Here are some of Mrs White's past messages /advice about reading, books etc. It's a treasure chest!
Margaret Mahy was an amazing author who came from Whakatane! Margaret Mahy wrote more than 100 picture books, 40 chapter books and 20 collectionsof short stories. She was also a wonderful poet and performer, donning crazy rainbow wigs to read aloud her stories and poems.
Margaret Mahy was born on 21 March 1936 and grew up in Whakatane, the oldest of five children. Her father Frank, was a bridge builder who lovedto tell stories and her mother Helen was a teacher. At school she struggled with maths and excelled at swimming. After schooling she worked first as a nurse aid and then combined being a single mother with working as a librarian and writing in the eveningsbefore becoming a full-time writer in 1980. Her first published book was in 1969, a picture book called "The lion in the meadow". This book is particularly commemorated in Whakatane by a statue in the Margaret Mahy courtyard near the Whakatane council buildings.Other books by her include "The witch in the cherry tree", "Down the back of the chair", "Bubble trouble", "On a summery Saturday morning", "Jam", "The riddle of the frozen phantom", "Kaitangata twitch", "The haunting" and "Down in the dump with Dinsmore". There is also a wonderful collection of her poems illustrated by David Elliott called "The word witch". Not only popular in New Zealand, Margaret Mahy achieved international success, winning the UK Carnegie award twice in 1982 for "The haunting" and in 1984for "The change-over". She is also the only New Zealander to win the Hans Christian Andersen writing award from Denmark awarded each year by IBBY the International Board on Books for Young People. Margaret Mahy died on 23 July 2012.
Her love of words shone through all of her stories and poems. A few particular words became her signature, my favourite is Horrakapotchkin, anexclamation used by everyone from Crocodiles to evil dragon hunters! Back to the top
Reading and mental health
There is a recognised link between reading for pleasure and academic success, but researchers are increasingly linking reading for fun – for relaxation – with better mental health as well, not only for adults but children and teens too. Mental health issues affect many New Zealanders, including children. Research from the Youth Mental Health Project 2012 showed that:
"While most young people are resilient, 20% of young people are likely to experience a mental health issue (and,)
Depression and anxiety are quite wide-spread: one in five young New Zealanders will be affected by depression by the age of 18"
Source - Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/home/news/article/24/are-our-kiwi-kids-all-right
There is also more interest in nurturing positive mental health to prevent problems arising – ideas such as mindfulness. Nicola Morgan is a researcher who has coined the phrase "Readaxation" and is particularly interested in reading and the teen brain. A few key points from her research are that reading is an activity that absorbs a person and therefore gives them a break from internal negative thoughts; reading is a physically 'still' activity, it is likely to decrease the heart rate and lower blood pressure; and that reading leads to greater empathy for others and understanding of ourselves.
These lead me to three 'do-able' activities for families to create the best environment for wellness. First, do everything to help your child find the right book at the right time – the perfect book for your child that creates an intense absorption into another world, is key to reading being relaxing. Surround them with books, the school library, town libraries, second-hand and hand-me-downs. Secondly, allowing time in the day for reading to happen is essential, lots of opportunities to interact with books and quiet time – parents need to take the lead on creating that time. Lastly, to use books as an opportunity to talk about specific mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, peer pressure, poor self-esteem, moods and grief, which your child or someone else in the family may be experiencing.
Of course there is no magic answer and we cannot predict every turn of a person's life and what experiences they may have that impact their mental health, but talking about issues through books and being mindful that young people can benefit from reading academically and mentally, is a really positive start.
Book list for books from the Awakeri school library -
Depression – "Black dog", Levi Pinfold; "Mr Huff", Anna Walker;
Grief and depression – "The elephant", Peter Carnavas; "The sad book", Michael Rosen
0CD – "Goldfish boy", Lisa Thompson
Agoraphobia – 'The 10 pm question", Kate De Goldi
Anxiety – "Silly Billy", Anthony Browne; "Scaredy squirrel makes a friend", Melanie Watt; "Little mouse's big book of fears", Emily Gravett
Friendship – "On sudden hill", Linda Sarah; "Those darn squirrels", Adam Rubin
Self-esteem – "Small is beautiful", Werner Thuswaldner
Self-esteem, empathy – "Wonder", RJ Pallacio;
Self-esteem, social pressure – "A bad case of stripes", David Shannon: "Old hat", Emily Gravett
Empathy - "My brother Charlie", Holly Robinson Peet
Moods – "The very cranky bear", Nick Bland; "Olive and the bad mood", Tor Freedman
Mindfulness – 'The white cat and the monk", Jo Ellen Bogart; 'The Big, big sea", Martin Waddell
For more information about Nicola Morgan and Readaxation go to
Princesses!! A baker's dozen of spunky princesses!
Fairy tales have a way of seeping into the subconscious. "Once upon a time" are magical words from many people's childhood and the traditional tale of beautiful girl overcomes adversity to win the handsome prince has been re-interpreted into movies, adult books and songs for centuries. We might question whether stories written in a long-lost era showing helpless women and triumphant men are appropriate role models for today's children? We could argue the details for a long time but ultimately kids will vote with their feet and these stories are still sought after, so as a library we will keep making them available. What is lovely, is that alongside these stories, are lots of modern interpretations of fairy tales, where the heroes might have less gender-defined roles and a strong sense of self and choosing one's own path. These tales show that there is more than one way of being a princess or a prince and are often funny and fresh as well. Here's thirteen of the best!
Junior Picture books
"Emily and the dragon" by Lyn Lee; Illus. DM Cornish. Girls and dragons – maybe they both get sick of the expectations of others?
"The worst princess" by Anna Kemp; Illus. Sarah Ogilvie. Re-defining what makes a great princess!
"Princess Peepers" by Pam Clavert; Illus. Tuesday Mourning. Princesses don't wear glasses – this one learns that she can and happily!
"Paper bag princess" by Robert Munsch; Illus. Michael Martchenko. Elizabeth still ranks as one of my favourite princesses – smart, funny and resourceful.
"Princess Grandma" by Jenni Overend; Illus. Naomi Lewis. A little girl lives next door to an elderly Fijian Princess who enchants her with a warm culture different from her own.
Middle School Fiction
"Princess in Black" series by Shannon and Dean Hale; Illus. Pham LeUyen. This princess leads a double life - luckily she is smart enough to outwit the most suspicious of society matriarchs!
"Princess Cora and the crocodile" by Laura Amy Schlitz; Illus. Brian Floca. This feels as if it could be a Margaret Mahy story, the gift of a "pet" turns Princess Cora's life upside down!
"Karate princess and the cut-throat robbers" by Jeremy Strong. An author who loves to put a funny twist on life.
"Tuesdays at the castle" by Jessica Day George. When her parents are believed lost in an enemy attack, it's up to the resourceful Celie to foil the evil plans of the neighbouring prince and to placate the castle, which likes to rearrange its own rooms every Tuesday.
"Iron hearted Violet" by Kelly Reagan Barnhill; Illus. Iacopo Bruno. Kelly Barnhill challenges the premise that all princesses are beautiful in a dark and twisting tale with a creepy ancient enemy, the nybbas.
"The princess curse" by Merri Haskell. Reveka takes a curse into her own hands – if a prince can be rewarded for breaking a spell, why not a servant girl? Loosely based on the 12 dancing princesses and a great twist.
"The princess and the foal" by Stacy Gregg. This is based on a modern real life princess, Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, who shows amazing strength of character after a family tragedy.
"Icefall" by Matthew Kirby. A princess whodunit set in an icy fortress, new in to the library!
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Mums are a big theme in children's stories, whether kindly or cool, sweet or sassy, birth Mums or step-mums or the person we choose to be our mum, they fill books with their presence. Mums are also most often the person children read to and have stories read aloud by, according to my very informal research! So this Sunday morning, after the toast in bed and the homemade card, how about a story as well?
Top 10 favourite books about Mums.
1 "Did my mother do that?" – Sharon Holt; Illus. Brian Lovelock. A lovely celebration of parenthood with lots of animal facts thrown in as well, by a talented New Zealand duo. Junior picture book.
2 "My Mum"- Anthony Browne. Mum is transformed into a sofa and a butterfly and a rhino – but always with love, from this award winning author. Junior picture book.
3 "My Mum is a supermum" – Angela McAllister; Illus. Alex T. Smith. Milo's Mum always seems to know what he's been up to, how does she do it? She must have x-ray eyes and be… a super Mum! Junior picture book.
4 "The man whose mother was a pirate" – Margaret Mahy; Illus. Margaret Chamberlain. Classic! Junior picture book.
5 "The Mum-minder" – Jacqueline Wilson. Sadie gets a chance to see things from her mum's point of view. Middle fiction.
6 "The Bubble wrap boy" – Phil Earle. Charlie has a Mum who loves him. She really loves him. She loves him so much he isn't allowed to do anything that she thinks might be dangerous. Or fast. Or fun. Definitely not skateboarding! Senior fiction.
7 "Coraline" – Neil Gaiman. Creepy. The heroine has more spunk than the movie version, read it and compare! Look out for Mums with button eyes! Senior fiction
8 "One for the Murphy's" – Linda Mullaly Hunt. Sometimes Mums get things wrong. Sometimes a foster Mum can help make it right. Senior fiction.
9 "Rooftoppers" – Katherine Rundell. This is the story of a Dad who was found and a Mum who was lost, and there is love and hope in both stories. Senior fiction.
10 "It ain't so awful falafel" – Firoozah Dumas. An Iranian family in California in the 70's. A warm and funny portrayal of relationships within a family under tricky and sometimes unwelcoming circumstances. Senior fiction.
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New Zealand Heroes
In New Zealand we pride ourselves on punching above our weight. Our famous do-it-yourself, number 8 fencing wire approach to problems and a general can-do attitude seem to be part of our national psyche. So this week I've put together a list of books that celebrate our heroes, the people who have helped to build that reputation for small but mighty!
"New Zealand hall of fame; 50 remarkable kiwis" - a great book by Maria Gill, includes a diverse group of New Zealanders including, Willie Apiata, Dame Whina Cooper, Margaret Mahy, Scott Dixon and local girl Sarah Walker. Find it in Non-fiction 920 Also by the same author "New Zealand sports hall of fame; 24 Kiwi champions" 796.092
"Alan Duff's Maori heroes" - some of the entries need updating but still a great book to flick through. 993.009
"John Britten: the boy who did do better" – the epitome of do-it-yourself attitude, this story is inspiring for anyone who loves to tinker and dreams of their next 'big' invention. 920
"Legs on Everest: Mark Inglis" – amazing story of can-do despite adversity. 915
"Gladys goes to war" – the story of Gladys Sandford who refused to stay at home and knit during World War 1 and lead an unusual and individual life of adventure. M/S Picture Bk HAR
"John Joe's tune: how New Zealand got its national anthem" – Tania Atkinson (author) and Christine Ross (illustrator) do a lovely job with this previously little known story of the tune to God Defend New Zealand, our song first sung in public in 1876. Junior Fiction ATK
"ANZAC heroes" and "ANZAC animals" – both from the talented Maria Gill (author) and Marco Ivancic (illustrator). Gorgeous pictures with short, often sad stories of the men, women and animals who played their part in the World Wars. 940.4
"Skyhigh: Jean Batten's incredible flying adventures" – the latest from David Hill (author) and Phoebe Morris (illustrator) who also gave us Sir Edmund Hilary's and Burt Munroe's story in lovely picture book with non-fiction hybrid books. Find them all in Junior Non-fiction.
David Riley is a teacher from Manukau in Auckland with a passion for connecting students, particularly boys, with reading. His sports books include titles about Joseph Parker, Winston Reid, Benji Marshall and Gold! – Stories about our Olympic gold medallists. Find them in the 700's.
"Born to fly" – the exciting but heart-wrenching story of Porokoru Patapu Pohe a World War 2 flying ace, told in graphic novel form by Andrew Burdan. M/S Picture book, BUR
And last but not least, "Classic Rhymes for Kiwi kids" by Peter Millett, actually a book of Nursery Rhymes with a Kiwi twist, my favourite is a hilarious rendition of Sir Edmund Hilary as "The grand old Duke of York"; find it in Junior Non-Fiction 821.
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We love Farming! In the Awakeri school library there is a steady demand for books featuring farms, farm animals and farm machinery, especially those created in New Zealand. It's great when kids can see themselves reflected in books and although not every child at school lives on a farm, the ones that do are often very fervent in their quest for farm books. Luckily we have a pretty good stack of farm-related books, fiction and non-fiction. Factual books about farming can be found in the Non-fiction 600's, and the list below are wonderful, sometimes wacky stories from our Junior picture book section – and they're all by New Zealand authors too! If you want to see more, you better get a moove on!
Rasmus - Elizabeth Pulford; a lovely story about a goat and a boy and loss.
Cow power and Baby cow power - Kim Riley; based on a true story and written by a Manawatu dairy farmer, it's a favourite for good reason.
On the farm series - Milking time and Harvest (plus others) Jamie and Lee Lamb; this series is one that never makes it back to the shelves because it's so popular and we have some new titles this year too!
The moon and farmer McPhee - Margaret Mahy; a farmer learns to enjoy life after his animals remind him of joy.
Allis the tractor - Sophie Siers; the beautiful illustrations by Helen Kerridge make this lovely book come alive.
Moo and Moo and can you guess who? - Jane Milton; inspired by the Kaikoura earthquake, cute pictures from Deborah Hinde.
Baa baa smart sheep and I love lemonade - Mark and Rowan Somerset; these books have been around for a while but still funny
Mrs Wishy Washy's farm - Joy Cowley; She's been keeping animals clean since 1980 and we still love her.
The three cattle dogs Gruff - Chris Gurney; three dogs must cross a bridge with a fearsome Taniwha underneath. The two smaller dogs say wait for their older brother Tuff to cross... Sounds a little familiar but with a Kiwi twist!
Muddle and Mo- Nikki Slade Robinson; Muddle is a duckling with a lot of questions and Mo is a patient goat, a lovely book by a local author/illustrator.
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Sad books say so much... I have always enjoyed sad books and there is a long history of children's books that tug at the heart strings, from Hans Christian Andersen's "Little match girl", to "Charlotte's web", "The giving tree" and the wonderful "Warhorse". There has been trends in children's publishing to remove sad or confronting elements in children's books – old classics rewritten or banned. And it's true that some children are more upset than others, but surely that is the time for lots of talking, not avoidance of issues like death, illness and cruelty. Real life can be sad, it is misleading to pretend otherwise, and seeing how other people deal with sadness - even in fiction - gives tools to children who are coping with traumatic events. Even if a child has never experienced a significant sad event in their life they may still be fascinated by sad stories – it doesn't mean they feel sad, simply that a book is a safe place to experience an emotion, to think about it in a new way. The other common theme in sad stories, is that there is hope or renewal after a sad time – and that is a message for all people, young and old.
"Short" – Holly Goldberg Sloan
"Parvana" (also called "The breadwinner"), "Parvana's journey" and "The best day of my life" - Deborah Ellis (This author writes about big issues, but in a simple and direct way, as if you are chatting to the characters themselves)
"One for the Murphys" – Lynda Mullaly Hunt
"Out of my mind" – Sharon M Draper
"The one and only Ivan" - K A Applegate
"Wonder" - RJ Pallacio (This is a world-wide phenomenon – read it before you see the movie)
"Two weeks with the queen" and "Once" series - Morris Gleitzman (who always seems to combine heartbreak with laughter)
"A long walk to water" – Linda Sue Park
"The bridge to Terabithia" - Katherine Paterson (The author wrote this to help her son with the death of a close friend)
"The boy in the striped pyjamas" - John Boyne
"Warhorse" - Michael Morpurgo
12+ Senior fiction
"One" - Sarah Crossan (Beautifully told in verse, you suspect the end but still it takes your heart away)
"When friendship followed me home" – Paul Griffen (I think this book made me cry the most all year)
"The seventh wish" – Kate Mesner (This book looks at addiction and has a powerful message about accepting things that you cannot change and recognising what you can)
"The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane" - Kate Di Camillo
"Love that dog" - Sharon Creech (a beautiful, deceptively short book, told in verse)
"Charlotte's web" – EB White
M/S Picture book
"The snow goose" - Paul Gallico
"Harry and Hopper" – Margaret Wild (The illustrations by Freya Blackwood give this story extra charm and sweetness)
Junior picture book
"Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge" – Mem Fox (I have been reading this book for around 18 years and it still makes me cry)
"The very best of friends" – Margaret Wild
"Love you forever"- Robert Munsch (It's a bit cheesy, but you can't help but blink back a few tears)
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In 1990, while stuck on a delayed train bound for Clapham Junction, London, Jo Rowling had a story idea for a young boy attending a school for wizards. It was to take five years to complete and another two years before her agent found a publisher, (it has been said that twelve publishers turned the manuscript down!) before release as "Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone" in June, 1997. Since then the seven book series, totalling 4,195 pages, has been translated into more than 70 languages and sold more than 500 million copies! Along the way single mother Jo Rowling became JK Rowling and the ninth best-selling author of all time, with an estimated personal fortune of 650 million pounds!
As well, the seven books were made into eight movies, and in 2016, a spin-off book made as a charity fund-raisers, "Fantastic beasts and where to find them", was also released as a block-buster movie with the screenplay written by Rowling herself.
The "Harry Potter" series is very popular in the Awakeri school library, particularly with Year 5's and 6's, although it is read by kids (and adults) well outside of those ages. Perhaps the continued popularity is because it has very strong universal themes - good versus evil, personal responsibility, discrimination and friendship. Whatever the reasons behind its popularity, it has turned many non-readers into readers, and irregular readers into committed ones and that is no small piece of magic!
Ten facts about Harry Potter and JK Rowling.
1 Harry Potter and Rowling share the same birthday, 31 July.
2 "Dumbledore" is an old English word meaning Bumblebee.
3 Rowling's name full name is Joanne Rowling - she added Kathleen as a middle name to create the pen name JK Rowling when her publisher advised her to not reveal herself as a female author, worried boys would not like the book as much.
4 In the US, the first book was called "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone" because the publishers didn't think American audiences were familiar with the story of the Philosopher's stone.
5 In the French translation of the series, Voldemort's middle name is Elvis to make the anagram I am Voldemort work as the French "Je suis Voldemort". Instead of Tom Marvolo Riddle he is Tom Elvis Jedusor.
6 The word "muggle" was added to the Oxford English dictionary in 2003.
7 Rowling's parents met on a Kings Cross train - but they didn't leave from platform 9 3/4!
8 Rowling worked as a researcher and bi-lingual secretary for Amnesty International.
9 Rowling writes for adults under the pen name Robert Galbraith.
10 Quidditch has become a game in the muggle world too, with teams at many universities around the world - sorry but the broomsticks don't fly!
Plus an extra one! Beginning in October, the British library in London is holding an exhibition inspired by Harry Potter with historical items from their collection, including rare manuscripts such as the 16th century Ripley scroll which reveals how to create a Philosopher's Stone. There will also be notes and drawings from JK Rowling and the illustrator Jim Kay.
