Monday, October 22, 2018

"Absolutely Everything!" by Christopher Lloyd and Andy Forshaw (What on Earth Publishing)

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Great Scott! This is a book that really does feel like it's packed with absolutely everything...!
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"Wonder Women: A Happy Families Card Game" by Isabel Thomas and Laura Bernard "Laurence King Publishing"

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Yes, yes I know you might feel it's still a little too early to start Christmas Shopping, but time is ticking by...
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Friday, October 19, 2018

Kicked off Twitter - Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible

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Oh dear folks! I've just done something really stupid, and selected the wrong year accidentally while filling in my profile on Twitter. So until I can provide an official document to prove I'm not 8, I'm blocked!

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible (hopefully!)

See you back online soon!
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ReadItDaddy's Third Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th October 2018: "Grandma Bird" by Benji Davies (Simon and Schuster Children's Books)

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Yes, once again we had to stretch things to a third picture book of the week this week - but this one's well worth stretching for...!
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ReadItDaddy's Comic of the Week - Week Ending 19th October 2018: "Bunny vs Monkey Book 5" by Jamie Smart (David Fickling Books)

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HEY YOU! Yes, you at the back surreptitiously picking your nose and wiping it on the underside of your chair. Pay attention! Its "Comic of the Week" time...
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ReadItDaddy's Chapter Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th October 2018: "Murder at Twilight" by Fleur Hitchcock (Nosy Crow)

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Our Chapter Book of the Week is the literary equivalent of having a cold ice-pop dropped down your back by a miscreant child...
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ReadItDaddy's Second Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th October 2018: "Red and the City" by Marie Voigt (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

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Our second Book of the Week arrived amidst the early September "Bookapocalypse" with such a huge flood of titles all arriving on the same day...
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ReadItDaddy's First Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 19th October 2018: "Planetarium (Welcome to the Museum)" by Raman Prinja and Chris Wormell (Big Picture Press)

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Our first Picture Book of the Week this week performs an impossible feat, cramming the entire universe into a book...
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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Weighing in on Early Years reading, competitive parents (ugh) and the pressures kids now face to be 'proper' readers - a ReadItTorial

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"Hey, Teacher, Leave those kids to read what they want" (doesn't quite have the same ring to it)
Away with your fronted adverbials! Naff off to your clauses! This week's ReadItTorial might be a bit of a rant, and it might feel like we're having a dig at schools in particular here - but despite the alarming header pic, we're actually digging into the way the early years curriculum has practically EVERYTHING wrong in the way it deals with the thorny subject of early years literacy.

A Tweet from a mum inspired this mini rant. Basically she wanted some reassurance that her 7 year old was perfectly fine still preferring children's picture books over weightier stuff like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson etc..

Wait, what?


At 7, this shouldn't really even be a question, it shouldn't even be a doubt. Again it felt like something that was partially prompted by two things I absolutely detest, but come across frequently in the course of blogging about books.

1) "Schools"* force kids to read stuff they may develop an absolute hatred of - and only allow them to become "Free Readers" (i.e. allowed to choose their own choice of books to read from the school's shelves / libraries ONCE they've jumped through all those Biff Chip and Kipper-shaped hoops).

* - Through no real choice of their own, mostly guided by the National Curriculum which seems to have been written sometime around 1854).

2) Some parents think the whole Early Years Literacy thing is yet another competition, a race to ensure their kids are reading fluent Mandarin and consuming weighty philosophy books by the time they're old enough to ride a bike without stabilisers.

We have had direct experience of both of these insidious things too. I distinctly remember laughing my head off at one teacher's suggestion that C might be a reluctant reader, purely because she wouldn't wade through all the tedious phonics books and dreadful educational titles that were being sent home.

Her attitude to those books mainly stemmed from the fact that by the age of 5 she was already reading a huge variety of other picture and chapter books (and having read to her - which of course we still continue with today even though she's a competent and confident reader).

Without meaning to sound smug here (we really don't want to sound like the parents in Point 2 above), our daughter was merely developing her own love of reading, of the language, and of the way books can stimulate your imagination and take you on journeys you wouldn't be able to experience in any other way - mostly driven by our own enthusiasm for books and stories, and a nurturing 'need' to show that, and share that with her ourselves.

