Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Raising a Reader

Raising a reader

Some of my fondest memories, from childhood, are of snuggling up every night with my little Brother and Mum reading us our bedtime story.  It was Mums time of unwinding and her spending a lovely 20 minutes with just us.  For those 20 minutes we were the centre of her world. 
Mum didn’t realise it but she was laying strong foundations and giving us a gift:  the love of reading.  She was ‘Raising a Reader’.  The equation was simple, my brother and I loved being read too.  We felt loved, warm and safe when Mum read to us, so books represented love, safety and all those other warm feelings.  Reading was fun and our imaginations soared with adventures inspired by the stories.
From this nightly ritual we slipped into the environment of school easily and the task of learning how to read wasn’t a difficult journey.  Why?  We understood books, we knew how stories worked.  There was a beginning, middle and an ending.  Predicting words and the endings of stories were second nature to us even though Mum never ‘taught’ us.  
After my own children were born reading at bedtime was a childhood memory that I wanted to instil.  Competing  against the TV, computer games and  the truck loads of toys that are in our house, I have to really ‘fight’ these modern day privileges, if I want to read to them every night, especially as my boys have grown older.
 “The Reading Bug...and how you can help your child catch it” written by Paul Jennings and Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever” written by Mem Fox.   

Are books written by two experts who agree with my Mum’s theory.  They have reassured me that by following the nightly ritual I’m doing my best at raising a reader.
Having six children I will be honest I can’t read to them for 2hrs a day, as much as I would love to. So I’ve tackled the situation with a bit of mother’s creativity. I have a book of fairy poems by my daughters change table and I read her one when I change her nappy. 
With my toddler and Preppy I read their choice of 3 short books every night before bed. 
My elder three and whoever else wants too (insert husband here) will listen to a chapter from our favourite family books. If I know that there is a movie coming out soon that is based on a book then I will read that story to them before we see the movie.  They love this because they know that a trip to the movies is inevitable.   
Sibling bonding and encouraging family involvement is another benefit of raising a reader.  If I’m extra busy I’ll persuade my big kids to read to my littlies and vice versa.   My preppy loves to read his stories using pictures as a guide.  This is fantastic for his comprehension and predicting of words.  It doesn’t matter if he ‘reads’ puppy instead of Dog, what matters is he knows that the story is about a dog.
Though I do boast experience in the reading area I have to admit I learnt a valuable reading lesson from the wise mind of my eldest son when he was the ripe old age of 5.  While reading to Mr Five and Mr 2 one night, their Dad stuck his head in the door to see what we were reading and have a little listen.  After he left Mr Five looked at me most concerned and whispered in my ear. “Can Daddy read Mummy?”   It hit me like a tonne of bricks, because he had never heard his Father read out loud our son really believed that his Dad couldn’t read. While it was humorous I saw the serious side and though I wasn’t intentionally being the ‘story time hog’ both my husband and I had somehow taken on gender roles of the Mother being the reader.  

Children’s words of wisdom often bring on deep thinking and I realised that I had been robbing my children and their Dad of such an important bonding opportunity, not to mention the significant role that this played as to how my sons saw that ‘real men’ read as well.   I’m pleased to say this scenario ended with my sons(s) discovering their Father could read.

Books are also a great way to avoid the “going to bed sagas”, and  sending favourite books over for Grandparent sleepovers brings a sense of security and comfort and helps ease the anxiety of being away from Mum and Dad.
 ‘Raising a Reader’ is my favourite part of the day and I’m hoping that it is a tradition that is passed down to my grandchildren.  

Baby and Toddler Books
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown
Fuzzy Yellow Ducklings by Matthew Van Fleet
Spot Goes to the Park by Eric Hill
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
That’s Not My Train by Fiona Watt, illustrated by Rachel Wells

Books for Pre Schoolers
Possum Magic or Koala Lou by Mem Fox
Green Eggs and Ham – Dr Seuss
Where the Wild things are – by Maurice Sendak
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Are we there yet? - By Alison Lester

Early Primary:  6 – 8yr olds
Tashi series by Anna Fienberg and Barbara Fienberg, illustrated by Kim Gamble
Rainbow Magic – Ruby Red Fairy – Daisy Meadows
The Adventures of Captain Underpants – Dav Pilkey
Go Girl!  Sister Spirit – Thalia Kalkipsakis
Aussie Nibbles by various authors and illustrators

Lower Primary: 8 – 10 yr olds
Rascal the Dragon – Paul Jennings
Just Disgusting – Andy Griffiths
The Witches – Roald Dahl
BFG – Roald Dahl
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams

Middle Primary: 10 -12yr olds
Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz
The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot
Deltora Quest Series 1: The Forests of Silence- Emily Rodda
Lily Quench - Natalie Jane Prior
Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

Upper Primary/ Lower  Secondary: Over 12’s
Looking for Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta
Sisterhood of Travelling Pants – Ann Brashares
Onion Tears- Diana Kidd
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Hover Car Racer – Matthew Reilly

Top 10 Family Classics – Great to read together as a family book
The Chronicles of Narnia – C S Lewis
Harry Potter Series – J k Rowling
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J R R Tolkien
Truckdogs – Graeme Base
The Magic Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton
Eragon – Christopher Paolini
Dragon Keeper Series– Carole Wilkinson
The Power of One (Young Reader’s Edition) by Bryce Courtenay

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