And lastly, a quote from JK Rowling – "We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better." Back to the top
To celebrate Ag Day we look at an author who excels at animal stories and is very popular in our school library and all over the world, Michael Morpurgo. Born in 1943 in St Albans in the UK, his parents separated during the war and he did not meet his biological father until he was in his 20's. After a short stint in the army, where he has said he enjoyed the friendships and the food but not the shouting, he and his wife Clare both became teachers. While teaching, his favourite daily activity was to read aloud to his class - eventually he ran out of books and decided to write his own. He has since written over 130 books, at least five have become movies and others have become stage and radio plays. His most well-known book "Warhorse" is both a movie and a very successful stage play featuring life-sized horse puppets. Many of his books are about or feature animals, often in a historical setting, such as the First or Second World War, and others have a farming setting. Morpurgo also helped found the Children's Laureate in the UK. This is an award given every two years to a prominent author or illustrator to promote children's literature, he himself became the third Children's Laureate from 2003 to 2005. As well as writing, for 25 years Morpurgo ran a charity called "Farms for city children" now into its fortieth year, which takes inner city kids and their teachers onto working rural farms. Morpurgo's books often talk about special relationships – between human and animal, between young and old, and between siblings. His animal books are very popular at Awakeri and at least three of the middle and senior teachers read them aloud to classes.
Top Ten Michael Morpurgo Animal books –
In Middle school fiction
1 "Kaspar: the prince of cats" – This has everything any reader could ask for, fast and exciting, funny and sweet as well, plus the Titanic… One of Morpurgo's most popular.
2. "The amazing story of Adolphus Tips" – A small village must leave their homes and farms to the war effort. An unusual slice of history, with the love of a cat at the heart of the story.
3. "Best mate" – A Greyhound dog, this story has been compared to Black Beauty.
4. "The butterfly lion" – inspired by Morpurgo's lonely experience at boarding school.
5. "Dancing Bear"
6. "The last wolf"
7. "Why the whales came"
In Senior Fiction
8. "Warhorse" – a must for any animal lover, history enthusiast or lover of great stories.
9. "Kensuke's kingdom" – this book is very multi-layered, from the loss and the unkindness of war, a boating adventure, and the battle to save endangered animals. Great first line too. "I disappeared on the night before my twelfth birthday".
10. "Shadow" Set in England and Afghanistan, this book has a Spaniel dog at the heart of it, but also the lives of refugees starting in a new country.
Plus we have many other Michael Morpurgo books in the library, including, "Private Peaceful", "Sparrow: the story of Joan of Arc", "Billy the kid", "Out of the ashes" and "Listen to the moon".
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Starting school! Actually with the farming changeover, the floods affecting many families and lots of five-year olds we have had around 24 new children start over the past two months. It can be a tough experience. Coming in at mid-year when it feels as if all the other friendships are set in stone, especially in the older classes, is daunting. And being five and having countless new rules, expectations, playgrounds, and enormous older children thundering past must feel a little bit like arriving on a different planet! Luckily there are plenty of friendly faces to support new kids and lots of excellent books mirroring those feelings of nervousness and helping everyone to feel not so alone. Here are my top ten picture books and chapter books about school. There are lots more at the Awakeri school library – open lunchtimes and after school to anyone who needs some quiet time!
10 best Picture books about starting school, teachers and new experiences
School's first day at school – Adam Rex; told from the perspective of a brand-new school building and how it feels a little nervous about the changes ahead.
Cleversticks – B Ashley; A new boy finds school hard until he discovers he has a skill that no-one else has.
David goes to school – David Shannon
If you ever want to bring an alligator to school, don't – Elise Parsley, a young girl gives sage advice about show and tell choices!
Little rabbit goes to school – Harry Horse; Little rabbit is a bit nervous about leaving his favourite toy at home but taking him to school proves to be complicated as well.
Lily's purple plastic purse – Kevin Henkes; Lily thinks her teacher is amazing, but when she gets told off it takes a while for her to see both sides of the situation – but can she fix the situation?
Look, there's a hippopotamus in the playground eating cake – Hazel Edwards; there's a few different stories about Hippopotamus, in this one he provides a familiar, quirky face to a little girl starting school.
Marshall Armstrong is new to our school – D. Macintosh; sometimes new people do things very differently.
My teacher is a monster, No I am not! – Peter Brown; Meeting a teacher outside school time is weird – if you're not careful it can change your perspective!
Harry and the dinosaurs go to school – Ian Whybrow
10 best chapter books about school and being the new kid
Angel of Nitshill – Anne Fine; the new girl is really different. She challenges the way things have always been – could she be an angel?
Baby aliens got my teacher – Pamela Butchart
Weirdo series – Anh Do; being the new kid is even harder when your name gives everyone the giggles!
Terrible two – Mac Barnett; new town, same old pranks. But the town already has a prankster, how will it cope with two and can they be friends?
Dork Diaries series – Rachel Renee Russell; starting at the swanky Westchester Country day school brings lots of new problems for Nikki.
Millicent Min, girl genius – Lisa Yee; Millicent hides her true abilities to protect her new friendship.
Tomorrow Girls series – Eva Gray
Star girl – Jerry Spinelli;
HIVE series – Mark Walden; Okay, it's the Higher Institute of Villainous Education so not your average school story, but a great action-packed one!
Dumbest idea ever – Jimmy Gownley; inspired by real events, when prolonged illness causes Jimmy to go from cool kid to cringe at school, he comes up with a mad plan to turn things around…
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Books as windows and mirrors.
In 1990 US literature professor Dr Rudine Sims Bishop wrote an article where she beautifully described books as windows into other worlds, the reader need only step through their imagination to become part of that world. She also said that when light is shined another way windows can be mirrors and that "literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience." Twenty-five years ago she was particularly concerned with the way children's books overwhelmingly reflected a white American culture and the lack of mirrors for children who were African-American, Native American or Latino. She made the point that children from dominant social groups were suffering from this imbalance too, since it is sometimes only within a book that a child may experience another culture and that to only see "reflections of themselves, they will grow up with an exaggerated sense of their own importance and value in the world – a dangerous ethnocentrism."
Today, learning tolerance within a society may include accepting differences in ethnicity, religion, learning styles, family make-up, even appearance and dress style. Tolerance is not always promoted by public figures such as politicians, diversity of appearance is not well represented in popular culture, and the very way we search the internet creates a false affirmation of our personal world-view. She finished the article by saying that people who are children's literature enthusiasts are often idealistic, believing that books can change lives. "On the other hand, we are realistic enough to know that literature, no matter how powerful, has its limits. It won't take the homeless off our streets; it won't feed the starving of the world; it won't stop people attacking each other because of our racial differences; it won't stamp out the scourge of drugs. It could, however, help us to understand each other better by helping to change our attitudes towards difference. When there are enough books available that can act as both mirrors and windows for all our children, they will see that we can celebrate both our differences and our similarities, because together they are what make us all human."
All this was a long way of saying let's all read and encourage our children to read books that are outside our comfort zone, let's look for books that are windows into another way of life – we'll probably find more in common than we realised – and to not let fear of the unknown or differences to define what society can be, separate and apart, but inclusive and celebratory.
Here's my book list of windows –
Junior picture books;
"My brother Charlie" – Holly Robinson Peete
"Last stop on Market Street" – Matt de la Pena
M/S picture books;
"Luke's way of looking" – Nadia Wheatley
"The journey" – Francesco Sanna
"El Deafo" – Cece Bell
"Wonder" – by RJ Pallaccio
"Ruby Tanya" – Robert Swindells
"The village by the sea" – Anita Desai
"Out of my mind" – Sharon M. Draper
"A long walk to water" – Linda Sue Park
"Noughts and crosses" – Malorie Blackman
"The unforgotten coat" – Frank Cotterel Boyce
"Parvana's journey" – Deborah Ellis
"Figgy in the world" – Tamsin Janu
"Stella by starlight" – Sharon M. Draper
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When is a doctor not a doctor? When he's Dr Seuss!
The person we know as Dr Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel (called Ted) in Springfield, Massachusetts on 2 March, 1904. Just a little way from his childhood home is Mulberry Street, made famous in the first Dr Seuss book published in 1937, "And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street". He adopted his middle name Seuss as a pen-name after he was caught drinking gin at college during prohibition, the Dr was added later. A career drawing cartoons for advertising followed and included work for the US army during the Second World War. Dr Seuss went on to write and illustrate an incredible 60 plus books for children. Even after his death in 1991 new stories were discovered amongst his effects and published posthumously, including "Hooray for Diffendoofer day" and "What pet should I get". One of his most amazing and enduringly popular creations was "The cat in the hat" 1957, which has only 236 words - a response to the stilted "Dick and Jane" readers that were believed to be killing off children's reading in the 1950's. A bet by his editor that he couldn't write a fun children's book with only 50 words was answered in 1960 with "Green eggs and ham", which contains exactly 50 different words. By the time of his death, Dr Seuss books had sold more than 600 million copies and been translated into more than 20 languages. Dr Seuss did become a real doctor when his old college, Dartmouth, awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1955. Dr Seuss has been repeatedly commemorated in the United States, with stamps, his birthday is used as the date for a reading campaign and the Theodor Seuss Geisel awards celebrate excellence in reading books for beginners. But perhaps his biggest legacy is a universal enduring fondness for his books – people in New Zealand seem to remember Dr Seuss books well into their adult years - quote "One fish, two fish" in any room and at least one person will finish with "red fish, blue fish!". In the Awakeri school library his books remain popular from 5 to 12 year olds, and are particularly requested when older children "buddy" with a younger class for reading aloud. So why do Dr Seuss' books remain so well-loved with each new generation? It's probably because the themes in Dr Seuss' books are universal and life-affirming. Be kind to others and help them if you can; appreciate what you have and who you are and remember that good things take effort; and that a little imagination can be the greatest possession in life.
Here are my top ten favourite quotes from Dr Seuss - check out his books in the "S" section in Junior Fiction.
A person's a person, no matter how small - Horton hears a who
The more that you read, the more things that you'll know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go - I can read with my eyes shut
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom, we, too, should have rights - Yertle the turtle
Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no-one alive who is youer than you - Happy birthday to you
Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try! - Oh, the thinks you can think
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not. - The Lorax
Of all the shapes we MIGHT have been… I say, Hooray for the shapes we're in! – The shape of me and other stuff
The two biggest fools that I saw were none other than you, who seem to have nothing else better to do, than sit here and argue who's better than who - The big brag
I know I'll have troubles. I'll, maybe, get stung… But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready, you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me! – I had trouble in getting to Solla Sollew
Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way! - Oh, the places you'll go!
If you haven't read a Dr Seuss book for a while grab one today and share it with who-ever is around! Back to the top
Ten great picture books about resilience and perseverance:
Sometimes bad things happen to great people. As adults we (mostly) accept that, and we want to help our children learn the knack of bouncing back from adversity or to slog on when things are proving tough. The recent flooding has been horrible for many people in our community, who are faced with the clean-up of a stinky mess that only grit and hard work will fix. At the same time, the media have christened today's young adults the "snow flake generation" – too sensitive, over-protected and less resilient than previous generations. Perhaps every generation thinks that the next is "softer" or has it easier than themselves, when really the challenges are different but still challenges none the less. I don't think there is an easy answer to building resilience and perseverance in children, but perhaps a very small start might be to read inspiring and funny books about the struggles of others – even if the "struggle" is an elephant that has promised to protect an egg – no matter what!
Here is my top ten picture books about resilience and perseverance, you can find all of these in the Junior Picture book section of the Awakeri school library or the Middle and Senior Picture book section.
Junior Picture books
"Rosie Revere, engineer" – Andrea Beaty, illus. David Roberts. A young scientist learns that mistakes are learning and part of the process and should not be seen as failures. Funny, sweet and sharp with great pictures, perfect for any age.
"Ada Twist, scientist" – Andrea Beaty, illus. David Roberts
"Pete the cat" series – originally by singer James Dean, but also written by his friend Eric Litwin. Nothing gets Pete the cat down, he just keeps on going – kind of a sixties vibe to this one, but a great lesson in letting things go.
"Oh, the places you'll go" – Dr Seuss. Sometimes you'll be top of the heap – and sometimes you won't. Dr Seuss always nails the important bits of life, 98 and ¾ guaranteed!
"Horton hears a who" – Dr Seuss. A promise is a promise, steadfastness lessons from a pachyderm.
"Giraffes can't dance" – Giles Andrea, illus. Guy Parker Rees. Don't listen to nay-sayers!
"Hippos can swim" – Pablo Bernasconi
"A chair for my mother" – Vera B. Williams. A family loses everything in a house fire and works to slowly rebuild the things that are important to them.
M/S Picture books
"Salt in his shoes" – Deloris Jordan, Rosalyn Jordan, illus. Kadir Nelson. Written by Michael Jordan's Mum and sister, he wasn't always the tall, confident ruler of the courts – the grit that he built up playing when he was the smallest of his friends and brothers made him the sports person he is today.
"Henry's freedom box" – Ellen Levine, illus. Nelson Kadir. A beautiful, sad story of hope finding a way through extreme circumstances. A father posts himself inside a box to a better life from the slavery of the South. The author notes at the end are heart-rending.
Also, for older readers, I recommend "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand, a true story of amazing courage from the Second World War. We have the teen copy in our Senior Fiction section 12+. Back to the top
Aesop's Fables - Large truths through small tales!
This week we are looking at stories that many people from different generations and backgrounds grew up with - Aesop's fables. The fables of Aesop are a collection of around 100 stories which are accredited to a Greek slave and storyteller who lived between 620 – 564 BCE (Before Common Era, this term has replaced the phrase BC Before Christ). However the stories would have been passed down originally by mouth, and were not collected until some 300 hundred years after Aesop's death. Many stories which could not have been from Aesop are wrongly attributed to him and historians still argue over the origins of many. His name has become associated with all fables, a kind of story that is short, true-to-nature, but with plants and animals that can talk and having a lesson. The stories were originally for adults and many have a religious, social or political theme. They began to be used in the education of children from the Renaissance onwards. Fables use a small incident to show a larger truth or a moral lesson – often the lesson is stated at the end of the story, for example; "Slow and steady wins the race".
Aesop's fables make great read alouds for children because they are brief but have plenty of scope for conversation. Discussions might arise about greed, pride, strength of character, friendships and honesty. The language used often reflects the great age of the stories and introduces some very old - but probably new to your child - words and phrases. On other levels you could talk about Greek history and art, slavery, how modern philosophy and language evolved and how stories from different cultures often have similar themes.
The Awakeri school library has many books featuring Aesop's fables. Two I particularly like are Michael Rosen's "Aesop's fables" which feature simple concise retellings and the jewel-like colours on a black background art of Taleen Hacikyan. The other is a DK publication, "The lion & the mouse and other Aesop's fables" retold by Doris Orgel and illustrated by Bert Kitchen, which does not include the morals of the stories but does have bonus information about Ancient Greece and its customs during the time that Aesop was alive. Check out these and other books from the Awakeri School library, try the town libraries for similar or have a dig around at home or at grandparents houses, you may be amazed at what turns up - remember fables have been around for more than 2000 years!
Here is list of some of the stories attributed to Aesop - which ones sound familiar to your family?
The Ant and the Grasshopper
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
The Cat and the Mice
The Crow and the Pitcher
The Dog and its Reflection
The Fir and the Bramble
The Fox and the Crow
The Fox and the Grapes
The Fox and the Stork
The Frog and the Ox
The Frogs Who Desired a King
The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs
The Lion and the Mouse
The North Wind and the Sun
The Old Man and his Sons
The Tortoise and the Hare
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
My favourite discovery while researching this article was that a person who writes Fables is called a fabulist! Isn't that a great word! Back to the top
Summer Reading - More fun, more sun, reading for everyone!
The Summer holidays are just around the corner. Whether your family is the relaxing around the house kind, the camping and beach kind, or the working on the farm kind, every kind of family wants their children to have a great holiday and return to school excited to do well in 2017. Sadly, those children who do very little reading over the holidays can expect their reading levels to remain the same or even to drop in the new year. This is known as the Summer slide and it is a serious and sometimes under-estimated contributor to a child falling behind. If a child is not reading for 6 weeks of each year, by the end of primary school that amounts to a total of 48 weeks - almost a year less reading than a child who has continued to read over the holidays. (This is only considering the summer holidays, add in the other holiday weeks and the lost time is doubled). Much research has been done in New Zealand and internationally on the Summer Slide (there are some links about reading research below), which can be boiled down to these key points.
The reading that happens in the summer should be seen by children as fun, relaxing and a normal part of life. Don't refer to reading as a school thing. Children pick up on subtle signals about what is a chore and what is for pleasure.
Reading mileage is more important than level. That means the habit of reading is more important than trying to improve word recognition or comprehension over the holidays - that will come too, but don't force it. Don't worry if they seem to be reading "easy" books over the holidays, reading lots of words with enjoyment and understanding is key to confidence and seeing themselves as readers.
Children need to choose books that make them laugh or get excited. It's not time to force them to read that old set of "classics" that no one else in the family fancies. Free choice is key to enjoyment.
Access is everything. If there are no books in a house, reading cannot happen. Surround them with reading material, all sorts. Give books and magazine subscriptions for presents. Accept hand-me-down books from other families. Stock up the car. Go to the public library, garage sales and op-shops and think cheap and cheerful!
Easy tips for everyday reading for busy families.
Read in front of your children everyday - Dads too. Talk about what you read in the newspaper, sports magazine, at work, when you were little. If you read as part of your down time, so will they.
Use activities as reading opportunities. If you're cooking, have your child read out the recipe. Pass a road map to the back of the car and have the kids find the route to Nana's house. Turn the sound off on the TV and the captions on.
Read picture books out loud for fun. Read seasonal poems. Try a ghost story while camping. Read or tell a bedtime story every night - even to the big kids. Take turns as a family, use funny voices!
Keep a photo journal of the holidays. Write captions for each photo - make it as simple or as crazy as you like. "Here is the fish that Mum caught" or, "Here is the gumboot that belonged to a fierce pirate that Mum had to scare off when we were fishing!"
Get the kids to write a joke book. Collect as many jokes from family members as possible and draw funny pictures too.
Play word games like Scrabble or Boggle or hangman.
Set aside a bedtime 10 -20 minute time slot for reading to happen. Start with reading aloud and then leave time for solo reading – even if they are not quite reading on their own yet, it's habit forming and emphasizes reading as relaxing.
Chop up magazines and make words or sentences. A lot of people have a stash of old magazines they would be happy to give away to a family.
Join the library Summer reading programme - it's free and fun!!
Make time for reading and make sure the only slide that your family sees this Summer is the kind with water on it!!
http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/creating-readers/summer-reading/summer-slide-and-summer-reading-research Back to the top
Survival stories have remained a popular choice for middle and teen readers since perhaps the first of its kind, "Robinson Crusoe" was published in 1719. It is probably the delicate balance between reality, genuine suspense and ingenuity of the hero that keeps generations coming back for more. Whether the story is firmly grounded in real-life events, such as the story of Louis Samperini in "Unbroken" or the completely fantastical setting of Panem's "Hunger Games", readers get hooked on the struggle and sometimes downright unluckiness of the hero. Perhaps the appeal to teens and pre-teens are that survival stories mimic - in the extreme – the independent life-stage that they will soon be entering. Below is a small sample of survival stories in the Awakeri School library. Most are in the Senior fiction area listed by author surname, or Middle and Senior Non-fiction listed with Dewey decimal numbers.
Hatchet – Gary Paulsen. Had to be top of the list, heart breaking and riveting and very believable kid-next-door hero, a favourite for a long time.
Island of the blue dolphins – Scott O'Dell, a great read-aloud, a brave young Native American, based on a true story.
Kensuke's kingdom – Michael Morpurgo, is a genius for wrapping up action and history with characters you really care about.
