Reluctant readers getting excited about reading

April 9, 2012

Books for 8 year olds.We’ve started all the readers in our study with books that are easier for them to read than they are currently reading at school and from what parents are telling us, that approach is really working. In addition to books that are easy to read, the size of the text (quite large) is important, as is the addition of pictures.

One Mum, whose 8 year old daughter is on our study, asked why her daughter  liked the Puddle Lane books so much and she replied that it was because she liked the pictures. The pictures in the Puddle Lane books are, perhaps, unusual in that they are in colour and there are lots of them. Children just starting to read alone still rely quite a lot on pictures to help them to understand and visualise the story, so we always try to suggest books with them in. For details of the books we are using on our study, see our previous post.

Some of the children and parents have found that it was just a matter of finding a few easy to read books and that that has been enough to spark their child’s enthusiasm for reading alone. Where this is the case, it is important to keep them on that same reading level for quite a while so that their enthusiasm is maintained, finding lots of good books at that level. We tend to find that the child moves themselves on gradually when they are ready for something more difficult.

If you are following our study and trying it for yourselves at home, your child will be reading to you for 15 minutes a day. Even if they seem to be coping with a book and seem keen to take it off to read for themselves, it is still important that you have the child reading to you so that you can see whether they are reading it correctly and afterwards just briefly check whether they understand what they have just read, by asking something like “So, why did Tom go off to the park then?” Don’t make a big deal of it, but if they don’t understand what they have just read, they won’t enjoy reading for themselves. A lack of comprehension may indicate that the book is still too difficult for them, at which point it might be a good idea to find something easier.

Just occasionally children get so stewed up about reading out loud, that they cannot concentrate on the story. If you suspect this is the case 1) get your child to read to you to ensure they can actually read the words 2) let them read a page or two to themselves and then check they have understood the story. If they do understand, then you can probably let them read alone straightaway.

Picture by GraceFamily at Flickr


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

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:

Getting your struggling 8 year old reader to read for pleasure

February 28, 2012

How do you get your young struggling reader (aged 7-8) to read for pleasure? We know that the more children read for pleasure, the more quickly their reading skills will improve.

What we have found is that guiding children towards easier books that are not a struggle means they can devote all their time to just enjoying the story.These aren’t the reading scheme books, they’re just story books or factual books completely separate to the reading scheme.  Parents can really help with this, working on easier books with their children at home, so that they are not seen reading books that are too much easier than those their peers are reading, in order to preserve their self esteem. We are already seeing the benefits in one school where we are trying this. After just 3 weeks,these children are starting to enjoy books for pleasure.We asked one 8 year old on the programme “So, are you quite enjoying that book, then?” “No,” he said “I’m not quite enjoying it, I’m really enjoying it”.If we can engage all our readers with books for pleasure, we will be helping them enormously.

These books for 7-8 year old struggling readers   are published by Usborne and can be found by clicking on the link.

Have you seen these fabulous books for 8 year olds?

February 20, 2012

Whether you have an an 8 year old reader who reads a lot or one who is just starting to enjoy chapter books, the Geronimo Stilton books are a great choice. They’re very funny, include lots of colourful pictures and their special feature of the print in varying fonts and colours make them a unique offering.They are also very good for children who haven’t quite discovered a love of reading yet. Not too difficult to read (reading level – amethyst) we find they are often enjoyed by the more reluctant reader.

Lots of children  really love reading these books and wait keenly for the next in the series to be available.The most recent book The Amazing Voyage is available in currently avaialable in hardback, although paperback versions of other Geronimo Stilton books, such as A Fabumouse School Adventure are also available and well worth a look.

Is Enid Blyton as popular today as she’s always been?

February 10, 2012

In our family, Enid Blyton played a big role in encouraging our love of reading. My Mum would buy us books like the Faraway Tree and The Secret Seven and many a cosy afternoon would be spent by the fire reading these books.

However, the value of Enid Blyton’s books hasn’t always been recognised. At one time, libraries removed her works from the shelves, doubting their “literary value” and later this happened in some schools as well.Now, however, it seems that we have seen the error of our ways and these books which are so popular with the children have been duly returned to our school and libray shelves.

