Category Archives: Library Events

National Non-Fiction November

National Non-Fiction November is a month-long “celebration of all things factual” (Federation of Children’s Book Groups (FCBG), n.d.). It advocates for “all those readers that have a passion for information and facts and attempts to bring non-fiction celebration in line with those of fiction” (FCBG, n.d.). In this way, both reading for information and reading for imagination can result in children reading for pleasure. This year, the theme is The World Around Us and the FCBG’s website has lots of ideas and resources for promoting non-fiction in schools and libraries.

To celebrate Non-Fiction November, I pulled out a book, Wildlife in Towns (written by Cathy Kilpatrick), that I was given as a prize for “general progress” when I was in primary school. Published in 1976, it was a good choice for a child who loved animals and birds, but who lived in inner London surrounded by bricks and concrete. Looking through it, I realised how much non-fiction for children has changed over the last 40 years.

Wildlife In Towns

Wildlife in Towns, written by Cathy Kilpatrick

The book is very text-heavy, with pages filled with writing interspersed with black and white photos and a couple of pages of colour pictures. It looks and feels more like a textbook, which was probably not uncommon in the 1970s. Whilst I loved it, it is not an enticing book for a reluctant reader. Nor is it likely to attract the attention of a child browsing the shelves of a library or bookshop.

So I went to my local library and borrowed a selection of non-fiction books from the children’s section. I chose those about animals to see how they compared to my wildlife book (and by happenstance, this is also the theme for 2017’s Non-Fiction November). And I unearthed some real beauties.

A Seed Is Sleepy

A Seed is Sleepy, written by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

Like A Seed is Sleepy, most of the books I found contain illustrations rather than photographs, making them very appealing to young children. They have a picture book quality to them, which is enticing. The variety of artistic styles and ‘looks’ make for an interesting, rather than a homogenous, non-fiction collection.

Creaturepedia

Creaturepedia, written and illustrated by Adrienne Barman

Creaturepedia is published by Wide Eyed Editions, which “creates original non-fiction for children and families and believes that books should encourage curiosity about the world we live in, inspiring readers to set out on their own journey of discovery” (The Quarto Group, 2017). Another beautiful book from their catalogue is Atlas of Animal Adventures. This includes a double-page illustration on honeybees, containing snippets of interesting information about these creatures so familiar to me from long summer days in England.

Atlas Of Animal Adventures

Atlas of Animal Adventures, illustrated by Lucy Letherland and written by Rachel Williams and Emily Hawkins

This approach, which differs greatly from my 1970s wildlife book, is a feature of today’s non-fiction for children. Images, either photos or illustrations, are peppered with sentences rather than paragraphs of information. It makes for a less overwhelming read for those who are learning or are less confident. It also encourages the use of pictures to make sense of the text, an important strategy for emergent readers. Another publisher that uses this approach very successfully is DK, with their Eyewitness series.

Mammal

Mammal, written by Steve Parker

Another means by which information is conveyed to young children in an appealing way is through the picture book format. Using storytelling alongside facts engages readers and allows adults to share a non-fiction book with children in the same way as they would a fiction book. This encourages the concept of reading for pleasure and demonstrates an acceptance of reading preferences. As I explored in an earlier post, when we view all forms of text as being equally important, all children come to see themselves as readers.

Just Ducks!

Just Ducks!, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

My journey into today’s world of non-fiction books for children has shown me how far publishing has come in four decades. There are many beautiful, interesting, informative and engaging books out there. Between their pages, images are balanced with words, much like in picture books, making them accessible to all and providing a doorway into a subject. These books will often lead to further exploration of a topic through more in-depth texts.

Big Picture Book Outdoors

Big Picture Book Outdoors, written by Minna Lacy and illustrated by Rachel Stubbs and John Russell

Finally there are a couple of non-fiction series that children particularly enjoy: Horrible Histories (along with Horrible Geography and Horrible Science) and The Magic School Bus. The former contains gory and unusual facts, presented in a humorous way, whilst the latter involves “wild field trips exploring a wide variety of science topics including invasive species, weather hazards, … brain and nervous system, and deep sea exploration” (Scholastic, 2017). Both cover a range of subjects, with something to interest everyone.

Welcome to the world of children’s non-fiction. It is a wonderful place to visit!

All images taken by the author.

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Games galore

This week is International Games Week, which celebrates all things ludic, including board games, card games and video games. It is “a great opportunity for public, school and academic libraries to introduce fun activities and raise awareness of the social and educational benefits of play” (Australian Library and Information Association, n.d.). As a starting point for developing a collection for a children’s library, here are some classic board games that have stood the test of time (plus a fabulous card game, which comes highly recommended by my nieces).

