Archive for March, 2012

Choosing the right books is the key.

March 31, 2012

7 year old enjoying a book  We have been busy sending out books to the children who are taking part in our study “Encouraging 7 and 8 year olds to read for pleasure”. Although it seems early to comment on children’s reactions, we are already hearing from parents of reluctant readers who have received their books and whose children are really enjoying them.

We would put this down to two main factors  1) that the book the child is reading is easy enough for them to read on their own.This point was beautifully illustrated in an article by one of the key publishers of books for reluctant readers. Admittedly, the author is referring to slightly older children in his article, but it has become really clear to us in the last few years that if the text is not easy enough, a child of any age will not be tempted to read for pleasure. It cannot be a pleasure if it’s hard work!

2) Whether they are reading to you or you are reading to them, it has to be a good book.With so many new titles coming on to the market every year in the UK, it is vital to find the very best books that the children will enjoy the most, in order to kick start their love of reading. That is why our website only lists books that are recommended by children.

Books for your child to read to you

If you are following our six week reading study you will need to ask your child to read to you for 15 minutes every day. Make sure that the book is easy enough for them to read without difficulty (it should be easier than their school reading book and they should be stumbling over no more than one word or so on a page). To check which reading level to start your child on, ask them to read from the text in the following  sample books using the “Look Inside” facility in each book.Diamond Level is here.    Emerald Level is here.   Ruby Level is here.

When your child is reading to you, follow the words yourself, ensuring that they read correctly.

The books we are using at Diamond Level are The Magic Porridge Pot , Clever Rabbit and the Wolves , The Little Giraffe and The Chilly Little Penguin – all in Usborne’s First Reading Level 2. If these are too easy for your child, you could  try Usborne’s First Reading Level 3.
At Emerald Level we are using Puddle Lane (Stage 1) books. Written in the 1980’s these Ladybird Books have beautiful colour illustrations and delightful stories. You can still get copies on Amazon and Ebay, but they are not generally available elsewhere. These tend to appeal to girls more than boys, but some boys may enjoy them.For the boys we are using First Greek Myths by Saviour Pirotta – specifically Odysseus and the Wooden Horse and Theseus and the Man Eating Monster. Your child may need a little help with the Greek names, but these are brilliant stories with lovely colour illustrations.

At Ruby Level we are using the Magic Tree House series– with fun and exciting stories that are great fun to read.

Books to read to your child

Children on our study are also being read to by an adult for 15 minutes each day. This will help them to get really fired up about how exciting books can be, without having all the effort of having to read for themselves.

Ask your child to choose  from the following:

“The Hodgeheg” by Dick King Smith.

“The Secret Seven” by Enid Blyton.

“The Rescued Puppy” by Holly Webb.

” Street Child” by Berlie Doherty.

All these books come highly recommended by children of this age.

We’ll let you know shortly how the children are getting on. If you are joining us, we’d love to know how you’re getting on as well, either here or over @hummibooks on Twitter.

Picture Credit- John-Morgan at Flickr

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Our pilot study “Encouraging 7 and 8 year olds to read for pleasure”

March 29, 2012

Next week sees the start of our reading study which aims to test which are the best strategies to get 7 and 8 year old children reading to themselves.Children who read for pleasure tend to do better in school than those who don’t and if they never pick up a book to help reinforce the reading process, it can cause problems trying to access the rest of the curriculum after the age of 11 because their reading skills are just not good enough.

The aim of this study is to test our simple step by step programme that parents can use with their child to encourage a love of reading.

This is a good age to get them reading on their own. It helps to reinforce the “learning to read” process, as well as helping them to really enjoy stories so that they find out just how enjoyable reading is and that reading is not just something you do day after day at school with some rather uninteresting school reading book.

Feel free to follow us over the next few weeks via this blog and maybe try the strategies yourselves.A brief outline of how it will work together with a list of the books we will be using is detailed on our next blog post  if you would like to have a go at home.

Happy reading- we hope you’ll enjoy this as much as the children!

Picture credit: John-Morgan at Flickr

Are our literacy rates so low because we’re rushing children into reading?

March 19, 2012

For some time now there has been considerable media coverage about low literacy rates in the UK. Clearly there may be a number of reasons for this, but one that was flagged up as a possibility this weekend in “Any Answers”,  Jonathon Dimbleby’s  follow on programme to “Any Questions”, was that maybe we are rushing children into reading before they are ready and in the process turning them off the whole idea of books and reading.The programme featured a speech therapist who suggested that developing language and socialisation was far more important than launching straight into phonics and reading (the youngest of whom in the UK are only 4 years old when they start school).

In other parts of Europe, children do not start reading until at least 6 years old, having an opportunity to develop those important language skills before the formal teaching begins. Whilst it is true that many children in the UK learn to read easily from an early age, it does seem that some just aren’t ready. In addition, parents sometimes try to move their child quickly onto the level where they think the child should be, rather than just giving them the space to grow to love books, reading texts that are easy for them to understand.

The “take it slowly” approach is very much how we approach reading at Hummingbird Books, giving the children books to read which are much simpler than the texts they are “capable” of reading. In this way, they enjoy books and gradually move themselves along when they are ready (or only need a little encouragement to move to the next level). The best analogy for this seems to be if you imagine sitting down yourself to read a book. You would not usually struggle your way through the text, unable to read some of the words. You just want to be able to read easily and enjoy  the story.

If you are interested in our “take it slowly” approach, we are currently piloting a programme for 7 and 8 year olds who are not really enjoying books at present. We  have  3 places left on this 6 week programme at a cost of approx £40 (when fully operational the cost will be £250).Details of this progamme to get children reading are in yesterday’s post.

Do you have a 7 or 8 year old who doesn’t like books and reading?

March 18, 2012

Do you have a 7 or 8 year old who really isn’t enjoying books yet ? We are looking for a number of children to join the next phase of the pilot scheme for our programme that is already showing very impressive results in getting children to love books and reading.This is a 6 week programme, individually tailored to your child’s interests and reading level, where we give you weekly advice over the telephone, as well as email support and books on loan which are sent to you from our extensive library of books for 7 and 8 year olds.

The programme requires input of approximately 30 minutes a day working with your child on what is proving to be an extremely enjoyable course for both the adults and the children involved. The only costs to participants are postage costs to send the books to you and for you to return them to us – no more than £6 per week. Set your child on a lifelong journey towards a love books for less than £40 in total- a programme that will cost in the region of £250 when it is fully operational.

For more details contact Anne at the following email address:

anne@hummingbirdbooks.co.uk