My side of the mountain – Jean Craighead George, falls somewhere between a survival and extreme camping story, amazing description of taming a wild animal for falconry.
Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins, a modern dystopian fantasy take on survival stories, gripping and a hero who has strengths that even she doesn't know about. Nail-biting!
Tomorrow when the war began – John Marsden. Before we had the Hunger Games, John Marsden's very plausible story about an invaded Australian town and the group of teens who fight back was and is a great read.
Ice Dogs – Terry Lyn Johnson, dog sledding journey gone wrong.
Figgy in the world – Tamsin Janu, set in Ghana an innocent young girl sets out to walk to America for medicine for her Grandmother. Sweet and funny, sad and thought provoking.
Extreme adventures (series) – Justin D'Ath, with titles such as Killer whale and Shark bait, the resourceful hero Sam Fox has many chances to test his survival instincts.
The drover's quest – Susan Brocker, disguised as a boy, young Charlotte must take a mob of cattle across Arthur's Pass to find her father in the gold-fields.
Maze runner – James Dashner, has gripped many a teen and pre-teen, atmospheric and desperate.
Mission Survival (series) - Bear Grylls, uses his own life experiences to give this series a realistic, exciting edge.
Adventure Double; Diving and Amazon adventure – Willard Price, showing their age a little bit but still pacey, absorbing stuff.
Code Red (series) – Chris Ryan, an ex-special forces soldier turned writer. Titles such as Flash flood, Twister and Vortex, these books are exciting and often carry an ecological message too.
The true meaning of Smekday, (film is called "Home") – Adam Rex, a funny twist on alien invasion survival stories, young Tip, makes a trip across an invaded America with a bumbling alien called Boov, who causes mayhem for them both.
Can You Survive? (series) – Extreme mountain climbing; Special Forces; The jungle; The wilderness. These are shelved in the fiction area because of their size, but are very factually based. Authors include Matt Doeden, Allsion Lassieur and Racheal Hanel.
Unbroken (junior edition) – Laura Hillenbrand, could be fiction the events are so amazing, bad luck and determination battle it out for dominance in a young runner's life. Again, it's true but shelved with the fiction to make it easy to find!
Great Escapes – 904.7, Colditz to slavery, a range of stories real and nerve-racking.
Lost at sea – 910.4 survival (or not) at sea
Bear Grylls Great outdoor adventures – 796.4, a great exponent of the survival by preparedness rule and a real-life inspiration to many with an interest in the extreme outdoors.
That's some of the books that would fall within the heading of survival, there's lots more. Hint – These would make amazing Summer Reading presents or books to borrow from the town library, especially for camping families. How about a survival book for a family read-aloud over the holidays? Back to the top
Roald Dahl 2016 - 100 years!
September 13, 2016 marks 100 years since Roald Dahl was born in Wales, near Cardiff to Norwegian parents. Roald Dahl was a pilot, a diplomat, a screen-writer, and an inventor. But he is best known today as the author of 21 of the best children's books of all time, published in 59 languages and selling an estimated 200 million copies world wide. Roald Dahl continues to top surveys of the best authors for children more than 25 years since he passed away, all this despite never winning a children's book award during his lifetime!
Roald Dahl was a very tall man, around 6ft 6, with a large personality to match! He was a talented sportsmen, flew combat aircraft in World War two, surviving a fiery crash; worked for the spy agency MI6 in its early days and after the war marrying an American movie star with whom he had five children. But alongside the rather swashbuckling adventures Roald Dahl was to know many sad times too. He lost his father and an older sister within weeks of each other when he was only three years old. His four-month old son Theo was hit by a car while sitting in a pram and suffered near fatal injuries. Two years later his daughter Olivia, contracted measles encephalitis and died at age seven. His first wife Patricia Neal, while pregnant with their fifth child, had a brain hemorrhage requiring months of rehabilitation to walk and talk again.
But the dark times seem to have infused his books with an underlying sweetness and sadness that reflects reality and doesn't pretend unhappiness doesn't exist to the reader. Even when the subject of the books are as fantastical as a giant peach travelling to New York, that balance of dark and light are what gives the stories an authenticity and credits readers with the intelligence to accept that not all of life or endings of stories are neat and tidy and perfect. Roald Dahl was also an imaginative bender of language who invented dozens of words which are collectively known as "Gobblefunk" and give his stories the lyrical sound that makes them a pleasure to read aloud.
The school library has recently purchased the "Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary" which explains and defines many of his original gobbelfunk and other unusual words used in his stories and poems. Check out the book and the fun Dahl inspired puzzles and pictures in the Awakeri school library.
Here are a few wonderful quotes to come out of Roald Dahl stories, thanks to Good Reads;
and the Roald Dahl website (which has lots of puzzles and downloads to help celebrate 100 years of Dahl)
"All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen" Matilda
"Words," he said, "Is oh such a twitch tickling problem to me my whole life". BFG
"I am the maker of music, the dreamer of dreams!" Charlie and the Chocolate factory.
"My dear young fellow," the Old-Green-Grasshopper said gently, "There are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven't started wondering about yet." James and the giant peach.
"The matter with human beans," the BFG went on, "Is that they is absolutely refusing to believe in anything unless they is actually seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles." BFG
"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." The Minpins. Back to the top
Wet, windy and grey weather? To make the most of a dismal situation I've put together a list of great snuggle books. These are all perfect to read aloud, and have plenty of positive messages about family, friendship, bedtime or winter!
Junior Picture books -
The tiger who came to tea - Judith Kerr
Guess how much I love you - Sam McBratney
Peace at last - Jill Murphy
Dogger - Shirely Hughes
Tabby McTat - Julia Donaldson
Pete the cat I love my white shoes - Eric Litwin and James Dean
Schnitzel von Krumm's Basketwork - Lynley Dodd
Amazing Grace - Mary Hoffman
How do dinosaurs say goodnight? - Jane Yolen
The bear and the piano - David Litchfield
Middle Fiction -
The abominables - Eva Ibbotson
BFG - Roald Dahl
Alice's adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll, illustrated Anthony Browne
The lion, the witch and the wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
A bear called Paddington - Michael Bond
The enchanted wood series - Enid Blyton
Grandpa's great escape - David Walliams
Fortunately the milk - Neil Gaiman
Skellig - David Almond
Charlotte's web - E. B. White
How to train your dragon series - Cressida Cowell
Senior Fiction -
Howl's moving castle - Diana Wynne Jones
Wonder - RJ Palacio
Once - Morris Gleitzman
Rooftoppers - Katherine Rundell
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Why do we like to read scary stories?
It is a funny thing about books and reading that sometimes we like to see ourselves reflected in what we read, as an affirmation that what we feel or how we live our life is approved by others. But we also like to read and imagine ourselves in situations that are far from our real lives – and that is where scary stories come into play. Even the most unrealistic fantasy fiction has strands of reality about bravery and strength and human nature. Whether it's battling the undead and vampires, or perhaps becoming a vampire ourselves, books that make our pulse race allow us to feel the fear, be challenged, test our strength and weaknesses – but remain completely safe! Perhaps that is why it is such a popular genre with teens and pre-teens, as a way of gearing up for braving new environments and challenges in early adulthood. When we empathise and recognise elements of our own personality in a fictional character and celebrate their successes, it makes us feel braver and more positive in our real lives. If they can battle zombies or ghosts or button-eyed other mothers then we can brave the kid who said our haircut was dumb.
Here is just a small a shiver of the selection of scary stories in the Awakeri library!
Junior picture books – These tend to reveal a twist at the end where the "scary" element is revealed to be completely harmless and benevolent.
"Under the bed" – P. Bright
"The grumble mumble rumbler" – M. Drewery
"Wolf's coming" - J. Kulka
"One dark night" – L. Wheeler
"The dark at the top of the stairs" – S. McBratney
"Hist!" – C. Dennis
Middle fiction – these tend to fall into two categories, common fears such as fear of the dark or over-the-top cartoon horror.
"Goosebumps" and "You choose the scare- Goosebumps" – R.L. Stine (still popular!)
"The bodigulpa" – Jenny Nimmo
"Creepella von Cacklefur" series within the "Geronimo Stilton" series
"Dracula tooth, the legend of Ryan" – Peter McAllister
"Damian Drooth Supersleuth – Gruesome ghosts" – Barbara Mitchell Hill
"Haunted schools – true ghost stories" – Alan Zullo
"Legend of Sleepy Hollow" – Washington Irving
"Tremors" series – various authors including R. Lisle; S. Godwin; A. Masters
"One night at Lottie's house" - M. Dann
"The beasts of clawstone castle" – Eva Ibbotson
"The Frankenstein teacher" – Tony Bradman
"Bunnicula, a rabbit tale of mystery" – Deborah and James Howe
Senior fiction – the books in this section are often very sophisticated in how the fear builds within a story.
"Midnight library" – Nick Shadow
"Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children" (plus sequels) – Ransome Rigg (12+)
"Cirque du Freak" series – Darren Shan
"Coraline" – Neil Gaiman
"Charlie's monsters" series – Dean Lorey
"Zombie winter" – Jason Strange
"Lockwood and Co, the screaming staircase" – Jonathon Stroud
"Last Bus"; "Hydra"; Room 13" – all Robert Swindells
"Old bones" – Bill Nagelkereke
"Witch child" – Celia Rees (12+)
"Tinder" – Sally Gardner (12+)
"Fingers on the back of the neck" – Margaret Mahy
"Monkey boy" – Donovan Bixley
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Kids need books with strong characters – male and female!
This week I'm talking about something that has been bitterly debated in the US and the UK and on the surface seems quite innocent – Boys books and girls books. The debate began in the US after a female author, Shannon Hale, was told at a school that only girls were given permission to attend her book talk (during class time), with the inference being that her books were only of interest to girls because they have (mostly) female characters. The author was offended, not only because her talk was primarily about the process of writing but because of the sweeping assumptions made on behalf of the boys at the school. In the UK, debate has sprung up around books (and toys) being marketed and labelled as "for" boys or girls, with the result that many publishers publicly announced they will not produce books with gender based titles or recommendations. Leaving aside the toy debate (marketing pink decorative-based toys to girls and blue action-based toys to boys), the underlying assumption regarding books seems to be that boys don't want - or worse, don't need – to read books with strong female characters. Gosh, where to start? The idea that boys (or girls) should only read books that feature primarily their own gender is crazy! To extend that thinking, kids would never be interested (or would need) to read books about anyone who is differently-abled to themselves, some-one with a different ethnic background, skin colour, religion, from a different country, a different time period… Heck, let's not extend their mental boundaries at all! Let them only read their own diaries, with their own thoughts, because how could they relate to someone else - that other person might be different?!! Kids need books about all sorts of people to learn and appreciate that the differences and similarities between people is what makes the world such an interesting place. A quote I particularly liked was a comment from a librarian following an article on the school Library Journal website, she said; "Books are stories, stories are life, life is female and male." http://www.slj.com/2015/03/diversity/when-boys-cant-like-girl-books/
It is easy to fall into the trap of recommending books based on the gender of the main character – I know I've done it myself – but now that it has been brought to my attention, I've vowed to watch this subtle and destructive bias. Let's promote books for the strength of the main characters and the story line, and in the firm belief that all characters can contribute to inner growth. With that said here are three lists; Books with strong female characters; Books with strong male characters; and books that are very evenly balanced between male and female characters – and my recommendation is that they are ALL great reads for boys and girls!
Strong female characters
Hunger Games series - Suzanne Collins (Senior); Island of the blue dolphins – Scott O'Dell (Middle); Paper bag princess – Robert Munsch (Junior Picture book) ; Rapunzel's revenge – Shannon Hale (M/S Graphics); His dark materials series – Phillip Pullman (Senior); Wee free men – Terry Pratchett (Senior); A wrinkle in time – Madeleine l'Engle (M/S Graphics); Madeline – Ludwig Bemelmans (Junior picture books); Coraline – Neil Gaiman (Senior); Out of my mind – Sharon Draper (Senior); True meaning of Smekday – Adam Rex (Senior); Amazing Grace – Mary Hoffman (Junior picture books); Matilda – Roald Dahl (Middle); Princess in black – Shannon Hale (Middle); Billie B. Brown- Sally Rippin (Middle); Raven's mountain – Wendy Orr (Senior); Stella by Starlight – Sharon Draper (Senior); El Deafo – Cece Bell (M/S Graphics)
Strong male characters
The Unwanteds series – Lisa McMann (Senior); Origami Yoda series – Tom Angelberger (Senior); Motor-mouth – Sheryl Clarke (Senior); Maze runner – James Dashner (Senior 12+); How to train your dragon series – Cressida Cowell (Middle); Gregor the Overlander series – Suzanne Collins (Senior); Dead Harry – Ken Catran (Senior); Holes – Louis Sachar (Senior); Hatchet – Gary Paulsen (Middle and Senior); The Giver – Lois Lowrey (Senior 12+); Goodnight Mr Tom – Michelle Magorian (Senior); My brother is a superhero – David Solomons (Senior); I funny – James Patterson (Senior); Big Nate – Lincoln Peirce (Middle); Hey Jack – Sally Rippin (Middle); Mouse and the motorcycle – Beverly Cleary (Middle); Ranger's apprentice series – John Flanagan (Senior); Artemis Fowl – Eion Colfer (Senior)
Books with a good balance between female and male characters
Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell (Senior); Wolfwilder - Katherine Rundell (Senior); Wonder – R.J Pallacio(Senior); City of Ember – Jeanne De Prau (Senior); A series of unfortunate events – Lemony Snickett (Middle); Harry Potter – J K Rowling (Middle and Senior); Paddington Bear – Michael Bond (Middle); Magic Treehouse series- Mary Pope Osborne (Middle); James and the giant peach – Roald Dahl (Middle); Project Huia – Des Hunt (Senior); Stories from Sideways school – Louis Sachar (Middle); Chronicles of Narnia – C S Lewis (Middle); The snow goose – Paul Gallico (M/S picture books); Percy Jackson series – Rick Riordan (Senior); The witches – Roald Dahl (Middle); Virals – Kathy Reichs (Senior 12+); The Bookthief – Marcus Zusak (Senior); Dunger – Joy Cowley (Senior); Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Patterson (Senior)
On a side note, two titles listed above which have been made into movies, Coraline and The True meaning of Smekday (the film is called Home), the heroines are much smarter and more resourceful in the books than in the movie versions. Back to the top
Is there such a thing as a "Bad" book?
Recently I watched an interview with Andy Griffiths, best-selling Australian author. In the interview he mentioned early opposition to his books, perhaps not entirely surprising given that one series is titled, "The day my bum went psycho", "Zombie bums from Uranus" and "Bumageddon; the final pongflict"! Griffiths, with writing partner and illustrator Terry Denton, are topping best-seller lists all over the world. Their "65 storey treehouse" book sold more than 70,000 copies in Australia in the first three days after release in 2015. In the US the "Captain Underpants" books by Dav Pilkey, have more than 70 million books in print. In the books, two boys hypnotise their school Principal Mr Krupp into wearing only a cape and oversized underwear - poop jokes abound. So are chart-topping children's books selling just because they have poo and bum jokes? And if that is the reason for their popularity should we be concerned - is there such a thing as a "Bad" book? There are definitely two schools of thought on this subject. The first is that adults are the gatekeepers of quality for what children read. The second is that better any reading than no reading. Having watched and talked with children in the school library for the last four years and been interested in children's reading habits for a lot longer, I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. Yes, it is possible to steer kids towards complex books that are thoughtfully and beautifully written, but only if they are open to suggestions about what they read in the first place. If they have stopped reading for some reason, or never really started, then children (and adults) are unlikely to seek out books that appear serious or complicated to read. On the other hand, a book that has a high picture content, easy reading words, funny puns and silly action, as well as potentially annoying adults with its contents, is an instant attention-grabber! Yes, quality is important, but for some children, overcoming a reluctance to read anything is the first step towards becoming life-long readers. Once a pattern of reading for pleasure is established, then comes the time to encourage depth of reading. As well, although some of these high-interest low-reading level books may seem at face value to be silly and meaningless, it's worth noting some facts about the backgrounds of these two authors. Andy Griffiths has a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in English and taught high school English, where he first noticed the absence of funny books and kids disconnecting from reading. His work he says is inspired by Lewis Carrol, Enid Blyton and Herman Melville. Dav Pilkey was diagonosed as a child with ADHD and dyslexia. He spent much of his school years sitting at a desk in the hallway, creating comic books for the kids in his class. At least one of those comics was ripped up by a teacher who told him drawing pictures wasn't going to get him anywhere. Fortunately, a teacher in his first year at University spotted his creativity and encouraged him to write and illustrate a book for a national competition - first prize was publication. Since that book, "World War Won" in 1987 there has been about 50 more. Pilkey's books are full of clever allliteration and word twisting sentences, but all the while he never loses sight of his inner child and what it takes to grab a short attention span. His "Captain Underpants" books have been criticised for including spelling mistakes. However, the mistakes are only in the sections "created" by George and Harold, two child characters within the books. Dav Pilkey says they are there for a reason; "I have an agenda: I'm secretly trying to inspire kids to create their own stories and comics, and I don't want them to feel stifled by "perfectionism'." (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/dav_pilkey.html).
If the goal is to create life-long book-lovers, perhaps future writers, labelling books as "bad" is unhelpful and undermining to the choices a child may make. Let's celebrate these books for grabbing children's attention and motivating reading - after all, even Shakespeare wrote fart jokes!
List of "attention-grabbing" books!
"The bad book" - Andy Griffiths (yes really!)
The "Bum" series - Andy Griffith (titles as above)
"Just Tricking"; "Just Annoying", "Just Doomed" and "Just Crazy" - Andy Griffiths
"Captain Underpants, the first epic adventure"; "Captain underpants and the attack of the talking toilets"; "Captain Underpants and the big, bad battle of the bionic booger boy"; "Captain Underpants and the invasion of the incredibly naughty cafeteria ladies from outer space" (yes really); "Captain Underpants and the perilous plot of Professor Poopypants" - All Dav Pilkey
"The bugalugs bum thief" - Tim Winton
"Gunk aliens - the dogs dinner" - Jonny Moon
"Sir Scallywag and the battle for Stinky Bottom"; "Sir Scallywag and the deadly dragon poo"; "Sir Scallywag and the golden underpants" - Giles Andreae
"The story of the little mole who knew it was none of his business" - Werner Holzwarth
"Walter the farting dog" - William Kotzwinkle
The "Dirty Bertie" series, picture books written by David Roberts, chapter books by Alan McDonald
"Cinderfella" - Dianne Bates
"The great stinkathlon" - Simon Mitchell
Back to the top
Books and Bad Habits!
I thought I’d mention a category of books that is requested by most teachers at least once or twice during the year – Manners and Behaviour! Although perhaps as a subject manners might be thought of as an old-fashioned notion, in an environment where people must learn, be safe and enjoy themselves while interacting with 360 children aged from 5 to 13 and adults of all ages, manners still count! Most of the books listed below are very funny, showing tremendous examples of how NOT to behave, or giving extreme consequences as a result of bad behaviour. We all like to laugh at the naughty antics of others or rejoice in their come-uppance – while overlooking are own less than perfect behaviour! Whatever the reason, sharing a book about manners or behaviour is a nice way to open up a conversation with children; and if it’s a funny book, it’s a double pleasure!