Cluedo

Reclusive millionaire Samuel Black’s been murdered in his mansion! Now, it’s up to you to crack the case! Question everything to unravel the mystery. Who did it? Where? And with what weapon? Ransack the mansion for clues, ask cunning detective questions and leave no card unturned. Solve the murder first to win! Fun twist on the classic mystery game features new characters and a two-player version!

For 2 to 6 players.

Ages 8 and up.

(Synopsis by Hasbro)

As well as the traditional version of the game, there is also Cluedo: Harry Potter edition for wizards and muggles to play. One of the students has vanished from Hogwarts and it is up to the players (eg. Harry and Hermione) to work out who did it (eg. Draco Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange), how (eg. the vanishing cabinet and mandrake) and where (eg. the owlery and the potions classroom). There are also different types of cards: allies, spells and the Dark Mark. Along with the ability to gain and lose house points, these help to make the game more enjoyable for Harry Potter fans. And for younger players, there is Cluedo Junior, where the mystery that needs to be solved is not a murder, but the case of the missing cake!

Monopoly

Monopoly

Monopoly by William Warby: CC BY 2.0

This version of the Monopoly game welcomes the Rubber Ducky, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Penguin into its family of tokens. Choose your token, place it on GO! and roll the dice to own it all! There can be only one winner in the Monopoly game. Will it be you?

For 2 to 8 players.

Ages 8 and up.

(Synopsis by Hasbro)

There are many versions of Monopoly, catering for a wide range of interests. These include Star Wars, Game of Thrones and London Olympics 2012. There are also regional versions, such the Australian one, which include local landmarks and tokens. As with Cluedo, there is a junior game. The edition I’ve played is based on a fairground with properties ranging from the balloon stand to the roller coaster.

Guess Who?

Guess Who?

035/365 by Brad Slavin: CC BY-NC 2.0

It’s the Guess Who? game-the original guessing game! This Guess Who? game goes back to the tabletop style boards, styled after the original, rather than handheld boards. Each player chooses a mystery character and then using yes or no questions, they try to figure out the other player’s mystery character. When they think they know who their opponent’s mystery character is, players make a guess. If the guess is wrong, that player loses the game! Players can also challenge opponents to a series of games in the Championship Series, where the first player to win 5 games is the Guess Who? champion.

For 2 players.

Ages 6 and up.

(Synopsis by Hasbro)

Guess Who? enables younger children to develop higher order thinking skills through logic and problem solving. This prepares them for playing more complex games like Cluedo. There are no additional editions of the game, but it is possible to download and print alternative character sheets, such as one based on The Littlest Pet Shop.

Scrabble

Scrabble

Scrabble by Jacqui Brown: CC BY-SA 2.0

Scrabble is the ultimate crossword game in which every letter counts. Grab your friends and take turns forming words on the board. After playing your turn, count the value of all the letters in every new word that you formed. Don’t forget the bonus points for placing letters on premium squares. Double letter! Triple word! It’s all about playing words on the high-scoring hotspots to get ahead. Played a Q on a triple-letter score? Your score just got a lot bigger. Use all your 7 tiles in one turn, and score a whopping 50 points in addition to your word score! Knowing the rules and a few tricks will help you to score more points and improve your chances of winning. At the end of the game, the player with the highest score wins.

For 2 to 4 players.

Ages 8 and up.

(Synopsis by Hasbro)

Whilst Scrabble is a great way of developing and expanding vocabulary, Junior Scrabble helps children to develop confidence in creating words from their seven random letters. In this version, the double-sided board means that novice players can begin by using the crosswords-style side, placing their tiles on the pre-formed words. As they become more experienced, they can flip the board and use the blank grid to make their own words. The scoring has also been simplified to prevent children from becoming overwhelmed.

Yahtzee

Yahtzee

Yahtzee by liz west: CC BY 2.0

A family favourite for over 40 years!  Throw the dice to build straights, full houses, five of a kind-YAHTZEE!

For 1 or more players.

Ages 8 and up.

(Synopsis by Hasbro)

I’ve played Animal Yahtzee by Haba, which is a simpler version of the original game. Instead of dots, the dice have animals on their faces: a snake, camel, tiger, elephant, monkey and parrot. As with Yahtzee, the aim is to throw combinations, such as three-of-a-kind, full house and, of course, Yahtzee! This is a great way of introducing younger children to  the timeless game.

Sorry!

Sorry!