I really don't like to drag schools or teachers through the mud on this because I know full well that a lot of the performance-measurement and testing stuff comes from the curriculum and is completely unpopular with teachers too - particularly teachers who have a love of books and reading. I can recognise why kids are being 'switched off' from reading for pleasure so early on, in some cases never regaining the ability to read for enjoyment later on (if indeed ever).

During the Twitter conversation it was great to see James Mayhew (Author of the "Katie" series and many, many other truly brilliant and inspirational picture books) weighing in on the subject, and agreeing that any type of book snobbery really can't possibly help a child's development in any way.

We talked about comics, and how they're still a 'dirty word' for a lot of teachers and adults, who don't understand that comics have changed so much in the last 10 years, particularly kids comics which are going through an amazing golden age of creativity, originality and quite often intelligent and blisteringly topical dialogue to stimulate kids into not only thinking about the stories and characters within, but about their own non-fictional world.

The conversation started around the thought of dropping picture books, or weaning a young reader off them.

Here's the thing though. "Picture Books" still seems to have the same effect on a lot of adults that the mere mention of comics has. They imagine that kids, by the age of 7, won't find much of any worth in picture book texts. Perhaps they believe that the illustrations are distracting, that the language is simplified to fit around those pictures. Perhaps they fail to grasp that the age range for picture books might well start at chewable cloth / cardboard books, but it goes on for YEARS - well into their teens, and beyond that. For example would you describe the works of Shaun Tan as a picture book? Yes? Would you then say that a 7 year old shouldn't bother with them because they're "babyish" ? Of course you wouldn't.

Pluck out of our reviews anything that's ended up in our "Book of the Week" slot, and you'll see picture books that defy categorisation, push the boundaries of the medium, and also work for a huge age range. In fact these days if a picture book makes our "Book of the Week" slot, it's been through the toughest test of all - passing muster from a very picky ten year old who is actually moving past the cliched and twee stuff, perhaps the very 'picture books' that some folk mean when they use that term.

Back to the subject of competitive parents, we could divide the parents at pick-up time at our school into two groups:

1) Those who are proud of their kids, but don't feel the need to trumpet their every achievement from the rooftops. They're happy with the way their kids are turning out. They don't feel the need to adopt the "Tiger Mum / Dad" mentality of pushing their kids to breaking point to achieve the highest results.

2) Those who are proud of their kids, and will absolutely cram their every achievement down their throat because they want to convince you that THEY are superior to you - even if it means making that kid sit through extra tutelage, perhaps even closing off normal kid-type stuff to them (I'm not joking, I remember one kid at one of C's birthday parties not joining in with others because she "didn't know how to play" - WHAT?!?!)

Some of this boils down to abject snobbery. Some of it almost feels like a compensatory measure, perhaps parents making up for their own academic failings - or even failings in other aspects of their lives.

Quite often if you do try to talk to their kids about the books they've read, they're hushed away quickly in case they drop a clanger or completely contradict something their mum / dad has told you about the things they love to read ("Oh yarse, classic Greek poetry all the way").

One thing is abundantly clear. Kids are individuals. Means-testing, metricisation, patterned 'one size fits all' early years education seems to completely miss this vital and important fact in a lot of schools.

When it comes to literary tastes, or the way kids approach reading, approach stories or non-fiction, written or illustrative, all kids are wildly different and there's no way any kind of pigeon-holing, age-rating or measurement can possibly account for all the variations you'll see in a typical class of EYFS kids.

So why does this continue to happen? What would change things? The current system of forcing children to break down, analyse and pattern-learn the language and reading BEFORE letting them loose on the books they'll develop a real love for feels horribly broken. If we're turning kids off reading so early, what hope have we got of developing a future nation of literate, interesting and imaginative folk who love books as much as we do?

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"This Book Just Stole My Cat" by Richard Byrne (OUP / Oxford Children's Books)

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We do love it when Author-Illustrators play with the format of a book to drive along a rather original story...
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