“The last chocolate biscuit”, Jamie Rix
“Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker”, Christianne Jones & Richard Watson
“Mrs Mo’s monster”, Paul Beavis
“Pookins gets her way”, Helen Lester
“David goes to school” and “David gets in trouble”, David Shannon
“How do dinosaurs eat their food?”, How do dinosaurs say good night?”, “How do dinosaurs get well soon”, Jane Yolen & Mark Teague
“Captain Buckleboots on the naughty step”, Mark Sperring
“The quiet pirate”, Stephanie Hatcher
Bad Habits and Personal Hygiene –
“Freddie and the Fairy” Julia Donaldson & Karen George
“Bad Habits”, “Dr Dog” Babette Cole
“Dirty Bertie” series Chapter books Alan MacDonald, “Smelly Bertie” Picture book, David Roberts
“Mind your Gramma”, Yvonne Morrison
“I am a Yam”, Cece Bell
Sharing and Co-operation -
“The big block of chocolate”, Janet Slater Bottin & Jeffy James
“Pig the Pug” Aaron Blabey Back to the top
Question - "What is the best way to encourage your children to read?"
Answer – Read aloud to them!
Many people take pleasure in reading aloud to pre-schoolers and pre-readers, and long may that continue. But perhaps lesser known is the impact reading aloud has on established readers. There is a sometimes a sense that, well, if they can already read for themselves, then I don't need to. But reading aloud to older children has many benefits too. Consider this quote from US reading guru, Jim Trelease -
"Reading aloud is a commercial for reading. ...Think of it this way: McDonald's doesn't stop advertising just because the vast majority of Americans know about its restaurants. Each year it spends more money on ads to remind people how good its products taste. Don't cut your reading advertising budget as children grow older." Jim Trelease in his book The Read Aloud Handbook - See more at: http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr081.shtml#sthash.FYjw2BiM.dpuf
Reading aloud has direct benefits to school progress too. In a 2015 article for Language Magazine, Stephen Krashen wrote that reading aloud lead to "significant vocabulary development" – the more you hear, the more words you learn.
Hearing stories effortlessly teaches how stories are constructed – not just straight-forward beginning, middle and an end, although this needs to be learnt by beginner readers. For older readers it can introduce them to writing concepts such as, flashbacks in a story, diary formats, cliff-hanger chapter endings, story told by two different characters, etc.
A story read for pleasure, rather than a learning-to-read reader book or journal that focuses on how to read, has greater variety in sentence structure – more dialogue, longer sentences, more descriptive passages – inspiring your children to write more imaginative stories for themselves.
Reading aloud creates positive feelings towards books and reading, because you are creating an oasis of time spent together in an otherwise busy day. It demonstrates your commitment to them, to reading, and creates an easy and natural pathway to children reading for pleasure for themselves.
Reading aloud leads to more discussion about the world, even a work of fiction can expose a child to real events and the existence of people that they may have missed in their day to day life otherwise.
And lastly, consider this, perhaps your child reads at a ten-year old level, but what level can they listen at? Much, much older.
For more information about reading aloud to all ages, try some of these resources.
The National Library of New Zealand articles, including
Jim Trelease is an American educational speaker, now retired, who is passionate about reading aloud – particularly about the advantage it can give to children who are from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. His articles and brochures are very thought-provoking.
Mem Fox is an Australian children's and adults author who advocates for reading and literacy.
This link is for her "Reading aloud commandments"
Happy Reading Aloud Everyone! Back to the top
Yay! The Summer holidays are fast approaching which means it's time to relax and focus on family and fun. Your child has had a busy year and learnt lots of new things. So it's worthwhile to remember that their learning can continue over the holidays - but with a twist - it won't feel like work at all! Every book, magazine, comic or set of board game instructions read over the holidays will help to maintain reading level progress made over the school year, but it is also cementing the idea that reading is fun, has meaning, and is for everyday life - not a school thing. Summer Reading is reading to relax, there are no questions to answer, just the pleasure of reading. Choosing to read over the Summer rests on a few key points, which are easy, cheap and can fit in with every family.
1. Have a think about your attitude to reading. Do the kids see you reading? Do you read the newspaper, read for your job, read for fun? Have you talked to them about the books you liked when you were a child? Did you have a storyteller in your family, perhaps a grandparent or Aunt/Uncle who told amazing stories? Share and talk to the kids about books and reading so that they know it's part of their family as well. Your attitude counts.
2. Fill the house and car with books and reading material. Give books, buy new and/or second hand books, join the library, swap books with another family, ask for books as Christmas presents, give vouchers. Have books and magazines in every room, go for eye-catching covers, funny titles - make it easy and irresistible!
3. Join the library - instant access to thousands of books! The Whakatane library allows up to 20 books per card holder, it's free to join, books are loaned for 3 weeks and can be renewed online. Remember the Kawerau, Edgecumbe and Ohope libraries too.
4. Join the Summer Reading Programme for children at the Library - it's free too! Kids bring in the books they have read and chat to a kindly volunteer. They receive stickers, treats and free books and a party at the end! This year there are dogs to check in with too - perfect for the shy reader. Places are limited though, see the display in the foyer next to Mrs Prodger's office or contact the library on 07 3060509.
5. Taking a long trip? Make an activity bag for each child - include games, maps, writing tools, blank pads and books and magazines. Check out the book sale at the school for cheap journals and old library books.
6. Op shops are great! Check them out in Whakatane or any town you travel to or through. The books available are usually in great condition and very cheap! Let the kids choose their own. For less than the price of an ice-block you can buy the book that becomes a treasured childhood memory!
7. Be creative! You know your child best - tap into their interests and match reading material to individual tastes. It doesn't always have to be fiction and stories. Instruction manuals and maps and pamphlets can all be read and pored over- if that's what excites your child, go with it! Back to the top
Fairy tales - Familiar and Fractured!
Fairy tales have been around for hundreds of years. Many of those that have survived were collected in the 1800's by authors such as the Grimm brothers, who recorded traditional oral tales and published their first collection in 1812. The French author Perrault recorded many stories including Cinderella more than a century earlier, and Arabian folktales stretch back earlier than the 9th century. All cultures have stories that have been handed down from generation to generation. It's wonderful to keep these stories alive by either reading or retelling them to your children. They often have a simple lesson such as honesty, bravery and hard work will triumph over greed and evil. At the Awakeri school library fairy tales are popular with all ages. Some favourite versions are;
Junior Picture books
"Pied Piper of Hamelin" by D. Hautzig
"The story of Little Red Riding Hood" by P. Holeione
"The Ginger bread man", by P. Storey
"Princess and the pea" by J. Reihecky
"Cinderella" by P. Koh
"Frog Prince" byP. Storey
"Aladdin's lamp" by D. Suire
"Bremen Town Musicians" by R. Gross
Middle and Senior Graphics
"Rumpelstiltskin" by M. Powell
"The Emperor's new clothes" by S. Peters
"Hansel and Gretel" by DB Lemke and S. Dietrich
"Beauty' by Robin McKinley
Fractured fairy tales are a more recent literary phenomena and use the deceptively simple technique of taking traditional ingredients of one or more fairy tales and twisting the details to create something entirely new and often hilariously funny. They are probably most enjoyed by older children and adults who appreciate the deliberate role reversals, puns and sometimes black humour – although younger children familiar with the traditional versions will also enjoy them. Some great fractured fairy tales at the Awakeri school library are;
Junior Picture books
"Cinderella and the seven beanstalks" by G. Dakin
"Little Red Riding Hood, not quite" by Yvonne Morrison
"Frankly I never wanted to kiss anybody: the story of the frog prince as told by the frog" by Loe
"The three bears, (sort of)" by Yvonne Morrison
"The three fishing brothers gruff" by Ben Galbraith
"The three little wolves and the big bad pig" by E. Trivizas
Middle and Senior Graphic Novels
"Rapunzel's revenge" by Shannon Hale
Middle and Senior Picture Books
"The frog prince continued" by Jon Scieszka
"The Stinky Cheese man and other fairly stupid tales" by Jon Scieszka
"Roald Dahl's revolting rhymes"
"Snow White in New York" by Fiona French
"Ella enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine
"Leaping Beauty and other animal fairy tales" by Gregory Maguire
"Howl's moving castle" by Diana Wynne Jones
I hope this list has stirred up some memories and inspired a round of story-telling at your house this week. Maybe even make some sock puppets or paper bag puppets on sticks and retell the stories that way. A tent up in the garden for a puppet show might be just the thing!
Back to the top
Animal books for Ag Day
Ag day always makes me think of animal books – last year I wrote about popular fiction books about a wide variety of animals, you can check it out in the library archives. This week I'm focussing on Non-Fiction books about pets and a group of books that seems to be growing which is animals in war. Non-fiction books about the care of animals are consistently popular both for children who own the pets they are reading up on, and for the dreamers who haven't persuaded mum and dad yet!
Middle and Senior Non-fiction - 630's are domestic animals and pets
"Pet" Magazines – these went on the shelves a few months ago and have excellent articles, mostly on dog and cat care, but also mice, fish, rabbits and turtles.
"The Chook Book" – always popular!
"Keeping small animals"
"All about donkeys"
"The beautiful horse" – I don't think this book has made it back to the shelf since it was purchased last year, it has a queue of waiting children at all times!
"How to raise rabbits – everything you need to know" (they weren't kidding in the title, this book includes the best rabbits for eating)
Junior Non-fiction – 600's
"Farm Animals" – a question and answer book by Melvin and Gilda Berger, great for developing readers and learning to predict and think logically.
"Old Will – the first Arapawa goat" – New Zealand history
"Pets, guinea pigs and rabbits"
"All pigs are beautiful"
"Cats – animals are not like us"
For something a little different there is a book called "There's a frog in my throat – 440 animal sayings" which is a great conversation starter about language. It's in the 400's language section in the Middle /Senior Non-fiction
With the centenary of the Gallipoli landings this year has seen a profusion of war books, and a lot of the books aimed at children feature animals.
"Animals in war" 355.4 – Jilly Cooper. This is a comprehensive history of all kinds of animals used in war throughout history.
"The ANZAC puppy" – Peter Millet
"Roly the ANZAC donkey" – Glyn Harper
"The Bantam and the soldier" – Jennifer Beck, not a new book but always worth including for it's amazing illustrations of the first world war by Robyn Belton
"Dogs of war" – a graphic novel with four stories from different eras.
"Shadow" – Michael Morpurgo. Set in the Afghan conflict. Back to the top
Choosing the Perfect Books
Key findings from the Scholastic Reading report and helping your child find the books that are perfect for them – no matter their tastes!
This week I wanted to mention a few things in the 2015 Scholastic Kids and Family Reading report. This report uses information gathered from surveys taken last August and September from over 2,500 randomly selected US parents and children. Some of the main findings are –
In the 6-11 year age group regular readers read about double the amount of books per year than infrequent readers, roughly 43 to 22. In the 12-17 age range this imbalance is much more dramatic – around 40 books per year compared to less than 5 for infrequent readers. That's a whopping 8 times more exposure to words, sentence structure, other viewpoints and ideas.
In the total age group 6-17, around 90% of children are more likely to finish a book and/or identify it as a favourite, if they chose the book themselves.
Around 70% of all children said they prefer funny books.
Just under three quarters, 73 %, said they would read more if they could find more books that they like.
So how can we put these findings into action?
Firstly, we can give them as many opportunities to choose their own books as possible. Each class has scheduled visits to the library each week. Stay tuned into your children's school week. Find out what day is library day and ask about the books they issued that day. Be encouraging and interested in their choices, your child is developing their taste for what works for them - a criticism of their choice may sound like you don't trust them to choose for themselves, or worse, that you are criticising reading in general. If for any reason the class missed their library visit, encourage your child to pop into the library at lunchtime or after school. Take them to the town library, an absolute must in the summer holidays, but a great idea for the rest of the year too. (Get them their own library card – that brings a real sense of importance to the whole process!)
Give book store vouchers, particularly to older children. Maybe as a reward for something or as a holiday treat – it need not be a huge amount, the fun is in the choosing.
Look at the Lucky Book club catalogues together.
Take your children to places where they sell cheap second-hand books, hospice or charity shops, and recycling outlets such as Crew on Te Tahi street in Whakatane.
Fine, you've taken them to all the right places, but what if they are stuck in a non-reading rut? This is when figuring out what kind of style or personality your child has can be helpful in the suggesting of books – remember they still ultimately need to do actual choosing.
First, find out what they enjoy already. It need not be books. TV and movie preferences give an insight into personality and interest, as do Xbox and online games. Think about these factors. Do they just want to laugh at outrageous pranks on live TV or Youtube? For movies is there a preference for story or action? People or animals? A quest or journey where tasks are performed in stages to reach a goal, or is the setting, the world in which the action takes place, the most fascinating aspect? When they make models or play games with lego or dolls, do the characters have conversations to settle conflicts, or battle it out, good vs bad? Is the play realistic or removed from everyday life - strange lands, prehistoric times, lost in the wilderness? Maybe they prefer outdoor activities. Think about what it is your child likes about playing outdoors. Are they making something with their hands, or is it contact with animals that keeps them out side? All these clues can lead to book suggestions. You are a great judge of your child's personality, and the best bridge to linking their interests to books. Here are some suggestions based on a few personality types. Some children may be firmly one type or they may fit into many. They may be this kind for this year, something else next year.
Some personality types -
Anything for a laugh kids. You're in luck! Funny books are all over the best-seller lists and in the school library. Try these series; Captain Underpants, Dirty Bertie, Diary of a Wimpy kid, Big Nate, the Tree-house stories, The Just series (Just disgusting, Just annoying, etc.), Meet Charlie series, Winnie the Witch, Mr Gum, I funny, Middle school, Charlie and Lola, Walter the farting dog, Dork Diaries, Judy Moody, Asterix. Authors include; Jeremy Strong, Paul Jennings, Dav Pilkey, James Patterson, Lincoln Pierce.
Practical kids who like to know how the real world fits together. Try Nonfiction (true) books about things – how things work, countries, how to care for pets, cooking, sports, plant and animal guides, survival guides. Link fiction (stories, made up) to this too, but perhaps based on true people or events, such as historical fiction, a hero's life story – whatever hero means to your child, perhaps an athlete or adventurer, scientist or a child who overcame adversity. Survival fiction can be fascinating to a child who can vividly imagine fending for themselves cast adrift on the sea, or lost in the bush. Books; My story series, Magic School Bus series, Hatchet, Tintin, Biggles, Bear Grylls (fiction and nonfiction), Island of the blue dolphin, War stories, Jake Maddox sport series. Nonfiction that focuses on the machinery or buildings of an era, such as medieval castles and catapults or Roman fighting techniques. Also try the books that fall between fiction and nonfiction such as Horrible Histories or the You Choose series (which uses realistic survival situations and historic settings such as World War 2 spies, earthquakes, or the jungle, plenty of facts too).
Practical with a love for animals. Try different authors until your child finds one who captures the sense of bonding with animals that your child has with their pets. Or, books that create a sense of what life might be like as an animal. Perhaps books that discuss animal rights might be of interest. Authors; Stacy Gregg, Douglas Adams, Katherine Applegate (The one and only Ivan), Kenneth Oppel (Silverwing series), Dick King-Smith, Lucy Daniels, Kathryn Lasky (Guardians of Ga'Hoole series), Ellen Mills (puppy place) Erin Hunter.
Kids who are interested in emotions and how people tick – Try books with an emotional journey or conflict of some kind, perhaps to do with friends or a changing family situation, don't be alarmed if your child shows a preference for books that seem to feature very unhappy families – these books show lots of viewpoints and how other people tick, different to themselves. Authors; Jacqueline Wilson, Jackie French, Katherine Patterson, Kate Di Camillo, Kate De Goldi, Des Hunt, some Margaret Mahy. Series or books to try; Billie B Brown, Babysitters Club, Hey Jack, Charlotte's web, Fancy Nancy, Violet Mackerel series, Bridge to Terabithia, The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane, Stargirl, Coraline, Beauty, Word Nerd, A girl called Harry.
Kids who like games and stories that progress in stages, with a quest or journey – Try Books; the Beast Quest series, Deltora Quest series, Eragon series, Ranger's apprentice series, Charlie Nimmo series, Mrs Frisby and the rats of Nimh, Halo, Artemis Fowl series, A wrinkle in time, The star of Kazan, The last 13 series, Nina of the Dark series, the Hobbit, some historical fiction such as Number the stars. Authors; Emily Rodda, John Flanagan, Barbara Else. Some mystery series may appeal to this group too, such as; Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Ruby Redfort, Roman mysteries series, Sammy Keyes series, Diamond Brothers series.
Good defeats evil with plenty of action – These books often have short chapters and a skilful author will keep your child's attention with plenty of twists. Books and series to try; Alex Rider, Bear Grylls series, Hunger Games, Zac Power, Jake Maddox series, Charlie Stone, Geronimo Stilton, Mortal Engines, Jane Blonde, Goosebumps. Authors; Chris Ryan, Emily Rodda (Rondo series), Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Zizou Corder, Cornelia Funke, Dianna Wynne Jones, Roald Dahl. The books in this group may be also funny, emotional or have a mystery.
Phew! And that's really just the tip of the iceberg! Every child is a reader - some just haven't found the right book yet. But don't give up, brilliant books are all around and reading will happen if you create lots of opportunities for your child to find the best books for him or herself. Back to the top
Father's Day Books
Hello Dads! It's Father's Day this Sunday and I've put together a range of books that feature Dads, boys or blokes in the starring role. If you are new to reading aloud, take the opportunity this weekend to give it a go. Keep it simple, try a picture book to start, they are shorter and often hilarious. Have a sneaky read of the book first, but don't over-think it, no-one will complain if you stumble over the odd word. The main thing is to have fun. Dads (and Grandads, Uncles and big brothers) are awesome at read alouds because of their deep voices - think pirates, monsters and dogs!
When it comes to reading and attitudes about books and learning, kids watch the behaviour of the adults around them - what you do is more important than what you say. If you read, they read. Reading aloud is simple, fun and quick – make time for ten minutes a day to read and share and you will see the benefits for years.
Happy Reading this Father's Day.
PS Don't forget about Scholastic Lucky Books due before September 18. The books are reasonably priced and a good selection with several from award-winning authors. Perhaps order and put away for Christmas presents and ensure lots of reading time over the summer holidays. For the price of one Xbox game you can buy two to four books – and hours of peace and quiet!
(The books listed below are all available at the school library.)
Junior Picture Books (But you can read these to all ages!)
Guess how much I love you – Sam McBratney.
The little yellow digger – Betty and Alan Gilderdale
Pigtails the pirate – David Elliott (perfect for over the top Pirate voices)
Knuffle bunny – Mo Willems (Dad takes small girl shopping, girl loses toy, panic follows!)
My Dad – Anthony Browne (One of my favourite Dad books, great illustrations)
Some dogs do – Jez Alborough (When a Dad chat is the best thing in the world)
The Gruffalo's child – Julia Donaldson
Curious George – Margret and HA Rey
Middle School Fiction (But still great for Seniors too)
The mouse and the motorcycle – Beverly Cleary (A boy, a mouse, a motorcycle, a daring ride for help, what more does a story need?)