Sorry by frankieleon: CC BY 2.0

Slide, collide and score to win the game of Sorry! Draw cards to see how far you get to move one of your pawns on the board. If you land on a Slide you can zip to the end and bump your opponents’ pawns-or your own! Jump over pawns and hide in your Safety zone while getting powers with the 2 power-up tokens. Keep on moving and bumping until you get all three of your pawns from your color Start to your color Home. But watch out, because if you get bumped, Sorry! It’s all the way back to Start!

For 2 to 4 players.

Ages 6 and up.

(Synopsis by Hasbro)

As with most of the other games in this post, Sorry! is available in different versions. Sorry! Express is a travel edition, whilst Star Wars Sorry! is played on a Millennium Falcon game board.

Sleeping Queens

Rise and Shine! The Pancake Queen, the Ladybug Queen and ten of their closest friends have fallen under a sleeping spell and it’s your job to wake them up. Use strategy, quick thinking and a little luck to rouse these napping nobles from their royal slumbers. Play a knight to steal a queen or take a chance on a juggling jester. But watch out for wicked potions and dastardly dragons! The player who wakes the most queens wins.

For 2 to 5 players.

Ages 8 and up.

(Synopsis by Gamewright)

Gamewright, the makers of Sleeping Queens, has loads of great games. On their website, these are arranged by age, reflecting the complexity and length of each one. Examples include Elephant’s Trunk (ages 3 and up), Rat-a-Tat Cat (ages 6 and up), Frog Juice (ages 8 and up) and Forbidden Island (ages 10 and up). Having played a number of Gamewright games, I can highly recommend them.

Whilst researching this topic, I discovered a fabulous series of articles, Board in the Library, by John Pappas, a Library Branch Director from Philadelphia. He has a website, also entitled Board in the Library, which includes reviews of a wide range of board games and advice for hosting a games night. Although much of the information is aimed at an adult audience, it can be used as a starting point for selecting games for children and young adults to use in libraries. I had no idea there were so many interesting games out there!

More information about International Games Week can be found on the American Library Association website. There’s also a Puzzle Hunt based on games and play, which will be held online over five days. So thinking caps on everyone! Game on!!

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The value of school libraries

October is International School Library Month, when the importance of school libraries in the lives of children are celebrated and promoted to the wider community. This comes at a time when these wonderful and important places continue to be at risk of closure, as budgets are cut and teacher-librarians are replaced with unqualified staff; a situation that is reflected in the public library sector in the UK as a result of austerity measures.

School libraries are worth fighting for!

The plight of school libraries has been highlighted by two Children’s Laureates: Chris Riddell, the UK’s Children’s Laureate from 2015 to 2017, and Leigh Hobbs, the current Australian Children’s Laureate. Here’s what they both have to say about the value of school libraries.

By promoting reading for pleasure, introducing our children to life-changing books and turning them into lifelong readers, school libraries are a vital resource that must be nurtured.

Chris Riddell, 2016, in an open letter to Justine Greening, the secretary of state for education, which was also signed by the previous eight Children’s Laureates

School libraries played a vital part in my life, turning me into an avid reader and inspiring me to choose a creative path in my career.

Chris Riddell, 2017

When every parent knows the name of their child’s favourite book, author and, yes, school librarian and can share and read together with their child the books they bring home, we know literacy standards will soar and we’ll all be richer.

Chris Riddell, 2016, in an open letter to Justine Greening, the secretary of state for education, which was also signed by the previous eight Children’s Laureates

Libraries have played an enormous role in my life. Reading and exploring history and art is something I have been able to do because of libraries.

Leigh Hobbs, n.d.

Many people don’t realise how precarious the situation is in regard to school libraries. Many school authorities think that because of the internet, we don’t need books-and therefore we don’t need librarians.

Leigh Hobbs, 2017

We need to join Chris Riddell, who is now the president of the School Library Association, and Leigh Hobbs in advocating for all schools to have a school library staffed by trained professionals, so all children will have access to resources that will promote their love of reading and expand their knowledge and learning.

Save our school libraries!

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Happy birthday, Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl, the master storyteller, was born on this day in 1916. Known for his irreverent and often dark humour, he is the creator of such well-known characters as Charlie Bucket, Sophie, James Trotter, Danny, George Kranky and Matilda Wormwood (Characters, n.d.). His books were published across three decades, beginning with James and the Giant Peach in 1961 through to The Minpins in 1991, a year after his death. They have been hugely popular, remaining in print since their initial publication. His long-time collaboration with the fabulous illustrator, Quentin Blake, has shaped how the world sees the characters in his books. Roald Dahl also wrote screenplays, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and short stories for adults, many of which were filmed as part of the Tales of the Unexpected TV series (which I remember watching when they were screened in the UK). But Roald Dahl was much more than a writer; he was also “a spy, an ace fighter pilot, a chocolate historian and a medical inventor” (About Roald Dahl, n.d.).