How could you argue with stories as magical as “The Faraway Tree”? If you don’t know what a Pop Cake is ….or a Toffee Shock, do buy these books for your children. I remember my four year old son begging for “just one more chapter please” as he travelled with the children in the story to the “Land of Do-As-You-Please” and the delicious ” Land of Treats”. We had a vote in a children’s book club I ran a few years ago, and the book that won Best Book of all time as voted by the 8 year olds  was Blyton’s “Wishing Chair” books, a series quite similar to the Faraway Tree stories.

Then, of course you have the school stories – The Naughtiest Girl in the School  (great books for8 year olds) Malory Towers (from 9 or 10 years old) etc and then not forgetting The Secret Seven, Famous Five and the less well known, but possibly even more brilliant books,  “The Sea of Adventure“, “The Island of Adventure” etc (for a slightly older reader than the Famous Five), probably age 10+.

Enid Blyton actually wrote in excess of 1500 books, so there are plenty to keep your children going. Many of her books can be found at Hummingbird Books so why not have a look and lead your child into the magical story world of an author who has been delighting children for generations….. and don’t forget to take a glass of homemade lemonade with you………

Holiday reading for children aged 9-11.

February 7, 2012

We’ll start with the avid readers who never seem to be able to find enough reading material. If you have 9, 10 or 11 year olds who like Greek Mythology and have read the Percy Jackson books, another series which is absolutely brilliant is  The Fire Thief Trilogy by Terry Deary.Both these series are at Amber reading level.

The Tom Gates books are still proving hugely successful with the more reluctant readers and with the next one in the series due out on the 1st March, they’ve just got time to read the first two in the series before it comes out.

Something probably more suited to the girls are the Molly Moon books. Plenty of reading for the keen reader, also at Amber reading level. If they prefer something a bit easier to read then the Clarice Bean books are hilarious and are at Sapphire reading level with quite a large font, which is perhaps more appealing if they’re not big readers.

You will find lots more suggestions on our website where, when you have made your selection, you can click on the Amazon button for further details, and to buy if you wish. We partner with Amazon, knowing that they offer excellent value for money on books and rarely charge any postage.*

* Unless buying from Amazon Marketplace

Just time to order some books for the half term holidays….

February 3, 2012

Hoping for just a little peace during half term? If you buy them some books from our great book selection, all of which are recommended by children, you might even have time for a quiet coffe and a natter with a friend while the children are off …and if it snows, what better way to warm up after an afternoon’s sledging than with a woolly jumper and a great book.

So here are a few of the highlights from our site. Remember, that when you buy from us you have the advantage that we make great recommendations and then you click through to Amazon for great prices.and rarely any postage.

For the little ones, a great new discovery for us is  “Lost and Found”. An enchanting story of the friendship between a penguin and a little boy. Just look at the reviews on Amazon for this book!

For 6-8 year olds who are fairly confident readers, but who like a book with lots of pictures, “Dinosaur Cove” is a great series.It is particularly good for readers who have only read factual books up until now. If you are now trying to get them to read a bit of fiction, these books are definitely the way to go.Great stories – with dinosaurs.The reading level of these books is Amethyst.For little girls who love fluffy kittens and playful pups you can’t beat Holly Webb’s delightful books. Also at  Amethyst reading level, these are the type of book that they just have to keep reading and reading to find out what happens at the end.

If your 6, 7 or 8 year old is only just starting out with reading alone, Ricky Ricotta is a great favourite. As well as a great story these books have “Flip-o-rama” pages to make a moving story and instructions for drawing Ricky and all his friends. These books are at Emerald reading level.

If you haven’t got into the Rainbow Magic stories yet, and you have a little girl, these stories are easy to read and just brilliant for girls.They are at Ruby reading level. All the Rainbow Magic books that we feature are the 3 books in one versions, but if you would prefer a thinner book with just one story in, click through to Amazon here.

In Monday’s blog we’ll be featuring some book suggestions for 9-11 year olds.