Danny the champion of the world – Roald Dahl (A loving Dad story with a dash of midnight adventure)
Nim's island – Wendy Orr
Flat Stanley – Jeff Brown
Frindle – Andrew Clements
The Wind in the willows – Kenneth Grahame (This was originally written as a bedtime story for the author's son)
Winnie-the-Pooh – AA Milne (As was this, one of the senior teachers, Mr Hawkes reads this most years and it is still very popular, 89 years after it was first published)
Hatchet – Gary Paulsen (We have this book in Middle and Senior because it is just so good)
Middle and Senior Picture books
Michael Rosen's Sad book – Michael Rosen and Quentin Blake (This is an amazingly simple but expressive book about the authors feelings after losing his son. OK, not perhaps a Father's Day book, but an excellent conversation starter about sadness, depression and how people, especially men, deal with grief)
The one and only Ivan – Katherine Applegate (A fantastic male gorilla stars in this story about love, friendship and animal rights, and yes, it is blokey!)
The Ranger's apprentice – John Flanagan (Another book written for the author's son)
Because of Winn-Dixie – Sharon Creech (A dog brings a father and daughter and a whole community together)
Inkheart – Cornelia Funke (Dad reads aloud to his daughter, but with a twist!)
The beginner's guide to hunting and fishing – Paul Adamson (A great book to share and discuss)
Wild horizons – Greig Caigou (Sort of a memoir, good bedtime read-aloud for older kids) Back to the top
This week we're looking at great Sports books. Sports books often talk about the importance of team work or empathy for others and are a great choice for the winter season when outside play time can be restricted. Fiction and Non-fiction sports books are popular at our library and I've included some newer titles.
Middle school Fiction –
The Jake Maddox books are awesome, each looks at a different character in a tough situation and the range of sports covered is amazing! Check out – "BMX Challenge", "Go-Kart Crash", "Paintball Problems", "Striker Assist" (Soccer), and "Motocross Doublecross". Find them in the M's for Maddox.
"Dare and double dare; 30 New Zealand Sporty stories" compiled by Barbara Else. The funny side of sports in short illustrated stories.
Senior Fiction –
"Boots 'n' All" by David Hill, nitty gritty rugby with a good story to boot!
"Breaking away" by Maggie Lilleby. Mitch is determined to get into her schools interschool cycling team, even if some people on the team are trying to stop her.
"Samurai kids – White crane" by Sandy Fussell. How can a one-legged boy become a Samurai master?
General Non-Fiction –
Clive Gifford has some new books in our library, "Cricket" 796.35 and "Rugby – Know your sport" 796.33. Both books are very practical with tips and tricks for improving and enjoying the game.
"Moto X Best trick" 629.22, be amazed at what the professionals can do!
"Hunting" 799.2, after the popularity of "The Beginner's guide to Hunting and fishing in New Zealand" we have tried to source more hunting books – there are not many out there but this is a good one.
"Horse and Pony shows and events" 798.2, clear and detailed, a go-to book for anyone looking to compete.
"The New Zealand sports hall of Fame' 796.092. Be inspired by New Zealand's home-grown talent! Back to the top
Tips for getting out of a reading slump
Winter is a great time to spend extra time reading - it's too rainy to go out and blankets and books go together like hot and chocolate! But if you haven't been feeling very inspired to read lately don't worry - the library is the best place to warm up your imagination. Try a reading challenge - there are lots online, some are for long periods of time or try the two below which could be completed in a term. The first is designed as a whole family challenge and would suit books being read aloud. Pop it up on the fridge and write down the titles in the boxes as you go. Enlist the help of grandparents, older siblings and other caregivers. The second would probably suit individual middle and senior students and could be played like a bingo card with small rewards for completing a line or whole board. Most of the suggestions could be applied to fiction or non-fiction. The object is to broaden reading tastes but to still allow plenty of free choice - the challenges should inspire not restrict!
Family Reading challenge
A book with a wild animal On the cover
A book about a Famous Person
Youngest Person Free choice
A book with poems
A wordless book
A book with a number In the title
A book with A New Zealand author
A book about Food
A book set in another country
Oldest Person Free choice
A book about some kind of Transport - trains, trucks, Planes, bicycles, anything!
A book based On a True story
A book that became a movie
A book set on a Farm
A book that has won an Award
A book about Pirates
Individual Reading Challenge
A book in a series
A book with a country or place name in the title
A book about a Career that interests you
An award winning book
A book by a Female or Male author (Opposite to yourself!)
A book with a New Zealand author
A book recommended by a friend
A book with unusual pictures or in graphic form
A book where animals are the main characters
A book that is more than 50 years old
A book with a colour in the title
A book set in another time or dimension!
A book with a mystery
A book with a one-word title
A book of short stories
A book with an author who has an alliterative name ie Margaret Mahy, Lois Lowry
A book published in the last 2 years
A book with at least one scary character!
A book about a famous person
A book with a great first line
A book based on a fairytale
A book with a journey or quest
A book set in another culture Back to the top
Talking about Books!
This week we are looking at book reviews and book talks, how they differ
and their similarities.
A book review is usually written and quite formal. A review often includes
an evaluation of the work, for example it might say that a book is the
best of a particular writers work, or that a book belongs in a certain
A book talk is a short informal speech to describe a book. Excerpts from
the book are read aloud as a teaser to encourage other people to read the
When we recommend stories to friends we often do something in between a
book talk and a book review. Book recommendations from friends are one of
the best ways to find new books to read. Here are my top tips for book
reviews and book talks.
Introduce the book with the author and the illustrator's names and mention
other books by the same person/people.
Try to describe the book in a couple of short factual sentences. For
example, this book is a historic fiction novel set in the second world
war. The main character is Bonnie, she is sixteen and the oldest in a big
family who live in a rambling country house.
Include some details about the plot or the action, but don't give too much
Then include YOUR opinion of the book. For example did you find the
setting believable? Did you identify with the main character/s, understand
why they reacted in different situations, did you like them?
Perhaps describe one section or scene from the book that you enjoyed or
made you think.
If you like, give the book a star rating!
Be dramatic! Introduce your chosen book with a bold statement, such as,
"This was the most exciting book I have ever read!"
Find a funny or dramatic sentence in the book and read it aloud.
Be teasing with your book talk - deliberately stop half way through an
exciting bit and say "you'll have to read the book to find out the rest!"
Finish with a recommendation about who might enjoy the book and where to
find it in the library. For example, "People who like fast, sports books,
will enjoy this book" and "look for it in the 700's section in the
When you are recommending books to friends you might do some of the things
on each of these lists. Sharing books is a great thing to do - but don't
worry if you and a friend have different likes, it would be very boring if
we all liked exactly the same books!! Above all, use book talks and book
reviews to try something new. Back to the top
See the World – Visit your library!
This week we have a great selection of more than 30 new non-fiction books
about countries going into the library. Exploring the world through books
is an amazing introduction into other cultures and using well illustrated
books balanced with plenty of small snippets of factual information allows
for lots of time for reflection and discussion. The books are from a few
different series including the "Unpacked" range which has books about
Portugal, South Africa, Italy and Brazil. This series focusses on quick
snapshots of the culture and includes phrases, holiday spots, sports,
music and food. The "Cultural Traditions" series has an emphasis on the
religion and culture of individual places, particularly National holidays,
festivals and food. The series shows how diverse some countries are,
including, India, Israel, Japan, Egypt and China. The "Country Explorers"
series explores the landscape and history of each country, with fast fact
sections and modern culture towards the back. Countries covered include,
Madagascar, Ghana, Germany, Jamaica, United Kingdom, Turkey, and South
Korea. And finally, probably the most beautiful series is the alphabet
series – R is for Russia, P is for Poland and I is for Iran. These books
are visually stunning with a simple format running through the alphabet.
For example the Russian book has A is for astronaut, B is for ballet, C is
for chess and so on. The information is eclectic and showcases everyday
people as well as the best handicrafts and art work of each country. Other
individual books cover Mexico, Canada, Ecuador, Spain and Kenya. I
thoroughly recommend some time spent browsing through books about other
cultures, absorbing the diversity of each country's history, religion,
modern lifestyle and food. Amaze your friends with a hello in another
language. All of the new books feature stunning photos and are fascinating
to browse through or read in depth. Come and see them at your school
library today – travel the world! Back to the top
On Friday two poems were read out at our ANZAC ceremony. Tayla Jones read "In Flanders fields" by John McCrae, and Nicole Webb read "Ode of Remembrance" by Laurence Binyon. Both these poems were written during the
First World War although under quite different circumstances.
John McCrae was a Canadian soldier, serving as a gunner and medical officer near Ypres (pronounced Eeep- rah, or Eeep-pris) and wrote the poem on May 3, 1915 the day after the funeral of a close friend. It is said that McCrae himself discarded the poem and that it was fellow soldiers who rescued it and it was eventually published in December 1915.
The poem very quickly became popular and parts were used in war
propaganda to recruit soldiers and to raise money. Tragically, McCrae
would not live to see the end of the war, dying from pneumonia and
meningitis, in a military hospital on January 28, 1918, worn out from the long years of serving in France.
In Flanders fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The "Ode of Remembrance" read out by Nicole is part of a much longer poem
titled "For the fallen", and was written in 1914 on a cliff-top in
Cornwall, England by Laurence Binyon. He was inspired by the publication
of long lists of casualties after the first battles in France and Belgium
that had shocked the English public. The full poem has seven stanzas and
was published in the "Times" newspaper in September 1914. Although too old
to enlist to serve in the forces, Binyon volunteered in 1915, serving as a
hospital orderly in France, returning after the war to his work at the
British Museum in the prints and drawings section. In New Zealand and
Australia, the fourth verse has become known separately as "The Ode of
Remembrance" and is read out during ANZAC services, nightly at Returned
Service Associations in Australia and New Zealand, and every evening at
the Menin Gate war memorial, in Belgium.
For the Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
There are many moving and tragic war poems written by soldiers and poets in World War 1. Perhaps we should also consider the vast talent that was lost when so many of these young people died during the conflict. We can never know what richness of literature, of potential inventions and scientific breakthroughs were buried with them. Perhaps the reading and
remembering of poems such as these can inspire the next generation to maintain peace for all mankind. Back to the top
Poetry is sometimes overlooked for children because we think of it as serious and difficult, but with an open minded approach, poetry can be enjoyed by every child as much, if not more, than any other form of writing. Firstly, there's a lot of funny poems out there, and very few children can resist a funny poem read aloud in a suitably silly voice. It's structured nature make it perfect for less confident readers to read for themselves, as the rhyme scheme allows for easy prediction of the end words of a line, and the short length looks far less daunting on the page than a long story. Having poetry read aloud is excellent for developing and extending appreciation of language, memory and listening ability, understanding syllables and showing reading with expression. Poetry often uses a different set of words than everyday speech, being more likely to include similes, (my love is like a red, red rose...) and metaphors (The moon was a ghostly galleon...)and to include some older words that can be rediscovered by a new generation. And don't forget - a poem doesn't have to rhyme! Or be a poem! It can be a song, a rap, a short jingle, in English, in Maori, in the form of a limerick, a haiku or epic ballad!
Here are some great family-friendly ideas to include more poetry at home - and be ready to have poems written for you by your inspired, poetic kids!
1. Start small - put up a poem on the fridge! It can be absolutely anything you fancy!
2. Start off with some old favourites, nursery rhymes. Chant them out loud in the car or on a walk. Try missing off a word or two at the ends of the lines and leaving the kids to fill in those bits!
3. Go to the library and get out some friendly looking poetry books - they'll be in the Non-fiction section in the 800 numbers. Try, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Michael Rosen, Margaret Mahy, Ogden Nash, Colin McNaughton - or anyone who catches your children's eyes!
4.Read aloud that other old favourite, Dr Seuss. Most of his well-known books were written in rhyme... "I will not eat green eggs and ham, I will not eat them..."
5. Ask older family members if they can remember poems from school - you'll be amazed at the memories this can revive. Who remembers listening to the radio on the weekends? "Flick the little fire-engine", "Oma rapeti", "How much is that doggie in the window"?
6. As a family, work together to rewrite a well-known poem and put in family members names, don't forget the cat and dog! Try re-doing "You are my sunshine", "Twinkle twinkle you're my star" or for something longer, "The 12 days of Christmas".
7. Pick one night of the week to be Poem Swap night - have everyone bring along to the table a poem they have chosen and recite them aloud over a special dessert or even by candlelight!
8. Start a family poetry book and glue or write in poems that everyone has chosen - a bit like a family recipe book. If you date the poems it'll become a kind of diary of everyone's stages and passions too. Back to the top
Non-Fiction, fact or information reading, is enduringly popular. Although
the rise of the internet has given us faster access to information it
isn't necessarily more accurate than a well-researched book resource.
Non-Fiction books can take years to produce because they involve teams of
researchers and consultants – which is why we can trust the information
presented in this format. As well, the ability to select relevant facts
from vast quantities of information is a skill that takes practise to
acquire – time spent reading physical books creates the skills that are
necessary to use the internet more effectively and shouldn't be
Great Non-Fiction inspires imagination and should feel pleasurable to use.
Books should be logically arranged either by ideas, chronologically
(relating to time) or some other way indicated in the contents page. Look
for books that appeal visually with plenty of photos or quality
illustrations that show the subject clearly and correctly. Photos should
be captioned and add to the main body of information, not repeat it.
Modern Non-fiction often has streams of information at different levels
within the same page – meaning it can be read by different age groups.
This may be indicated by different sized text – larger for younger
readers, or by coloured blocks.
Look for added features such as maps, diagrams and timelines that put
information in context with other events. Check that there is a glossary –
a brief definition of the more unusual, or scientific words. There should
be an index at the end of the main section that allows for easy looking up
of specific information. It is common to inspire further research by
including a list of other resources about the subject, perhaps other books
or an internet link.
Remember, Non-Fiction works best when it taps into the interests of a
child. Like any reading it must be at the appropriate level and appealing,
both to look at and subject matter. Non-Fiction is for boys and girls – it
is not helpful to label it in any other way. Encourage the whole family to
read a wide variety of information- from Romans to rockets, dinosaurs to
dog care, your school library and local libraries are filled with free
resources that don't need to be downloaded or recharged! It is always
surprising what can be found second hand – although check the date of the
book and decide if it is important – probably not for Ancient Romans but
yes for rockets!
Remember to talk lots about what everyone is reading and look for ways to
link it to other activities. If birds or fishing are a current interest,
take the books out with you to the wharf or bush and show how the
information in the book relates to real life. Use a car manual or product
guide in front of your child. Show how reading for information is a useful
daily skill – the perfect combination of fun and practical – for
everybody!Back to the top
Book Detectives - Use the Clues to Help You Choose!
In the library this week we have been looking at the clues on the outside
of books to help us decide if a book is one we would like to read. If
children can't find a book that grabs their attention quickly, they may
announce that there is "nothing to read" - even in a library with 8,500
books! A gradual disengagement with choosing books leads to less reading
and eventually reading ability slips behind the rest of the class. This is
why it is important to have as many skills to aid in book selection as
Talk about, and give the proper names, to the information on the cover of
a book, such as title, author and illustrator. Discuss other books by that
author/illustrator or from that series. Check to see if there is an author
biography and photo inside the back cover. Read the description of the
book or blurb, on the back cover.
Encourage your child to have a really thorough flick through the book and
perhaps read the first 2-3 pages. Leave the ultimate choice up to them -
does it look interesting (to them) or not? (Asking this way also allows a
child to gracefully turn down a book that is too difficult for them to
read, without feeling foolish.) Be patient - it's not a race!!
If nothing has really grabbed them, suggest a deal - they pick two and you
pick two, and all books go home for a more leisurely investigation. This
might be a good time to offer to read aloud at bedtime- perhaps alternate
pages or chapters. That way, if the book is a step up in reading level,
lots of new words have been heard and decoding them for the first time
becomes much easier.
Encourage your child to find books that tap into other interests, such as
fishing, cooking, horses, or sport. Try a range of reading matter with
that theme in mind - if they already enjoy reading non-fiction books on a
particular subject, suggest an adventure novel featuring it too.
Finally, keep the end goal in mind - when a child seeks out and reads to
please only themselves, they have truly become a reader. The kind of
reader who will go on reading and learning, for a lifetime.
Back to the top
Welcome to the Awakeri School library for 2015!!
This is a fortnightly column with tips about reading, book reviews, book
lists about specific topics and what's going on in the library.
Firstly, my name is Margo White and I am in the library Tuesday to Friday.
Mrs Petersen is the teacher with library responsibility and oversees my
work and the general running of the library. I am often at school around
8:30 and usually stay until the second bus run at 3:30. As long as the
library is free please feel welcome to come in and browse the books and
the art work in the library – it's a lovely shady spot to wait at this
time of the year!!
Some quick and easy family-friendly tips to start the year-
Do find out what day/s are library days for your child's class. Do remind
children about it and check their book bags and books. Juniors are
permitted up to 3 books at a time, middle and seniors, 5 books, books are
issued for 2 weeks but can be reissued.
Do have an area everyone knows is the place for library books. This can be
as simple as a box in the kitchen. If your children live in two households
have a plan/routine in place or set up a book box in each house so that
everyone can find the books easily. Do encourage children to return books
to the box AFTER they have read them – that way you can see what they are
reading and MOST importantly, talk about the books.
Do assume your children will read. Help by making lots of books and
reading experiences available – visit the town libraries, accept
hand-me-downs, buy from garage sales and second hand shops – they often
cost about the same price as lollies!
Do be involved! Ask questions, offer to read aloud, say "That looks
interesting, tell me about it." Read aloud for as long as everyone is keen
to listen. Don't be surprised if older ones listen in to younger stories –
great stories are for all ages.
Do be positive about their choices! A reading habit and a love of reading
are the aim here. Perhaps you are not very keen on their current choice of
series, don't worry – it will pass - and if a "silly" series leads to the
habit of reading for a lifetime, it's worth the fart and snot jokes for
Do be aware of time nibblers! Reading will happen – but you may need to
make a deliberate effort to find the time for it. Bed-time is ideal – how
about no screens for the last 20 -30 minutes of the day, books or a story
Don't under-estimate books with pictures – including graphic novels and
picture books. They are often very sophisticated with complex vocabulary
and can be more accessible on an emotional level as well as increasing an
understanding of the text by providing reinforcement of the action.
Don't make assumptions based on your own experiences or make negative
comments about books and reading in front of your children.
The ability to read, and read with understanding, is increasingly
important as more of everyday life moves online. Reading skills created by
the sustained reading of books for pleasure is still the best method of
building deep understanding.
Back to the top
The Summer slide.
The Summer Slide is the name given to the learning that is lost or
reversed over the summer holiday break. Although the phrase refers to all
types of learning, it can be seen most dramatically in reading levels,
which can remain flat with no upwards progress, or – heartbreakingly –
reading levels can actually go down, meaning a return to school the next
year with months of learning lost. Even a slight loss each summer adds up
over the course of the Primary years leading to a greater gap between top
and bottom performing students by High School age.
So what can you do?
First, make Reading and words part of your family life year round, don't
treat it as a "School thing" or something that only the teacher needs to
Over the holidays keep reading for personal pleasure as the goal for the
kids – it's not what they're reading, it's just that they ARE reading. Let
them choose, that's what makes it personal and keeps the interest going.
Build some quiet reading time into every day, a time of no distractions
and less noise. Ten to fifteen minutes can make a big difference, extend
it when they ask. Picture books count as reading too, we learn to decode
Read aloud. Research comes back to this time and time again. Start small
and funny, until your confidence grows. Fifteen minutes a day is 1% of
your time – isn't your child worth 1% of your day?
Read yourself and show that you read and enjoy it. Talk about what you
read, it doesn't have to be a book, the newspaper is full of interesting
words and ideas waiting to be discussed.
Join the library – it's FREE! Sign up the whole family, a card for everyone.