The wonderful world of Roald Dahl

I enjoy reading Roald Dahl’s work to children. They love the characters, with their crazy names and personality traits, and the humour that runs through every story. There is also a sense of fairness and justice in the books. The mean, nasty adults (and there are many scattered through the pages) always get their comeuppance, often at the hands of the children. And there are so many memorable words and quotes that children (and adults) just love. For example, in Revolting Rhymes (highly recommended, although not for the faint-hearted!), Red Riding Hood “whips a pistol from her knickers” (Dahl, 1982) and shoots the wolf, whilst poor Jack is beaten by his mother for exchanging their cow for magic beans, “using (and nothing could be meaner) the handle of a vacuum cleaner” (Dahl, 1982). The recently published Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary contains words used in the books, including bogrotting, horrigust and plussy! It’s wondercrump!

 UK stamps featuring characters created by Roald Dahl and drawn by Quentin Blake

Each year, Roald Dahl Day is held in schools and libraries to celebrate his birth. A range of activities are organised as part of this, including hosting a Roald Dahl Day party, dressing up as your favourite character, reading a Roald Dahl story or making dream jars or marvellous medicine at school or at home (Roald Dahl HQ, 2017). As part of the celebrations, Puffin Virtually Live broadcasts a themed event live to children around the world and last year this included a draw-along with Quentin Blake and a message from the cast of The BFG (Puffin Virtually Live, n.d.). You can follow all the festivities at Roald Dahl HQ on Twitter.

Celebrations wouldn’t be complete without some scrumptious chocolate cake; just ask Bruce Bogtrotter!

For further fun, you can visit the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, the village in Berkshire in which he lived for almost 40 years. It has three interactive galleries and is suitable for children aged 6 to 12. Nearby, in Aylesbury, is the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery. This has hands-on exhibits inspired by his stories, including the mini- beasts living in the Giant Peach.

  The splendiferous Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre!

Roald Dahl died in 1990, at the age of 74 (About Roald Dahl, n.d.). He left behind a wealth of stories and characters loved by children (and their parents and grandparents). But his legacy also continues to live on in the charity established in his name. Shortly after his death, his widow, Felicity, set up the Roald Dahl Foundation, which has since been renamed Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity. It helps support seriously ill children and their families through providing Roald Dahl nurses and offering financial grants for those experiencing hardship. Through his stories and his charity, Roald Dahl is still bringing joy to children throughout the world.

Celebrate reading

During September, several events will be held to celebrate reading. These help to raise the profile of reading (and libraries) within the community. They allow people to “discover and rediscover the joy of reading” (The Reading Hour, n.d.), whilst encouraging the “anytime, anywhere” (The Reading Hour, n.d.) philosophy, which makes reading visible in society in all its forms.

The Australian Reading Hour will be held on September 14th. The aim of the event is to encourage people of all ages to read any time during the day for 60 minutes. In previous years (it has been running since 2012), it has been held mainly in public and school libraries. However this year, publishers, booksellers and authors have come on board and it is hoped this will expand the scheme and shift the focus from child readers to reading for all ages. If you are not working in a library service or bookshop, you can host your own event for family, friends or colleagues in your home or at your workplace.

Spend an hour reading by yourself…

Boy Reading

Image by sof_sof_0000: CC0 1.0

or reading with someone else…

or reading a newspaper on a bench!

Reading Side By Side

The Reading Bench by David Hodgson: CC BY 2.0

Last week, on September 6th, it was National Read a Book Day in the UK and the US. Other similar events in America include National Reading Day on January 23rd and Read Across America Day on March 2nd, Dr Seuss’ birthday. All these events place the spotlight on reading, encouraging adults and children to dive into books. Because, as Dr Seuss said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”!

Children’s Book Week

Children’s Book Week, which begins today in Australia, is a celebration of Australian children’s literature and the authors and illustrators who create it. It is organised by the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA), which works to “bring words, images and stories into the hearts and minds of children and adults” (Children’s Book Council of Australia, n.d.). The theme for 2017 is Escape to Everywhere, which I think is magical.

Storytelling sessions are often held during Children’s Book Week

School and public libraries organise activities and displays to celebrate books and reading during Children’s Book Week. The Book Chook, Madison’s Library and Book Week For Beginners all offer suggestions for this year’s theme, which can be used as starting points for future celebrations. These include creating posters, bookmarks, postcards and book trailers. Dressing-up as your favourite book character is another popular whole school activity. Public libraries often organise storytelling sessions and writing or colouring-in competitions for children and young adults.

