ages and great for sharing at bedtime.

8. Anne of Green Gables. Book 1. L. M. Montgomery.

A classic novel with a delightfully clever and precocious protagonist.

9. Possum Magic. Mem Fox.

One of the more famous Australian picture books. This is the book I send friends overseas when they have a baby.

10. The Tomorrow series. John Marsden

This series makes my Top 10 books for teenage boys and my Top 10 books in the library lists. It is one of the most popular literary series for YA ever written in Australia.

11. Where the Wild Things Are. Maurice Sendak.

A powerful picture about the magnificence of childhood imagination.

12. The Twilight Saga. Stephenie Meyer.

Put aside your literary snobbery (Reading rule no. 5) and celebrate a series that has sold over 100 million copies and got kids around the world reading.

13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl.

Pure Dahl genius combining every child’s fantasy with a message about honour and integrity.

14. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. Mem Fox.

Published only a few years ago, this has quickly become a new Mem Fox classic.

15. The Chronicles of Narnia. C. S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first and best known of this seven book series. Fantasy at its best.

16. The Magic Faraway Tree. Enid Blyton.

Children of all ages just adore Moonface, Silky and the Saucepan Man.

17. Goodnight Mr Tom. Michelle Magorian.

A beautiful book set in wartime England.

18. Green Eggs and Ham. Dr Seuss.

Loved by all ages, this is the first of a few mentions of books by the celebrated Seuss.

19. The Percy Jackson series. Rick Riordan

This refers to the first series of five books, loved by boys and girls alike. The second series, Heroes of Olympus is proving equally as popular.

20. The Ruins of Gorlan. Book 1 of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. John Flanagan.

This fantasy series has eleven books in it, with another due out in November 2011. Very popular with teenage boys.

21. The Cherub series. Robert Muchamore.

The most recent book in this series is currently the third most borrowed book in the library. I have trouble keeping this series on the shelves.

22. Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy. Lynley Dodd.

The very popular picture books about a lovable dog and his friends.

23. The Gruffalo. Julia Donaldson

Another picture book about the power of childhood imagination. Fantastic rhyming.

24. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll.

Always popular, even before Johnny Depp became the Mad Hatter.

25. Artemis Fowl. Book 1. Eoin Colfer.

Artemis Fowl is a 12 year old criminal mastermind. These books have great plots and terrific humour.

26. The Mortal Instruments series. Cassandra Clare.

This series is extremely popular with the boys in the library.

27. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Michael Rosen.

A fantastic picture book for reading aloud (Reading rule no.3). This was a favourite in our house when our children were little.

28. Winnie-the-Pooh. A. A. Milne

A favourite of children and adults everywhere.

29. Wombat Stew. Marcia K. Vaughan.

Like Possum Magic, this is another classic Australian picture book, a modern folktale.

30. Obernetwyn. Book 1. Obernetwyn Chronicles. Isabelle Carmody.

Classic fantasy, and in my experience more popular with girls than boys.

31. The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. May Gibbs

This book has never been out of print and contains the most beautiful illustrations in Australian literary history.

32. Stormbreaker. Book 1. Alex Rider series. Anthony Horowitz.

I love the Alex Rider books. Alex is intelligent, decent and funny.

33. Dear Zoo. Rod Campbell.

A picture book for early readers, great for reading aloud.

34. Diary of a Wombat. Jackie French.

I laughed out loud the first time I read this book. A picture book for all ages about a wombat with serious attitude.

35. Oh, the Places You’ll Go. Dr Seuss.

More classic Seuss. No explanation necessary.

36. Grug. Ted Prior.

Over thirty years old, this story set in the Australian bush is still a favourite.

37. Guess How Much I Love You. Sam McBratney

A beautiful book which has become a worldwide phenomenon selling over 18 million copies. I even have a copy in German.

38. Hush, Hush. Becca Fitzpatrick

This book is for teenage girls who enjoyed the Twilight series. It meets the needs of the current interest in the paranormal.

39. Treasure of the Emerald Eye. Book 1. Geronimo Stilton. Geronimo Stilton.

An adventure story for primary aged children.

40. Wolves of Mercy Falls series. Maggie Stiefvater

Fantasy romance series about (in the words of the author) “werewolves and kissing”.

41. The Cat in the Hat. Dr Seuss

My all time favourite Dr Seuss. I learned it off byheart as a child and can still recite most of it. I must have driven my parents mad. 

42. The Hobbit. J. R. R. Tolkien.

Lord of the Rings is more popular in the library, but The Hobbit is an all-time classic.

43. The Witches. Roald Dahl.

Dahl’s witches are the original and the best.

44. Zac’s Moontrip. Book 1. Zac Power Test Drive. H. I. Larry

Primary school boys love Zac Power.

45. Maze of Bones. Book 1. The 39 Clues. Rick Riordan.

Whilst this series hasn’t taken off in the library, it has been incredibly popular elsewhere. Riordan knows how to write great mystery and adventure.

46. Each Peach, Pear Plum. Janet and Allan Ahlberg

A more stylish Where’s Wally, where children read the poem for clues to help them find a character hiding in the illustration.

47. The B.F.G. Roald Dahl

The third Roald Dahl on the list. He is the original and one of the best.

48. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Beatrix Potter

Peter Rabbit is so cheeky, and Mr McGregor is the classic cranky farmer. Accompanying the entertaining story are the beautiful and very famous illustrations.

49. Magic Beach. Alison Lester

Alison Lester is a prolific writer of picture books and a  favourite of teachers who love her work. This book explores the perfect beach.

50.Little Women. Louisa May Alcott

This book has stood the test of time due mainly to the character of Josephine March who makes my list of Top 10 heroines for girls.

51. Five on Treasure Island. Book 1. Famous Five. Enid Blyton.

I am so glad that the Famous Five made this list! Every child should read adventures involving smugglers and spies, washed down by lashings of ginger beer.

It’s a well-rounded list including a mixture of the old and the new; books for early readers, primary school children and young adults. Adults too actually, as I’ve read most of them. The ones I haven’t are now on my list.

How many have you read?

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Reading Rule 10

10. Don’t ever give up.

All children reach developmental milestones at different times and I believe that children become true readers in their own time. I know one teenage boy who didn’t become a reader until he was 16 years old and picked up his first Michael Crichton book. I’ve also met a 7 year old boy who had no trouble reading the fifth (and longest) Harry Potter book. If you have followed all the rules and your child is still a reluctant reader, don’t give up. Focus on one rule and persist.

When our children are young we have a great deal of influence on them, and by following the rules we can develop a love of reading in them. Sometime we do need to continue our efforts into the teenage years. It is important not to give up.

Many adults will tell you they didn’t become readers until later in life. Conversely, many parents will tell you their children were excellent readers when little, but gave up reading as they grew up. The fact is, all these people are readers – it just happened at different times in their lives. Sure, there are peaks and troughs. I’ve been through reading droughts in my adult life, but I always return when I find the right book.

Your child will become a reader if you follow the reading rules. In developing a reading culture in your home and encouraging a love of books in your child, you will bestow one of the greatest gifts on your child – the joy of reading. Just don’t give up.

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