Check out the Summer Reading programme at the library – it's FREE too!
It's fun and easy and the kids enjoy the incentives and the chat with an
On the move over the holidays? Take books along too! At the beach,
camping, in the car, to Granma's, try books on CD and tape for car
journeys, how about maps or travel guides?
Staying home? Fill your house with books and reading material of every
kind, including books, magazines, newspapers, reader's digests,
encyclopaedias, comics and board games that involve reading. Buy new,
second-hand, borrow and accept hand-me-downs from family and neighbours.
Op-shops sell books from as little as 50 cents, often in excellent
NEVER write off a child as not suited to books. If your child was quite
shy or found making friends difficult would you say "Oh well, it's not for
them"? Dismissing books from a child's life amounts to the same thing –
depriving them of a life time of joy, imagination and possibilities.
This year let's turn the Summer Slide into the Summer Set-Up – set up to
learn for the next year. It doesn't need money or fancy equipment, just a
bit of time and a new approach.
For more information about research into the Summer Slide and tips for
families check out the National Libraries website under their Creating
Readers section or try this link-
Back to the top
This week it's cheers to all things Kiwi! Books that celebrate the New
Zealand lifestyle – sun, sand, fishing, farming or our laid back can-do
Sand and Sea -
"The Punga-people of Ninety mile beach" by Barry Crump. You can't get much more Kiwi than Barry Crump and this book and the rest in the series are "funny as" too!
"Beach bag boogie" by Lindsay Wood. Camping, waves, swimming and
sunscreen, and jig-jiggling rhymes, perfect for reading aloud.
"Nanny Mihi and the Rainbow" by Melanie Drewery. Days of the week and
colours in Te Reo all at the beach!
"Timo and the Kingfish" by Mokena Potae Reedy. Small boy, big fish,
"Dad's takeaways" by Melanie Drewery. A great book that manages to combine family relationships, sustainability and appreciating simple pleasures in a story that doesn't feature any food in a bucket, comes with a toy or needs to be wrapped in newspaper!
"The three fishing brothers Gruff" by Ben Galbraith. This book is also
about sustainability with a suitably Kiwi twist and a sticky ending for
the greedy brothers.
"Cow power" by Kim Riley. Written by the farmer herself who would have
been swept away in the Manawatu floods if not for the can-do attitude of
one of her cows!
"Rosie to the rescue" by Kyle Mewburn. I have mentioned this book before
and Rosie still makes me laugh.
"The little tractor" by Joy Cowley. This book has a lovely feeling of
history and a very Kiwi sense about how tractors are used.
Laid back attitude –
"Papa's jandals" by Kate Moetana. Papa has BIG feet and needs his jandals – but it's surprising how handy something that big can be to the rest of the family. Will Papa get his jandals back?
"Grandpa's shed" by Joy Watson. There is a series of these and include
"Grandpa's cat", Grandpa's slippers" and "Grandpa's cardigan", but for
Kiwiana week it was an easy choice of that sacred Kiwi institute – the
"The Christmas caravan" by Jennifer Beck. A small boy who understands that decorations come from the heart and everybody deserves a fair go.
Kiwi twist –
These books may sound a little familiar but they have been twisted around
to give them a Down Under flavour!
"Pukeko in a punga tree" adapted by Kingi M. Ihaka. A great adaptation,
sing along… "Seven eels a swimming, six poi a twirling…"
"The tuatara and the skink" by Yvonne Morrison, slow old tuatara against
speedy skink – who will win the race?
"The waka" by Jean Prior. The animals begin to board the waka two by two but not the kind you usually find in ark tales! The moa moaned and the
kiwi were cautious and the weta just wanted to not be crushed! A great
remake and another excellent read-aloud choice.
All of these books and more can be found in the Junior Picture book
section – they'll be enjoyed by everyone. Look for them by the author's
Back to the top
Popular Reading Myths and Misconceptions
Often we create barriers for doing something positive in our lives because
we have a mental list of reasons why we think it will be too hard. We can
all see that reading is a necessary skill for all children to have but as
parents we put off taking steps to improve our children's reading because
of those vague reasons or because it's something only the teacher can do
or has to worry about. Here are 6 popular mental "barriers" and ways to
leap over them.
Reading can only be practised using books. Not true! Reading for fun and
to extract information can involve maps, recipes, shopping lists,
sub-titles on movies, newspapers, board games, street signs, museums,
letters and postcards, fridge magnets, magazines and catalogues (think
machinery, clothing, and toy catalogues). Seize opportunities and talk
about new words!
Having books around the house costs lots of money. So not true! The
Awakeri school library is open during term Monday to Friday every
lunchtime and middle and senior students are allowed five books at a time.
(Juniors are allowed three). The Whakatane public library is open every
day and each card holder, including children, is permitted up to 20 books
– apply for a card for each person in the family and fill the house up to
the brim with a free, renewable resource! Kawerau library hours are Monday
to Friday 8-5; Ohope library Mon/Wed/Fri/Sat 10-12, Tues/Thu 2-4; and
Edgecumbe Monday to Friday 2-4 plus extra time on Tuesday and Thursday
Garage sales and Op shops sell books from as little
as 10 cents. Some even have a help-yourself for free basket by the door.
People move house and downsize all the time – be open to gifts of books
and magazines, new isn't necessarily better, particularly if your children
are small. Flybuys offer magazine subscriptions and selected book vouchers
When a child learns to read for themselves they don't need to be read
aloud to. Not true! Reading aloud should continue for as long as everyone
is enjoying it. It provides a quiet (or noisy!) bonding time at the end of
the day and may allow your child access to a difficult book they would
otherwise miss. It also shows that you are interested enough in reading
yourself to make time for it and them. It doesn't need to be a book –
perhaps read out interesting pieces from the newspaper, and then leave it
lying around – see what happens.
Expensive phonics and reading kits are the best preparation for school.
Not true! Don't be fooled by clever marketing into thinking you need the
latest gadget or system to help children develop good pre-school language
abilities. Creating positive attitudes about books and learning by having
plenty of books available and showing that you enjoy them yourself is
probably the most important thing you can do. Talking is language too,
point out and name everything in their world. Introduce more information
as they grow. "Bird" may become "Sparrow", "Magpie" and "Thrush".
It is too hard to buy books for the kids because I might buy the wrong
"level". Not true! It is important to buy books that match their interests
and personalities. They will probably enjoy a book about something that
truly fascinates them even if it is a little too easy or hard – and
perhaps it could be a good opportunity to read together. If in doubt, get
vouchers and let them have the fun of picking.
For more information for New Zealand families about reading and books try
the National Library website.
Back to the top
You can't judge a book by its cover… Or can you?
It is true that it is best not to judge people by their cover or outward
appearance but when it comes to books often the cover can give us great
clues to what it might be about or what style the book may be written in.
That is because publishers spend lots of money and have teams of people
deliberately creating appealing covers for us readers. It's worth figuring
out the common features or "Clues" to the kind of books you like.
So here are my top tips for judging a book by its cover.
Font or lettering style. If the lettering looks dripping or gooey, chances
are it is a book about either scary or mucky things – think "Goosebumps"
by R.L. Stine or the "Yuck" series by Mathew Morgan. Curly or very ornate
writing often appears on books with a history base such as "The girl from
Snowy River", Jackie French. Books where the font looks like it might have
been carved into or made from stone are often action with a magical blend,
such as the "Ranger's Apprentice" by John Flanagan or "Artemis Fowl" Eion
Size of lettering. If the title is very large on the cover it can be a
clue to a dramatic book, lots of action or perhaps a mystery, such as the
"Ruby Redfort" series by Lauren Child or "Alex Rider" books by Anthony
If the author's name is very large it means that the author is very
well-known and top-selling. It might be worthwhile to read one of their
books and decide for yourself.
Colour. Generally the darker the cover the darker/scarier the story for
example, "Skullduggery Pleasant" series by Derek Landy, "The Thief Lord"
by Cornellia Funke and the "Percy Jackson" series by Rick Riordan.
Photos or Cartoon style. Usually a photo on the cover gives clues to a
more realistic story with a modern everyday setting, although it could be
historical - check that font style! For example "Yo shark bait!" by Vicki
Simpson or "Pony Club secrets" series by Stacey Gregg. Cartoons or
caricatures (a sort of distorted cartoon emphasising parts of someone's
face to make it look funny) are often featured on modern, funny books
where the personality of the star is key to the story. Try "Clarice Bean"
by Lauren Child, "Middle School" series by James Patterson or "Judy
Moody", by Megan McDonald.
However, keep in mind these are CLUES to the story inside the cover – lots
of book covers blend elements of different styles and some break all the
rules completely! Always check out the blurb or book description on the
back to make sure the cover isn't misleading, ask around to see if anyone
else has read it and its always worthwhile reading the first few pages or
even a random page a few chapters into the story. So, I guess you can
(often) judge a book by its cover, but just like people, it's what is on
the inside that truly counts!
Shiver Me Timbers! Walk the Plank! This week – Pirates!
Pirates are a great source of inspiration to many authors and pirate books
often make a great choice for read-alouds because of the potential for
interesting growly accents and exclamations! Pirates are also good topic
gateways to other subjects, such as history and geography, boats, maps,
flags, exploration, malnutrition, women's rights, capital punishment,
laws, even clothing! Pirates are equally popular with boys and girls and
as a topic will grow alongside them. This week I have picked out some of
the best picture books about Pirates but sail on into the library and
check out the other sections, there's more treasure waiting there!!
I wish I had a Pirate Suit – P. Allen. Brotherly rivalry!
Captain Abdul's Pirate school – C. McNaughton
Pigtails the Pirate – D. Elliot. New Zealand author/illustrator and one of
the best read-aloud pirate personalities.
Captain Buckleboots on the naughty step – M. Sperring
The Man whose mother was a pirate – M. Mahy. A classic, lovely sea-side
words and perhaps a subtle message to follow one's heart in life.
Peter and the Pig – S. Grant. New Zealand author and illustrator, great
twist on appropriate pirate accessories!!
Pirate Jam – J. Brown. New into our library, old pirates trying new
tricks. The Pirate-cruncher; The Pirates next-door – both J. Duddle.
Wonderful illustrations and clever humour for everyone.
Tim, Ted & the Pirates – I. Whybrow.
Tough Boris – M. Fox. Deceptively simple and thoughtful, shows that
everyone, even Pirates, have layers.
Do Pirates have baths? – K, Tucker. A book of connecting poems with
vibrant illustrations in the Junior Non-Fiction area in the Poetry section
Pirate Diary, the Journal of Jake Carpenter – R. Platt. Middle/Senior
Picture book, quite realistically gritty about life on board a large ship
There is also a good selection of Non-Fiction books about Pirates in the
Blue 900's area – Junior Non-Fiction and General Non-Fiction.
Back to the top
Sometimes we REALLY like one author but we run out of books by that
person. We know we could try something new but we don't want to! Don't
panic!! It happens to everyone sooner or later!
The trick is to figure out what we like about that author and those books
and find another author that will give us the same kind of feelings and
enjoyment. Sounds easy – sort of. Take a moment and really think about
what it is that you like about a series or book. Is it about animals or
people? Are they in real-life situations or very unreal situations? Is
there lots of action or more talking? Are families and relationships
important to the story? Maybe you like unrealistic situations but the
characters have realistic emotional reactions? Maybe you like to learn
something new when you read? Laugh – a little or a lot? Cry? Be scared? Be
transported to another time or place or dimension? Do you prefer the
language to be plain and straight forward or more descriptive, maybe
surprising? These are all clues to the next set of books you might try.
One great option is to ask around, find someone who likes similar books to
you and see what else they read. Try someone other than close friends –
it's not always the people you know well who have the same book likes.
Trust your own instincts. Go to the library and flick through the shelves.
Pick out at least 6 books that look OK. Remember you are looking for
something that gives the same feelings – it may not be about the same
subjects as your usual favourite. Take them to a quiet spot and read the
back. Put back anything that doesn't sound interesting. Read a page –
maybe 3 or 4. If you don't get that great feeling from any of them, put
them back and try again with a different 6. Sometimes it takes time, but
once you have found a great new author (or even 2 or 3!) you'll have
opened up a whole new land of adventures.
Some suggestions for Read-a-likes
Books with a quest or mystery
"Animorphs" series – KA Applegate
"Narnia chronicles" – CS Lewis
"Charlie Small" series – Charlie Small
"Deltora Quest" series – Emily Rodda
"Cabin Creek" series – Kristiana Gregory
"Damian Drooth Supersleuth" – Barbara Mitchellhill
"Chasing Vermeer" – Blue Balliett
"Terry and the Gunrunners" – Bob Kerr graphic novel
"Ruby Redfort" series – Lauren Child
"Cairo Jim" series - Geoffrey McSkimming
"Brother Band" series and "Ranger's Apprentice" – John Flanagan
"The Underland Chronicles" series – Suzanne Collins
"The Mysterious Benedict Society" – Trenton Lee Stewart
"The Hobbit" – JRR Tolkein
"holes" – Louis Sachar
Books about Real kids
"The Wests" series – Joy Cowley
"Lulu Bell" series – Belinda Murrell
"The Fortunes" series – Margaret Mahy
"Slide the corner" – Fleur Beale
"Hank Zipzer" series – Henry Winkler
"The Big Prize" and "The Big Race" – Rob Childs
"Ambushed" and "Lucky for some" – Fleur Beale
"Yo! Shark Bait" – Vicki Simpson
"The Power of One" – Bryce Courtenay
"The girl from Snowy River" – Jackie French
"See ya, Simon" – David Hill
"The year my life broke" – John Marsden
"Dunger" – Joy Cowley
Books about Funny kids
"Ramona" series – Beverly Cleary
"Billy Bonkers" series – Giles Andreae
"Naughtiest Girl" series – Enid Blyton
"Tom Gates" series – Liz Pichon
"Tree house" series – Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
"Charlie" series – Hilary McKay
"Horrid Henry" series – Francesca Simon
"Judy Moody" series – Megan McDonald
"Clarice Bean" series – Lauren Child
"Captain Underpants" Dav Pilkey
"Jiggy McCue" series – Michael Lawrence
"Dork Diaries" – Rachel Renee Russell
"Ally's World" series – Karen McCombie
"Avril Crump" – Angela Woolfe
Books about unusual/magical kids
"The Littles" series – John Peterson
"Charlie Bone" series – Jenny Nimmo
"Magic Faraway Tree" series and "The Wishing Chair" – Enid Blyton
"Mermaid SOS" series – Gillian Shields
"Harry Potter" series – JK Rowling
"Flat Stanley" – Jeff Brown
"Tuck Everlasting" – Natalie Babbitt
"Dead Harry" – Ken Catran
"Artemis Fowl" – Eion Colfer
"Molly Moon" series – Georgia Byng
"Darren Shan, Cirque Du Freak" series – Darren Shan
"Heroes of Olympus" series – Rick Riordan
"His Dark Materials" series – Phillip Pullman (filmed as "The Golden
"Ella Enchanted" – Gail Carson Levine
"Inkheart" series – Cornelia Funke
Adventure books with history
"Little house on the Prairie" series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
"Island of the Blue Dolphin" – Scott O'Dell
"Canoe in the Mist" – Elsie Locke
"My Story" series – various authors
'Kaspar, the Prince of Cats" – Michael Morpurgo
"New Zealand Girl" series – various authors
"My Story" series – various authors, try "Viking Blood"- Andrew Donkin and
"Pompeii" – Sue Reid
"Roman Mysteries" – Caroline Lawrence
"Leonardo and the Death Machine" – Robert J Harris
"Return to Titanic" series – Steve Brezenoff
"Out of the Dust" – Karen Hesse
"Hill Hawk Hattie" – Clara Gillow Clark
"Tintin" series – Graphic novels, Herge
Adventure books with Animals – Funny
"Little Wolf's book of Badness" – Ian Whybrow
"Flora & Ulysses" – Kate Di Camillo
"Astrosaurs" and "Cows In Action" series – Steve Cole
"Krazy Kow saves the world – well almost" and "The 100 hundred mile an
hour Dog" – Jeremy Strong
"Winnie–the-Pooh" books – AA Milne
"Geronimo Stilton" – Geronimo Stilton
"Toad Rage" – Morris Gleitzman
"The Dog that dumped on my doona" – Barry Jonsberg
Adventure books with Animals – Action
"Silver Dolphins" series – Summer Waters
'Puppy Patrol" – Jenny Dale
"Animal Ark" series – Lucy Daniels
"Caesar the war dog" – Stephen Dando-Collins
"Pony Club Secrets" series – Stacy Gregg
"White Cloud Station" series – Trudy Nicholson
"The Last Wolf" and "The Dancing Bear" – Michael Morpurgo
"Deptford Mice" series – Robin Jarvis
"Redwall" series – Brian Jacques
"Wilderness" – Roddy Doyle
"Watership Down" – Richard Adams
"Warrior Cats" series – Erin Hunter
"Lion Boy" series – Zizou Corder
"An elephant in the Garden' – Michael Morpurgo
Books about Family, Friendships and Relationships
"The Suitcase Kid" and "Starring Tracey Beaker" - Jacqueline Wilson
"Hazel Green" series – Odo Hirsch
"Ruby Holler" – Sharon Creech
"Babysitters Cub" and "Babysitters Little Sister" series – Ann M Martin
"The Angel of Nitshill Road" – Anne Fine
"The Village by the Sea" – Anita Desai
"The ACB with Honora Lee" – Kate De Goldi
"The Wanderer" – Sharon Creech
"Dead Dan's Dee" – Phyllis Johnston
"Word Nerd" – Susin Neilsen-Fernlund
"Because of Winn-Dixie" – Kate Di Camillo
This is a taster of how Read-a-like lists can work and some titles may pop
up on more than one list! Hope everyone finds some new favourites this
week. There are read-a-like lists on-line too, but remember we might not
have all the books listed at our school library, but if there is something
that sounds amazing mention it to Mrs white and try the town library as
Back to the top
Reading Mileage – It's not what they're reading but how much they're reading!
Children choose books to read for surprising reasons. But as long as they
are choosing them often, what it is they are choosing is much less
important. Reading Mileage is the name given to actual reading time, just
like journeys are an accumulation of many steps, reading mileage is the
sum total of words added to create the journey of reading. There are lots
of reports and surveys and articles written detailing research into the
topics of Reading Mileage and Free Voluntary Reading (sometimes called
Sustained Silent Reading) and I have included a list of books and
websites/articles below but they boil down to a few important facts.
1. If you let children pick their own reading they will read more.
2. Regular access to lots of books as often as possible leads to more
reading. (If you don't have lots of books at home or even if you do, go to
the library – go to more than one library if possible, public and school.)
3. Reading aloud to children when they are young leads to children reading
more as they grow older.
4. Reading every day, even a relatively short time, in a quiet,
comfortable place is best.
5. Reading books that are not necessarily literary prize winners is still
reading – that includes comics and mass produced series. ALL reading leads
to more reading. Don't worry if children are "stuck" on a particular
series – be happy the reading is happening and be confident reading
mileage leads to bigger things in the future.
A study of New Zealand schools where children were achieving great reading
results found a common theme between the schools was an emphasis on
reading for pleasure with the increase in skills a wonderful result of the
enjoyment NOT the main goal.
Some tips to remember for home to increase the "odometer tally" for your
children include; lots of books, lots of time, plenty of encouragement.