Face painting can be part of the Children’s Book Week celebrations

Each year, the day before the start of Children’s Book Week, the winners of the CBCA Book of the Year awards are announced. The aim of these is to:

promote quality literature for young Australians
support and encourage a wide range of Australian writers and illustrators of  children’s books
celebrate contributions to Australian children’s literature

(Children’s Book Council of Australia, n.d.)

These are the winners for 2017 in each of the five categories:

CBCA Book of the Year-Older Readers
Books for young people aged 13 to 18 (secondary school level)

One Would Think the Deep, written by Claire Zorn

Sam has always had things going on in his head that no one else understands, even his mum. And now she’s dead, it’s worse than ever.

With nothing but his skateboard and a few belongings in a garbage bag, Sam goes to live with the strangers his mum cut ties with seven years ago: Aunty Lorraine and his cousins Shane and Minty.

Despite the suspicion and hostility emanating from their fibro shack, Sam reverts to his childhood habit of following Minty around and is soon surfing with Minty to cut through the static fuzz in his head. But as the days slowly meld into one another, and ghosts from the past reappear, Sam has to make the ultimate decision…will he sink or will he swim.

(Synopsis by UQP)

CBCA Book of the Year-Younger Readers
Books for children aged 8 to 12 (upper primary school level)

Rockhopping, written and illustrated by Trace Balla

Join Clancy and Uncle Egg on a rambling, rockhopping adventure in Gariwerd (the Grampians), to find the source of the Glenelg River. A story about following your flow, and the unexpected places you may go.

(Synopsis by Allen & Unwin)

CBCA Book of the Year-Early Childhood
Books for early readers (preschool and lower primary school level)

Go Home, Cheeky Animals, written by Johanna Bell and illustrated by Dion Beasley

At Canteen Creek where we live, there are cheeky dogs everywhere. But when the cheeky goats, donkeys, buffaloes and camels make mischief in the camp, the dogs just lie there-until those pesky animals really go too far. Then the cheeky camp dogs roar into action!

(Synopsis by Allen & Unwin)

CBCA Picture Book of the Year
Books “in which the text and illustrations achieve artistic and literary unity and the story, theme or concept is enhanced and unified through the illustrations” (Children’s Book Council of Australia, n.d.)

Home in the Rain, written and illustrated by Bob Graham

Francie’s going to have a new baby sister very soon. But what will her name be? Francie has so many ideas! On a long drive home with Mum, in the pouring rain, maybe they’ll find one that’s just right… From multi-award winning author-illustrator Bob Graham comes a tender, touching story of family life, perfect for sharing when a new baby is on the way. A beautifully observed celebration of the way inspiration can, and often does, happen in the most ordinary and unlikely of places.

(Synopsis by Walker Books)

The Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
Books “which have the prime purpose of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style” (Children’s Book Council of Australia, n.d.)

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks, written by Gina M Newton

This book brings together 55 national parks, selected across all Australian states and territories, and over 120 animals. It is divided into seven sections according to habitat (woodlands and grasslands; forests; rainforests; arid zones; mountains; wetlands and waterways; coasts, oceans and islands), each including a number of national parks and a selection of the fish, reptiles, frogs, birds and mammals that inhabit them. At the end of the book is a section on ‘little critters’-beetles, spiders, butterflies, grasshoppers, bugs and so on.

(Synopsis by NLA Publishing)

So hurry into your local library to borrow these winners and share them with the children in your life!

Dressing up as your favourite book character can be grrrr-eat fun!

The Tiger Who Came To Tea

The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Radarsmum1967: CC BY 2.0

If you are in Australia, enjoy Children’s Book Week. Otherwise, celebrate children’s literature and reading wherever you are!

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Story dogs

I included The Detective Dog (written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie) on my list of picture books about libraries. It is a wonderful story about Nell, who goes into Peter’s school every Monday and listens to the children reading. I recently came across a book about another Story Dog: Madeline Finn and the Library Dog (written and illustrated by Lisa Papp). Unfortunately I was unable to borrow it from my local library service, so I can’t provide a review of it. However, here is the blurb:

Madeline Finn does NOT like to read. But she DOES want a gold star from her teacher. But, stars are for good readers. Stars are for understanding words, and for saying them out loud.

Fortunately, Madeline Finn meets Bonnie, a library dog. Reading out loud to Bonnie isn’t so bad; when Madeline Finn gets stuck, Bonnie doesn’t mind. As it turns out, it’s fine to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes. Bonnie teaches Madeline Finn that it’s okay to go slow. And to keep trying.

(Synopsis from Peachtree Publishers)

These two books have inspired today’s post, which is all about reading dogs and the benefits they have for emergent readers.

Reading to a captive audience!