Don't panic if the books chosen aren't your thing or don't look like they
are extending your child – those reading miles are working away
regardless. And keep in my mind the end goal – creating a love of reading.
Happy Reading (miles!)
"Reading Magic" by Mem Fox.
"The Reading bug; and how to help your child catch it" by Paul Jennings.
"The book whisperer; awakening the inner reader in every child" by Donalyn
Back to the top
Why everyone needs a mouse in their cupboard!
This week I'm looking at the most consistently popular series of books in
our library – Geronimo Stilton! The Stilton books, including those about
his younger sister Thea, are a publishing phenomenon with sales figures
somewhere between 74 and 100 million books, translated into 36 languages
and 150 countries.
The books were first written in Italy by Elizabetta Dami and were
published in English in 2004 by Scholastic. There are also websites,
graphic novels, a live action stage show and a very successful animated
In the Awakeri School library we have 40 titles of Geronimo and Thea
Stilton books, 55 books altogether allowing for double ups – and it's very
rare to see more than 2 or 3 on the shelf!! These books are CONSTANTLY
out! According to the library log from the past year, the most popular
titles list placed Stilton books at 4 of the top 5 ("The Twits" by Roald
Dahl came in at number 3).
So what makes them so great? Firstly, they are funny, fa-mouse-ly funny
with great feel-good story lines. The writer of the adventures, a mouse
called Geronimo Stilton is an editor of a newspaper called "Rodent's
Gazette" and lives in New Mouse City on Mouse Island. He does not pretend
to be daring by nature but often finds himself in situations where he must
rescue others – showing the truest bravery. The books have cartoon-like
illustrations, harking back to the 60's classic cartoons, the characters
use lots of facial expressions, mice fall off cliffs with exaggerated
grimaces, cycling their feet for comic effect! The pages are very easy to
read because of the use of colour in the text, words leap out, breaking up
the black and white. Descriptive words are often picked out with clues
about their nature – for example 'Freezing" might appear in an icicle
style of font. But they are not just an easy-read, there is plenty of
scope for older kids with puns and word play (Geronimo Stilton is after
all a "Rattus Emeritus of Mousomorphic Literature and Neo-Ratonic
Comparative Philosophy!) Confident readers will delight in spotting
character and place names such as Hercule Poirat and the Mousific Ocean.
The stories often include Fact Files, giving background information
relating to the main story. For example "Geronimo and the gold medal
mystery" has more than ten pages about the Olympics, including ancient
history, modern facts, Paralympics and the chronometer. There is always a
happy ending too, with lots of emphasis on family and friends – and who
doesn't like to read books like that?
So, if you are looking for a great series to read and you have someone
aged between five and thirteen in your family, these are a wonderful
solution! You will find them in the Awakeri library in the Middle fiction
section under "S" for Stilton!! Or look out for them in all good book
shops, including second hand and charity shops. Back to the top
Reading and the Internet.
The internet is the ultimate user friendly resource with millions of
instant responses to any enquiry. But there are several drawbacks to this
easy technology, particularly for children and teens.
Firstly, running before you can walk. Cut and paste are marvellous tools
but used without a reasonable level of literacy skills behind them leads
to jumbled, nonsensical sentences that look great on a page but are often
empty words without true sense. We can re-interpret information for our
own use only when we fully comprehend it to begin with.
Information overload. The ability to sift through lots of information and
sources of information and select the most relevant for your own purpose
is a life skill, but is probably best learnt initially by having less
information to choose from. Just as in a restaurant, you might allow a ten
year old the whole menu to select from but would give two to three options
for a six year old - the same considerations for information access can be
Useful life skills are being lost. Spellcheck is great, but is an
automated response to certain letters in sequence – it doesn't necessarily
consider the sentence surrounding the word and it can be incorrect. Unlike
a dictionary, it doesn't allow for the skill of placing words in
alphabetical order to be practised or explored. Often seeing a word
alongside similar words helps to cement the spelling and understanding of
the original word.
Lack of serendipity. In a world where a skilfully worded enquiry leads
nanoseconds later to the specific information being sought, there is
little room for serendipity. That wonderful accidental loveliness that
occurs when we leaf through an encyclopaedia or wander through a library
and find the thing we were seeking as well as something else. Surely many
of the most wonderful things in life or the world, are accidental
discoveries – or at least inspired by accidental events?
So, my plea, (and my point!) is that the best and easiest way for the next
generation to fully wield the power of the internet and the information
ocean that surrounds us is to have a solid foundation of reading skills -
and those skills come from lots and LOTS of reading. The internet IS
amazing, it links people and information in a way that allows for easier
sharing than any other technology. But it is a tool and only a tool and
like most tools it is most useful when we have the skills to use it.
Writing and an appreciation of excellent writing comes from reading.
Improvement in spelling comes from reading. The ability to recognise when
information is relevant and appropriate can be developed by experiencing
the process again and again, gaining in skill each time. Reading, lots of
it, all different kinds of books, fiction, non-fiction, magazines,
journals and newspapers! So please keep hold of those encyclopaedias,
dictionaries and the almost extinct thesaurus! Teach and talk about what
an index is, how the alphabet fits together, to question the source of
information – print and electronic. Don't abandon learning to the mighty
mouse! Back to the top
Fabulous fiction for the Junior school.
New onto the picture book racks recently are a great crop of books perfect
for sharing with Mums, Dads and carers. Five to seven year-olds often go
through quite an upheaval of identity around this time. Suddenly there
seems like lots of choices to be made regarding how they see themselves
and how others see them. Friendships can be difficult to navigate, people
don't always behave how we would like them to and there's a realisation
that what is usual in your own family might be considered quite strange in
another. Being different and being ok with those differences as well as
being ok with OTHER peoples differences are common themes in picture
"Blue Gnu" by Kyle Mewburn. This book looks at someone who is so happy to
be different and unusual that he is positively dismayed when another Gnu
is blue too! A nice message about companionship and welcoming changes in
"Some dogs Do" by Jez Alborough. This author is also the creator behind
"Duck" books ("Duck in a truck", Fix-it-Duck") and his books always seem
to have a joyful feeling to them.
"Elfrida" by Klara Fall. This excellent book from Gecko press was
originally published in Austria but has immediate recognition with a kiwi
audience because of its sheep stars and the can-do attitude of Farmer Rob
"My Nana is a ninja" by Damon Young. A lovely reminder that people of all
ages can break away from the expectations of society.
"Charlie and Lola" books by Lauren Child. Look out for "I completely know
about Guinea Pigs" and "But excuse me that is my book". Lola is often
beset by the every-day dilemmas of the five to seven age range – sharing,
friendships, responsibility with pets and finding one's place in a family.
"Busy town" series by Richard Scarry, including "Harry and Larry the
Fishermen", "What do people do all day" and "Busy town Regatta". These
books have been around for a long time, and some of them perhaps are a
little quaint in a modern era of touch control everything, but they
effortlessly portray a wide variety of creatures getting along with one
another while still retaining their individuality.
"Mr Big" by Ed Vere. Being different can be lonely until the bridge of
music is discovered.
"Augustus and his Smile" by Catherine Rayner. A tiger finds the path to
happiness can lie within him-self.
Although we refer to the picture book area of the library as Junior, it is
available to all year groups and it is well-used by all ages. Picture
books often combine a lovely splash of humour with a message and all ages
can find something to admire in this colourful, lively section of the
library. Back to the top
This week's column is dedicated to Mrs Cronin who was passionate about
books, libraries and children, and connecting these three things together.
Mrs Cronin was the driving force behind the library upgrade and many of
the display ideas including the face-out bins for the junior picture books
are the realisation of years of planning.
Mrs Cronin was a firm believer in turning around struggling readers with
one positive reading experience, finding that one book or magazine that
switched on the light bulb and lead to a joy of reading. She was a strong
advocate of games that involved reading and thinking questions through and
for sophisticated picture books for older children to emphasis an
appreciation for illustration and a strong story line.
Mrs Cronin was very welcoming to me as a new staff member and we had many
discussions about favourite books. Below is a small sample of books,
publications and authors she particularly admired.
Roald Dahl – All his books, particularly "The giraffe, the Pelly and me"
and "Fantastic Mr Fox"
Anthony Browne – including "Zoo", in the Middle and Senior picture books
and "How do you feel?"
Gavin Bishop – including "Mr Whistler", "Bidibidi" and "Counting the stars
four Maori myths"
Margaret Mahy – including "Dashing dog", "Mister Whistler" and "The moon
and Farmer McPhee"
Margaret Wild – the beautiful "Fox" was a firm favourite in the
Middle/Senior picture books
Lynley Dodd – Hairy Maclary and all the gang
Kate De Goldi and Jacqui Colley – "Clubs" in the Middle/Senior picture books
Fables and legends – from all over the world, located in the 300's section
of the library
Kidz Mag – a great New Zealand publication with a mix of science, animals,
cooking and sports stories that appealed to a wide range of ages, we have
copies in the library but I don't believe this publication is still
Mr Bean's Amazing A to Z magazine – jam packed with interesting info
I'm sure there were many more books and her more than 350 past pupils
could name many that she read aloud or used as inspiration for art,
discussion and projects in her classes.
Mrs Cronin was tremendously stylish and charming and we will miss her
very much. The library is a tribute and testament to her and her faith in
the power of the written and spoken word. I hope we always honour that
faith by using the library and reading as often as we can.
Happy Reading Back to the top
Food and books! The tastiest list ever!
Perhaps it was the lovely hangi smells wafting over the tennis court
during Top School, or the delicious ice-creams and toffee apples
going past, but something made me think about food books this week. Most
of us, big or small, like to eat and there is always something attractive
about books featuring food, so here are ten taste-tingling stories to
build up an appetite!
The little mouse, the red ripe strawberry and the big hungry bear – Don
and Audrey Wood
The giant jam sandwich – John Vernon Lord (although only the birds get to
eat the sandwich in the end, it's a great description of the process of
making a sandwich – GIANT sized!)
Simply delicious – Margaret Mahy, the tale of a yummy ice-cream
Charlie and the chocolate factory, The giraffe, the Pelly and me – Roald
Dahl, although Charlie is the classic foodie story, the descriptions of
the sweets and the sweet shop called "The Grubber" in The giraffe, the
Pelly and me are wonderful too.
Pancake attack! – Dawn MacMillan, New Zealand author and includes a recipe
– doubly tempting!
The tiger who came to tea – Judith Kerr, a long-time favourite. I've
always wondered what might be in the tin of tiger food they buy at the end
of the story?
Pavlova and presents – John Parker. A book about a kiwi Christmas with a
beach bach setting, and the food featured in the story and illustrations
Green eggs and ham – Dr Seuss
The very hungry caterpillar – Eric Carle. Somehow, this book combines the
days of the week, the biology of caterpillars to butterflies and a subtle
message about the benefits of healthy eating (one green leaf after all
that other stuff!) AND have food that looks good enough to eat off the
page! Back to the top
Woof! Meow! Quack!
This week I thought I'd look at great animal stories. Lots of books
feature animals, but many give them human personalities in a furry
package. I've chosen books that show the animals acting true to nature –
although they may still talk to tell the story! Sometimes the animals are
the stars, sometimes they share the starring role with humans, but either
way, animal stories are some of the most popular books in our library.
Belinda – Pamela Allen.
Harry and Hopper – Margaret Wild.
Bat loves the night – Nicola Davies.
Monkey puzzle – Julia Donaldson.
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi – Rudyard Kipling.
Bo – Anna Kenna.
The butterfly lion, The amazing story of Aldophus Tips, Kaspar, prince of
cats – All Michael Morpurgo.
Animal Ark series – Lucy Daniels.
Buddy and Holly's story – Sarah Hawkins.
Puppy Place series – Ellen Miles.
Silver Dolphins series – Summer Waters.
The Mouse butcher – Dick King-Smith.
Sting - Raymond Huber.
Blitzcat – Robert Westall.
Fawn - Philip Holden.
The one and only Ivan - Katherine Applegate.
Because of Winn-Dixie – Kate di Camillo.
Wedgetail – Colin Thiele.
Caesar the war dog – Stephen Dando-Collins.
Little Truff series – Ann Russell.
Restless spirit – Susan Brocker.
Wilderness – Roddy Doyle.
This is a short list of the huge range of animal books available, a
tradition that perhaps began with Beatrix Potter and has remained popular
through to the present day. Hop, gallop, or swim on into the library and
check them out!
Happy (Grrr!) Reading!Back to the top
Fly the flag! Awesome New Zealand Authors!
It’s always nice to support home-grown talent. Here is a list of some of the books by great New Zealand authors we have in the library – it’s by no means complete and you’ll probably be able to think of a few more of your own favourites.
Picture books: Margaret Mahy – oodles of wonderful books by a national treasure including: “A summery Saturday morning”, “Dashing dog”, “The great white man-eating shark”, “Down the back of the chair” and “Bubble trouble” “The Kapai” series by Uncle Anzac – rhyming fun with a nice message about giving things a go “Hannah Bandanna’s Hair” by Nikki Slade-Robinson – local and lovely, a reminder to appreciate yourself in all your glory! Gavin Bishop – here are some of the titles by this amazing author and illustrator “Bruiser”, “The house that Jack built”, “Tom Thumb”, “Bidi Bidi” and “Rats!” “Grandma McGarvey” series by Jenny Hessell, marvellously illustrated by Trevor Pye – rocking her way through more than 22 years “The wreck of the Diddley” by Fatcat and Fishface, illustrated by Stephen Templer - darkly funny pirate tale and song.
Chapter books: “The Ozzie Kingsford” series by Val Bird, illustrated by Rebecca Cundy – great stories every kiwi kid can relate to Jack Lasenby – a truly original author, his series characters include “Aunt Effie”, “Harry Wakatipu” and “Uncle Trev” as well as stand alone titles such as “The Haystack” Joy Cowley – who can forget “The Wests” and “Snake and Lizard”? We also have her latest “Dunger” Stacey Gregg – hugely successful author of the “Pony club secrets” series as well as “The Princess and the foal” Fleur Beale – writes for a variety of ages, some of the titles we have from her are; “The Quin Majik” series, “Dirt Bomb”, “End of the alphabet” and “Slide the corner”
Non-Fiction books: “Life-size guide to...” New Zealand wild flowers, the beach, leaves, New Zealand Insects, plus many more by Andrew Crowe. These are magic books that make you want to grab your sneakers and head outdoors for the sheer pleasure of finding things to look at in the books! Maria Gill – a free-lance non-fiction writer who is also an excellent speaker and presenter, the titles we have from her include, “New Zealand hall of Fame”, “Save our seas” and “Eruption!” Kevin Boon – a former teacher and principal, this author has published over 100 non-fiction titles. Some of the series we have in the library include, “People in New Zealand history”, “New Zealand Disasters” and “Developments in New Zealand history”. Back to the top
Laugh your way to the last page!
Laughter is the best medicine so they say. It can also be a great hook into reading. Research tells us that a single book may be the catalyst for a turnaround in negative attitudes to reading. That is why we have some pretty funny books at the school library! A genuinely funny book is a delight to both confident readers and those who haven't quite found their feet yet – and I know from showing them to teachers that the funny bone craves a tickle at every age! Here's a list of my favourite funny books from the library – some are new, some have been cracking us up for years!
"Walter the farting dog" – We have two tales (tails!) about Walter and his amazing behind!
"Horrid Henry's joke book" – Knock, knocks and more.
"The Santa trap" – delightfully dastardly and a well deserved ending!
"Baa, baa smart sheep" – we have two copies of this hilarious favourite.
"Diary of a Wimpy kid" – Greg Heffley, he's not very self aware, but he is funny.
"The story of the little mole who knew it was none of his business" – Getting to the bottom of the mystery!
"The wonky donkey" – mad-cap kiwi tongue-twister.
"Captain Underpants" – puns of fun and adventure.
"Underpants wonderpants" – underwear, it's just funny!
"It's a book" – pokes fun at people obsessed with technology AND promotes the joy of reading, this might just be my favourite book ever!
"Fix-it duck" – Duck DIY? Not very successfully!
"Are you my mother?" – snort!
"The 26 storey tree house" – Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton, chapter book chuckles.
"The three bears… sort of" – Pernickety perfection makes for perfect humour.
"Rosie to the rescue" – Very kiwi dairy farm adventure, complete with farmer in his tractor onesies!
"The wreck of the Diddley" by Fatcat and Fishface – more kiwi originality.
"The stinky cheese man and other fairly stupid tales" – twisted classics.
"Revolting Rhymes" – Roald Dahl deserves a spot on any funny list.
"The slightly annoying elephant" – always read the fine print!
I'm sure I've missed lots off this list! Why not find a new LOL this year or revisit a well thumbed favourite from the past? Funny books are a natural choice to kick start a conversation for the whole family -maybe go around the dinner table and find out everyone's best giggle book?
Very Happy reading!
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There have been some changes to the library over the last few years so here is an overview of how the library works. The librarians name (that’s me, I write the library column too) is Mrs White, some classes call me Margo and I am in the library Tuesday to Friday. Mrs Cronin is the teacher with Library responsibility and oversees myself and the running of the library. Books are divided between Fiction (made-up stories) and Non-fiction (facts or information). It is a great idea to discuss these words and check everyone is clear about their meaning. The Fiction section is divided into Junior, Middle and Senior sections. The Non-fiction is divided into Junior Non-Fiction and General Non-fiction. These areas are flexible to some degree, no-one is prevented from reading below their age area and very confident readers can discuss with their teachers reading specific books from an older section. Books are issued for two weeks, with an option to re-issue if needed. Juniors are allowed up to three books, Middle and Senior school are allowed up to five. The book allowance was increased because many studies have shown that greater freedom to choose books leads to wider reading and more of it. The pressure to choose one perfect book can be overwhelming, choosing more takes that pressure away, even if not all five books are ultimately read, creating confidence and a sense of personal style leads to more reading. At the end of two weeks if the book is not returned a picture alarm appears on the library computer when the child comes in with their class. They will be spoken to and reminded about the overdue book or books - we do not charge late fees or prevent borrowing while the book is overdue. Overdue letters are sent out a few times a term. We prefer to have the item returned rather than the money and children are encouraged to actively search for missing books and not to rely on others doing the job for them. (I often say “must be time to tidy your room!”) Accidents occur, sometimes books are damaged – it’s best to return the book, regardless of its state and explain what happened. Owning up is one of life’s lessons and I’m often in the library before school and after if this makes it easier. Parents are welcome along as moral support or even a note is appreciated. One excellent way to care for books is to have a book bag. I also recommend a box in a visible place at home, books can be read and returned to the box easily and are handy ready for library day and it’s a great opportunity to discuss and share what your child is reading and interested in. A book box can be especially useful if children live in two homes. Individual classes come in to the library at least once a week – talk to your child or their teacher to clarify what is library day for them. The library is open at lunchtime when it is cared for by student librarians trained by Mrs Cronin – and it’s a busy place! There are games, magazines and jigsaws available as well as books and many children make use of the space. Modern school libraries are colourful, bright and deliberately eye-catching. Voluntary reading for pleasure is one of the most important indicators for future success and the school library actively encourages your children to read for themselves – regardless of how fast or at what level they read, they are readers. I hope the year ahead is a great one for your family to read and talk and extend horizons through books. Happy Reading!Back to the top
What’s hot in the shops!