Reading to dogs has become increasingly popular since the idea was first introduced in the US in 1999 through the READ program. Since then, a number of organisations have been set up around the world including Bark and Read in the UK and Story Dogs in  Australia. The aim of these programs is to promote a love of reading through helping children to “develop literacy skills and build confidence” (The Kennel Club, 2017). Dogs are chosen for their calm temperament and their handlers are trained to support emergent readers. They speak through the dog to ask the child questions about the book, words or pictures (Story Dogs, 2017). In some programs, the dogs are taught to ‘read’ flash cards with commands such as ‘Sit’ and ‘Paw’ on them (Stroud, 2012). The reading sessions take place in public libraries or schools with the children sitting near their dog so they are able to interact with them (Pets As Therapy, 2015). The reading dogs initiative may occur alongside other therapeutic programs supporting emotional and social development (Stroud, 2012).

Reading to a dog is sooooo relaxing

Reading To A Dog

Georgetown PAWS To Read 2017 by Allen County (IN) Public Library: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Reading to a dog has been shown to be beneficial in a number of ways. Being with a dog has a calming effect on children (The Kennel Club, 2017), providing comfort and encouraging positive behaviours (Pets As Therapy, 2015). There is evidence that children’s blood pressure and stress levels are lower when reading out loud to a dog (Stroud, 2012). Many talk to their canine friend about themselves and their worries, which helps them to develop their emotional intelligence (The Kennel Club, 2017). Dogs are also non-judgemental listeners (The Kennel Club, 2017), who don’t point out mistakes or criticise reading attempts. In addition, because they are told they are teaching the dog to read, children feel more in control of the reading process (Stroud, 2012). This means that they are more likely to have a go at difficult words, thereby improving their literacy skills and increasing their confidence as readers (Story Dogs, 2017). In a pilot scheme at a primary school in the UK, 60% of children improved their reading age by 3 months in a 6 week period (The Kennel Club, 2017). In another study, Year 2 students showed improved attitudes towards reading after undertaking a program in which they read to dogs. This then positively affected their motivation to read (Scienmag, 2017).

These reading programs are often targeted at struggling readers. However, I believe they need to be offered to all children, because of the emotional benefits associated with reading (and being) with dogs. Confident readers may not be anxious about reading out loud, but they may still be stressed by school or home life. Reading to a dog may help them with these worries.

Story dogs love to look at the pictures

Therapy Dog

Norman West Therapy Dogs by Pioneer Library System: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Programs that promote reading to dogs have a positive effect on readers because they encourage the ‘virtuous circle’ in which the more you read, the better you become at reading (Johnson, 2017). I would also add that the better you are at reading, the more you read. This improves your academic skills and life chances. However, if you struggle with reading, you tend to avoid it, which negatively impacts on your learning and future outcomes (Johnson, 2017). It is so important to remember that “learning to read is often less about intellectual limitation than about overcoming fears” (Story Dogs, 2017). This is where story dogs come in; they help children to gain confidence in their ability to read and to learn to enjoy the wonders of the written word.

If you are able to, open the doors of your library to this service. If you aren’t, read to your dog (or someone else’s!). Because “set within a language-rich literacy environment, there appears to be little to lose and much to gain” (Johnson, 2017) about these dog-centred programs.

Happy birthday, Harry Potter!

June 26th marked the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published ten years later in 2007, bringing the adventures of the boy wizard to a conclusion. During that period, the popularity of the series grew as it was embraced by children and adults. The seven books have resulted in eight films, a range of computer games, a stage production (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), a fan website (Pottermore) and several theme parks. Fans have come together to form the Harry Potter Alliance. With chapters around the world, this organisation uses principles from the books to promote activism, especially amongst youth.

Levioso! (With thanks to Harry Potter Wiki)

Harry Potter Series

Potter by L. Whittaker: CC BY-NC 2.0

Whilst it is widely acknowledged that the Harry Potter series has played a significant role in encouraging children to read, there has been criticism about the quality of J. K. Rowling’s writing (Dickenson, 2017). The first three books won numerous awards, many of which were judged by children. However, as the series became increasingly popular, the debate around the books as works of literature began. The issue I have with this is that critics assess the writing using adult standards and tastes (Dickenson, 2017). They also judge the books in terms of the educational value they have rather than the pleasure they bring the children who read them.

Grim news….critics slate the Harry Potter series

This, of course, brings us back to the issue of reading for pleasure, which I explored in an earlier post. Many popular children’s writers have experienced the same criticism that has been levelled at J. K. Rowling. This is intellectual snobbery at work (Gaiman, 2013); by downplaying the value of Harry Potter, high culture can once again be presented as superior and pop culture as trash. This attitude ignores the passion and delight children feel for the series and for the characters within the books. It also downplays the richness of the world that J. K. Rowling has created (Dickenson, 2017), as well as her ability to create page-turning plots. As with other popular books and series, adults are still telling children what to read rather than respecting their choices. Yet again, reading for pleasure is being sidelined in the name of raising standards.

Despite adult criticism, children love Harry Potter

Reading Harry Potter

Hermionivy by Jeremy Hiebert: CC BY-NC 2.0

Perhaps it’s time to accept Harry Potter as a entertaining read that has been, and continues to be, the first step into the world of reading for many children.

Happy birthday, Eric Carle

On June 25th, the renowned children’s author and illustrator, Eric Carle, will celebrate his 88th birthday. For almost 50 years, he has brought joy to children around the world with his stories. Since the publication of his most well-known book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, he has worked on over 70 titles. His artwork is instantly recognisable with its use of bright colours and distinctive collage technique (Biographical Notes for Eric Carle, n.d.). In the following video, marking the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle talks about how the book came into being and gives some insight into his art techniques.

Eric Carle-The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Waterstones

Born in New York, Eric Carle moved to Germany with his family when he was six. He returned to America in 1952 and worked as a graphic designer at the New York Times and then as the art director of an advertising agency. His collaboration with Bill Martin Jnr, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, marked the beginning of his career in children’s books (Biographical Notes for Eric Carle, n.d.).

Eric Carle’s picture books often have special features, such as twinkling lights (The Very Lonely Firefly), cut-outs (The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and sounds (The Very Clumsy Click Beetle and The Very Quiet Cricket), which add to the experience of reading for young children. Many have a strong nature theme, such as those about insects or marine life, with additional information provided about the characters in the story.

I have selected ten books written and illustrated by Eric Carle. These span his career as a children’s picture book author from 1969 to the present day.

Picture Books By Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This all-time favorite not only follows the very hungry caterpillar as it grows from egg to cocoon to beautiful butterfly, but also teaches the days of the week, counting, good nutrition and more. Striking pictures and cleverly die-cut pages offer interactive fun (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

It’s hard to believe that The Very Hungry Caterpillar will soon be 50 years old. It has a timeless quality, which appeals to everyone, children and adults alike. It is a fabulous resource for introducing the days of the week and sequential counting.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon (1975)

The Mixed-Up Chameleon

Hilarious pictures show what happens when a bored chameleon wishes it could be more like other animals, but is finally convinced it would rather just be itself. An imagination-stretcher for children (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

This book is all about being yourself, rather than wanting to be someone else. Another picture book with a similar theme is Edward the Emu written by Sheena Knowles and illustrated by Rod Clements.

The Bad-Tempered Ladybird (1977)

The Bad-Tempered Ladybird

A grouchy ladybug who is looking for a fight challenges everyone it meets regardless of their size or strength. How this bumptious bug gets its comeuppance and learns the pleasures to be gained by cheerfulness and good manners is an amusing lesson in social behavior. Die-cut pages add drama and dimension (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

Also known as The Grouchy Ladybug, this story introduces the concepts of telling the time and increasing size as the ladybird spends the day looking for someone to fight!

The Very Busy Spider (1984)

The Very Busy Spider

With the use of raised printing, this innovative book adds the sense of touch to vision and hearing as ways to understand and enjoy the strikingly designed illustrations and the memorable story. Various farm animals try to divert a busy little spider from spinning her web, but she persists and produces a thing of both beauty and usefulness. Enjoyed by all audiences, this book’s tactile element makes it especially interesting to the visually-impaired (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

Children are able to follow the spider’s silken thread with their fingers while learning how it makes its web. Farm animals try to make conversation with the spider, allowing readers to join in with the different noises they make.

A House for Hermit Crab (1987)

A House For Hermit Crab

An underwater fantasy based on the true habits of hermit crabs and the flora and fauna of their marine environment, this book offers young readers an interesting first introduction to marine biology as well as an appealing story of Hermit Crab’s search for a house he can really call his home, as he grows throughout one year’s cycle (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

The months of the year form the structure for this book, with the hermit crab making new friends and adding to his shell as he journeys from January to December. Along the way, children are introduced to a range of sea animals from anemones to lanternfish.

From Head to Toe (1997)

From Head To Toe

“I can do it!” is the confidence-building message of this book. As young children copy the antics of Eric Carle’s animals, they’ll learn such important skills as careful listening, focusing attention, and following instructions. Just as alphabet books introduce letters and simple words, From Head to Toe introduces the basic body parts and simple body movements-the ABC’s of dancing, gymnastics, and other sports activities (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

This is such a fun book to read with children, because it is so interactive. They can mimic the animals as they use the various parts of their bodies in different ways. It is great for developing body awareness and learning to name body parts.

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (1999)

The Very Clumsy Click Beetle

HEAR the beetle CLICK as it flips through the pages of this book and learns how to land on its feet! Small readers will recognize and empathize with the clumsy little beetle’s eagerness to learn what the older beetle can already do so well. They will understand, too, its frustration when at first it fails. And they will surely rejoice in its eventual spectacular triumph (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

This book is all about perseverance and patience. The different animals the click beetle encounters encourage it to keep on trying. The book features a clicking sound as the page is turned for the final successful flip.

“Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” Said the Sloth (2002)

Slowly, Slowly, Slowly, Said The Sloth

Slowly, slowly, slowly…that’s how the sloth lives. He hangs upside-down from the branch of a tree, night and day, in the sun and in the rain, while the other animals of the rain forest rush past him. “Why are you so slow? Why are you so quiet? Why are you so lazy?” the others ask the sloth. And, after a long, long time, the sloth finally tells them (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d)!

In the blurb of the book, Eric Carle asks “Why are we always in a hurry?” The sloth in this story can teach us all about slowing down and experiencing life, rather than dashing from one activity to another. A very zen book!

Mister Seahorse (2004)

Mister Seahorse

Mister Seahorse and fellow fish fathers, who care for their soon-to-be-hatched offspring, share their stories while acetate pages reveal camouflaged creatures who bear witness to the conversation between fathers with fins (Eric Carle Bibliography, n.d).

This is my favourite book by Eric Carle. I love the way information about the different fish fathers that care for their offspring is shared as part of the story rather than in a didactic way. I particularly love poor Mr Tilapia, who can’t answer Mr Seahorse because his mouth is full of eggs! Children also enjoy finding the creatures that are camouflaged behind the see-through pages.

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse (2011)

The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse

I am an artist and I paint…a blue horse, a red crocodile, a polka-dotted donkey…

Here is a celebration of creativity and colour that will inspire young artists everywhere.

This book was written as a homage to Franz Marc, the German expressionist artist, who was killed during the First World War. He was famous for his paintings of blue horses, hence the book’s title. Each animal is presented in stunning double page spreads with a simple text.

So many of Eric Carle’s books have become classics and this may be because:

The secret of [his]…appeal lies in his intuitive understanding of and respect for children, who sense in him instinctively someone who shares their most cherished thoughts and emotions (Biographical Notes for Eric Carle, n.d.).

Here’s a treat to end with; Eric Carle reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I particularly love the close-up shot of the poor caterpillar with a stomach ache from eating too much food!

Eric Carle reads The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Puffin Books

Happy birthday, Eric Carle! And thank you for the beautiful, funny and informative books that you have created over the last five decades.

All images taken by the author. The quote for The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse taken from the blurb of the book.

Library and Information Week

Next week is Library and Information Week in Australia. Organised by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the aim is “to raise the profile of libraries and information service professionals” (ALIA, n.d.) through a range of events and activities within library services. This year’s theme, Celebrate!, has been chosen to mark ALIA’s 80th birthday.

Let’s celebrate all that’s wonderful about libraries great…

and small!

National Simultaneous Storytime is one of the events held during Library and Information Week. On Wednesday 24th May at 11am, the picture book, The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, will be read in libraries, schools, early childhood centres, homes and other settings across Australia. The initiative is now in its 17th year and has been very successful in sharing a love of reading with children. It aims to:

promote the value of reading and literacy;
promote the value and fun of books;
promote an Australian writer and publisher;
promote storytime activities in public libraries and communities around the country;
provide opportunities to involve parents, grandparents, the media and others to participate in and enjoy the occasion (ALIA, n.d.)

The ALIA website has a range of resources available to support National Simultaneous Storytime, including ideas for activities, teachers’ notes and merchandise. Organisers are encouraged to register their participation as this will enable them to access digital presentations of the book, which can be used as part of the event.

And this is the book that has been chosen to be read simultaneously around Australia:

The Cow Tripped Over the Moon
Written by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood

The Cow Jumped Over The Moon

Hey diddle diddle
You all know the riddle,
A cow jumps over the moon…

But the moon is so high in the sky! How many hilarious attempts will it take before Cow makes her famous high-flying leap?

This brilliant picture book tells the real story behind the cow’s record breaking jump over the moon. It also highlights the importance of perseverance and never giving up on your dream. An excellent choice for National Simultaneous Storytime.

So join in the fun next week and celebrate all that is wonderful about libraries and the people who work in them.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images taken by the author and all quotes taken from the blurb of the book.