Usually I only review or recommend books that we have in our school library but I thought I’d do a quick list of hot books in the shops this festive season. Most of them I’ve either had a thorough look through or they are the latest release from tried and tested writers. Sometimes a new book that everyone else is reading can be a great incentive for a reluctant reader but remember to always keep your own child’s age and interests firmly in mind when buying – what is right for one person is not right for another. The important thing over summer is to KEEP reading – make it fun and trendy, not a chore. Picture books “The slightly annoying elephant” by David Walliams – just as funny as his chapter books. “The highway rat” by Julia Donaldson – based on the poem “the Highwayman”, great rhymes, brilliant pictures, by the same illustrator as “The Gruffalo”, absolute winner! “The further adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat” by Julia Donaldson – she is just a genius. This one is illustrated by Charlotte Voake. Chapter books The “Dinosaur Rescue” series by Kyle Mewburn – local talent! Gross out dinosaur humour with a wide appeal. Look out for individual titles or the two compilations, Books 1-4 in “Megasauraus Mashup #1” and then books 5-8 in “Megasauraus Mashup #2”. “Geronimo Stilton” series by Geronimo Stilton– this series is crazy popular at school! It has huge appeal for boys and girls across a very wide age range. “Thea Stilton” series – aimed at girls from the same makers as Geronimo. “Demon dentist” by David Walliams – recent figures put this relatively new writer’s sales (in the UK) at £13 million. Kids are certainly talking about his books, they are illustrated by Quentin Blake (best known as Roald Dahl’s illustrator) and are funny and imaginative – get in and look trendy with this one! “Diary of a Wimpy kid” by Jeff Kinney – another trendy book, the latest title is “Hard luck”. “The princess and the foal” by Stacy Gregg – from the writer of the “Pony Club secrets” series, based on a true story this book sounds lovely. Get it for the horse-mad girl in your family! “Guiness World Records 2014” – something for everyone to gasp at! “Heroes of Olympus” series by Rick Riordan – the latest book in this huge series is “The house of Hades”. Based on Greek and Roman gods with plenty of action and a modern twist.
Have a great and safe summer! Happy holiday reading!
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The best three gifts to give your children these holidays.
With the long summer holidays nearly here it’s a great time to enjoy our children and to spend the kind of quality time with them that can slip past during the rest of the year. I’ve been inspired by some great quotes about books, kids and reading and it comes down to three gifts any one can give the children in their lives.
The first gift is simple – books. By giving books I’m not just referring to those that come sparkly and new and wrapped in shiny paper, but books from all sources. New books, old books, second-hand books, library books, the books left over from when you were a child, the books your neighbour is giving away because they are moving – books are everywhere and often they are free or very low cost. Fill your home with them – all kinds. It’s nice to remind everyone that something doesn’t need to recharge, down load or have an X or i in its name to be worthwhile and entertaining. “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” ¯ Stephen King A good book is any book that holds your child’s attention – it doesn’t matter if it looks a bit scruffy – it’s the story inside that’s important. "Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him."~ Maya Angelou, poet
The second gift is Yourself and a book. By that I mean it’s the perfect time to relax and share yourself and books by reading aloud, talking about books or just kicking back on a drowsy afternoon and reading your own book. Reading aloud to your child has been consistently mentioned in improving educational outcomes for children – and it is effective regardless of family income. It is the ultimate no cost solution. "There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all." ~ Jacqueline Kennedy “I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn't be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.” ¯ Roald Dahl
The third gift we can give is Time. The time to read, to daydream and to get lost in a great book. Don’t schedule every minute of the day with activities and then be surprised that your children don’t often pick up a book – and watch out for those ultimate time nibblers, those with the x and i in their names. “I really had a lot of dreams when I was a kid, and I think a great deal of that grew out of the fact that I had a chance to read a lot.” ¯ Bill Gates Books really can change a child’s life – by letting them experience other people’s lives, by expanding their ability to remember details and concepts, and by helping to develop empathy for other people and other points of view. “We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel... is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” ¯ Ursula K. Le Guin And don’t overlook that amazing sense of accomplishment that happens when a child finishes a book and slaps it down with a self-satisfied grin knowing it was their personal choice to persevere and get to the end – to truly read for pleasure. So please consider these three gifts these holidays – the love of reading is a life long gift that has worth on every scale you can think of. "Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.” ¯ Carl Sagan
Happy summer reading.
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Famous poets you’ve never heard about. Last week I wrote about the origins of nursery rhymes which have been lost or distorted in the mists of time. The poems this week are so well known that we almost assume them to have no original author and to have sprung from folk songs – but here is a group of rhymes and poems that most of us know well or at least a little but may not have ever heard of the authors.
According to the Guinness book of World Records the most popular song in the English speaking world is “Happy Birthday”. This song was created by American sisters Patty and Mildred Hill, and is based on an earlier song they wrote for a kindergarten class called “Good Morning to you”. The tune and lyrics for “good morning” were first published in 1893 and it wasn’t published with the familiar “Happy birthday” lyrics until 1912 – the sisters saying they had changed the lyrics to incorporate the birthday words because people seemed to enjoy singing the simple song so much. Interestingly, the Warner/Chappell Company own the copyrights to the song, legally it can’t be sung for profit unless royalties are paid to them - in 2008 they listed an income of $5,000 per day from it!
“Twinkle, twinkle little star” was written in 1806 by Jane Taylor. The full poem has six verses and was originally entitled simply “The star”. Jane Taylor was born in England in 1783 and died in 1824. She and her sister Ann wrote many poems for children, and this one was included in their book “Rhymes for the nursery”, 1806. The tune of the poem comes from France and has been used in many ways including a variation for “Baa Baa Black Sheep”.
“The Teddy Bears Picnic”. These lyrics were written in 1932 by the Irish song writer Jimmy Kennedy (1902-1984) who made a career of setting lyrics to other peoples tunes, in this case “The teddy bears two-step” by John Walter Bratton. In his career Kennedy wrote around 2,000 songs including that other party favourite “The Hokey Cokey”. The traditional New Years Eve song comes from the poem “Auld Lang Syne” by Robert Burns and was first published in 1788. Burns said that he had “took it down from an old man” and the poem is most likely much older. “Auld Lang Syne” literally translates to “old long since” but can be interpreted as “long, long ago” or “days gone by”. Sung at Hogmanay (New Years Eve) in Scotland it spread quickly via emigration to most of the English speaking world.
Poems are such a rich source of history and culture – and not just the kind of culture that is prim and proper. There can be a little bit of snobbery with poetry as if it’s a bit too posh for everyday life – but the poems that endure are often the simple ones that are said and sung and remembered because they made people happy or meant something personal to them. Let’s celebrate all forms of poetry – poems, nursery rhymes, limericks and songs, everyday. After all, not many things in life are free and yet make us richer at the same time.
Happy poetry reading.
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The hidden history of Nursery Rhymes.
We all know Nursery rhymes belong in the nursery because they are so cute
and harmless, right? WRONG!! Here are some of the fascinating and
sometimes horrifying "true" stories behind the rhymes.
Three Blind Mice: The eldest daughter of Henry the 8th, the Catholic Queen
Mary 1 of England is the farmer's wife in the poem and the three unlucky
mice were Protestant bishops called Latimer, Cranmer and Ridley – burned
at the stake for their beliefs!
Bobby Shaftoe: The real Robert Shafto was a resident of Ireland in the
1700's who broke the heart of a young lady called Bridget Belasyse when he
married some one else. Poor Bridget died within two weeks of hearing the
Humpty Dumpty: No he wasn't a real person – but he was a cannon! During
the English civil war of 1642-1649 supporters of James the First captured
the city of Colchester used a giant cannon which they then mounted on a
high church tower. Later the tower was destroyed and the cannon fell into
marshland below. Although it was retrieved it could not be restored.
Here's the full rhyme:
"In sixteen hundred and forty-eight
When England suffered pains of state
The Roundheads laid siege to Colchester town
Where the King's men still fought for the crown.
There one-eyed Thompson stood on the wall
A gunner with the deadliest aim of all
From St Mary's tower the cannon he fired
Humpty Dumpty was his name.
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty Dumpty together again!"
Little Miss Muffet: Dr Thomas Muffet was an entomologist in the late 16th
Century and he or possibly one of his friends wrote this rhyme for his
step-daughter Patience Muffet. Incidentally a tuffet is a low footstool
without legs – it also rhymes so beautifully with Muffet!
Pop goes the weasel: This rhyme is probably derived from 1700s Cockney
rhyming slang, since pop refers to pawning an item for money and a stoat
and weasel is a winter jacket – hence all the money disappears on food and
drink and Pop! Goes the weasel. The Eagle was a well known public house
where Charles Dickens is said to have visited.
Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle,
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
To be perfectly fair, a lot of the so called history behind popular
Nursery Rhymes has been disputed – many poems have several people or
events they could be about. But it is fun speculating and discussing the
different theories – there is a lot of real history to be looked at on the
way. It's a great chance to add some words to our lives that we may not
come across any where else – words like bonny, tuffet, curds and whey! So
dust off your nursery rhyme books and sing your way through history!
Happy (Nursery Rhyme) reading!
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Poetry from the net.
This week I did a bit of a snoop on the net and found some Websites which have poetry read aloud. There are LOTS of Websites available but it is more difficult to find good child-friendly ones, so I hope this is useful for anyone still nervous about reading aloud themselves.
The best one (I think anyway!) is http://www.poetryarchive.org/childrensarchive/home.do This is a lovely, bright colourful site which is easy to use and has around 180 poems. You can search by theme, style, poem title or poet. The loveliest thing about the site is that, where possible, the poems are recorded by the poets themselves. I listened to "On the Ning Nang Nong" by Spike Milligan (with Spike giggling near the end!) "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf" by Roald Dahl and "I wish I'd looked after me teeth" from Pam Ayres. The site does detail which book the poems are from - and there are hints to buy the books and CD's but other than that it's relatively ad free. Another site worth a look is www.poetry4kids.com/ the home of Kenn Nesbitt the (USA) children's Poet Laureate - a very bright and busy site. The easiest way to access the audio poems is to go to the Main Menu on the left-hand side, click on Podcast and then the small speaker symbol above each poem - there is no need to subscribe to the podcast. The poems are read by the author and are generally medium to short in length and great fun. (There is a bit of advertising around the edges of the site - mostly for things like toothpaste and insurance.) Shel Silverstein is probably my favourite children's poet, and if you haven't heard of him track him down today. His poems are playful and inventive and they are illustrated to perfection by the author too. You'll find Shel at http://www.shelsilverstein.com To access the poems go to the home page, click on Shel's books then choose one and click again, then drop down to the bottom of the page underneath "animations". Some are read, some have music playing with the words running along. I recommend "Falling Up' and the poem "The toy-eater". The last website I'm recommending isn't specifically for children so keep that in mind when you access it - but it is a vast site with great classic poetry. Try http://classicpoetryaloud.podmatic.com/ The voice over person is a little melodramatic but it suits most of the poems on there. Try Wilfred Owens war poems for older children and Kipling, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Samuel taylor Coleridge and Edward Lear. It has some hilarious pictures and paintings of the authors too. None of these sites required me to add complicated updates to my (rather old) home computer and none required any kind of subscription or log-in. Nothing can replace you reading aloud to your child but perhaps these websites might provide some inspiration. Happy (poetry) Reading!
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November is poetry month in the library and each week there will be a new
display of poems, many chosen by staff as old favourites. (If you look
carefully you may see some written by people you know too!) So why do we
all need poetry?
Some recent brain scan research by the University of Liverpool found that
reading poetry caused activity in the part of our brain that controls
"autobiographical memory" – that is, poems make us think of things
personal to us, instantly. Even a poem we don't fully understand will
probably create some kind of emotional connection. Some people believe
that poetry is so appealing to humans because it mimics natural body
rhythms – breathing and heart beats.
Whatever the science, we all have poems in our lives – from the jingle on
the radio, to the lullaby our grandparents sung, to skipping rhymes and
chants at school. Poetry teaches some great language skills – pretty much
without us even noticing. Listening carefully is a skill, when something
has a repetitive rhythm that we notice and start to anticipate, that's a
lesson learnt. Attention to detail, concentration, patience and problem
solving - poetry encourages all these things. Language parts like
syllables, alliteration, metaphor, visual imagery, it's all in a poem –
even in something as short and well known as "Twinkle, Twinkle little
Ideas for Poetry at home:
1. If you already read aloud at bedtime or whenever – throw some poetry in
there too. Maybe set one night aside as poem night or try to make a point
of reading an appropriate poem every now and then, such as for the first
day of Spring or Guy Fawkes. If you DON'T already read aloud at home –
2. Stop by your local library and check out the poetry section – you'll
find them in the 800's. Check the kids AND the adult sections.( A word of
warning, by all means read adult poems if you think they will appeal to
your children but always read it to yourself FIRST – poems can have strong
emotions and strong language.)
3. Encourage the kids to borrow from the Awakeri school library, in the
800's we have a great selection of poem books on topics including –
dragons, air, big trucks, food, cats, school, animals – you name it.
4. Ask the older members of the family if they had to learn poems for
school – they probably still remember them. Poetry is like that, it sticks
5. Try writing your own – make one up about how special your child is to
you and pop it in their next birthday card. It might feel a little naked,
but I bet they remember it forever.
6. Check out these poets as a starter selection: Ogden Nash, Jack
Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, A.A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr Seuss,
Edward Lear, Margaret Mahy, Colin McNaughton, Eleanor Farjeon, James K.
Baxter, Pam Ayres.
Happy (poetry) reading.
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This week the library page is celebrating the Awakeri School 100 year Jubilee with a list of stories that have been entertaining the world for 100 years and more! These books have been written and often re-written many times and the school library holds some in their original, full version and some in wildly adapted modern interpretations. I have included some notes to give an idea about the background of some.
Junior: "Aladdin and the wonderful lamp" C. Carrick – From the French translation of the Arabian Nights in 1710
"The House that Jack Built" E. Bolam – First appeared in print 1755
"Mother Hubbard" Gavin Bishop – 1805
"The owl and the pussycat" Edward Lear, with Jan Brett illustrations – originally published 1870's
"The tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny" Beatrix Potter – 1902
Middle: "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" Robert Browning – Earliest mention on a stained glass window in a church in Hamelin (Germany) around 1300
"What Katy did" Susan Coolidge -1872
"Heidi grows up" C Tritten from the original by Johanna Spyri – 1880
"Pinocchio" Carlo Collodi – 1883 first published in weekly instalments in an Italian newspaper for children
"Wonderful wizard of Oz" Frank L. Baum – 1900
Senior: "Gulliver's travels" Jonathon Swift - Much copied original from 1726
"20,000 leagues under the sea" Jules Verne – 1869
"Black Beauty" Anna Sewell – 1877 the library has several different versions of this story including a graphic novel version, enduringly popular
"Moonfleet" J Meade Falkner -1898
"Anne of Green Gables" Lucy Maud Montgomery – 1908, since its publication this story has sold more than 50 million copies and been translated into 20 languages
All these amazing books that have stood the test of time are available at the Awakeri school library. Please note the authors listed above are for the particular copies that we have at our library and that some of these stories have had multiple authors and versions created in their long histories.
Isn't it amazing to think that reading one of these books is not only entertaining but it makes you part of a long line of generations of people from all over the world who have read the same stories – in a way you're taking part in history too.
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Reading Aloud for Adults
It is mentioned in countless studies and surveys, the importance of reading aloud to children – not just pre-schoolers but as a way of inspiring and extending the reading of older children too. But it can be daunting to know where to begin, particularly if reading aloud wasn’t part of your own childhood or you feel uncomfortable reading aloud.
The best thing to remember is that you can’t really go wrong – just getting to spend time with you snuggled close looking at books together creates positive feelings. The books you choose to read aloud need only suit two people – you and your child. With that in mind here are a few tips to help you begin.
- 1. Skim read to yourself before you read it aloud – that way you won’t get surprised by plot twists or words you weren’t expecting.
- 2. Pause lots and stay calm and even with volume and mood. If it goes a bit wrong laugh or shrug it off and start the sentence or section again. You will get better – and even if you feel like it wasn’t great, chances are, your child will only remember the great feeling being together created.
- 3. Start easy and work up towards longer and more difficult – if in doubt, go funny.
- 4. It’s okay to repeat the same book.
- 5. Try to create a pleasurable habit of reading rather than using it as another piece of ammunition in a reward/punishment cycle.
If you wanted more in-depth information about reading aloud to children here are three books available from the Whakatane Public library.
“Reading Magic: Why reading aloud to our children will change their lives forever” Mem Fox. Focuses on pre-schoolers but inspiring and useful tips for older children too.
“The reading bug… and how to help your child catch it” Paul Jennings. Light-hearted and interesting tips- very easy to read without being preachy.
“The Reading promise: my father and the books we shared” Alice Ozma. True story of Alice and her father and the pledge he made to read aloud to her for 100 days – great inspiration for reading to older kids.
Some books from our school library: Listed from Junior to Senior but interest in a subject is the best guideline to use – if you both like the look of it, give it a try.
The Amazing machines series by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker, including “Amazing Aeroplanes”,
“Brilliant Boats”, “Cool Cars” and “Roaring Rockets”. Factual information, told in an easy-going rhyming format.
Julia Donaldson, including “Room on the broom”, “The Gruffalo” and “Monkey puzzle”. Pretty much everything by Julia Donaldson is great to read aloud – perhaps because she writes lots of poems and songs, so everything flows well.
“The little yellow digger”, Betty and Alan Gilderdale
“The Wonkey Donkey”,Craig Smith.
Nature Story books range, including “Think of an eel”, “Big blue whale”, “White Owl, Barn Owl”.
“Are you my mother?” PD Eastman.
Traditional stories like Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood, The house that Jack built, read around a little until you find versions that work for you.
Roald Dahl, including “Fantastic Mr Fox”, “Matilda”, “James and the giant Peach” and “BFG” for younger/less patient, working up to “Boy” and “Danny, the champion of the world” when you’re ready for longer.
“The Stinky Cheese man: and other fairly stupid tales” Jon Sieszka – pokes fun at traditional tales.
“Zac Power” series, HI Larry, boy spy, fast-paced, short chapters.
“Tale of Despereaux”, Kate Di Camillo.
“Little house on the Prairie” series, Laura Ingalls Wilder, fresh for a new audience.
“Harry Potter” series, JK Rowling.
Greek and Roman legends, having someone else read those tricky names aloud like Icarus and Pegasus might be all the encouragement needed to tackle these great stories for themselves.
“A series of Unfortunate events” series, Lemony Snickert.
“The power of One”, Bryce Courtenay, (Young readers edition)
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"What I read in the holidays!"
Over the holidays I had a great chance to read some of the books in the library. A couple are new into the library and I had only read about them via other peoples reviews and by the awards they'd won, and some were books that have been calling me from the shelves for a while.
"Bumble-Ardy" by Maurice Sendak. This is the last creation from Maurice Sendak - most famous for "Where the wild things are". There are very few words in this book and at first glance didn't seem to have much to it – but there are stories hidden within each page with speech bubbles of dialogue and little hints and clues for the beady eyed. It probably isn't my favourite read aloud but more of a book to be pored over and discovered page by page.
David Walliams is a new author to our library and is being touted as the new Roald Dahl so I was curious to check out his books.
First, "Billionaire Boy", this was very funny, with lots and lots of toilet humour – not surprising when the main characters Dad invented toilet paper with double action wet and dry sides! Joe Spud may be very rich (his Dad gave him $2 million dollars for his birthday) but despite mansions, full sized formula one cars and two pet crocodiles, he is lonely, and it his search for a true friend that is at the heart of the story. There are lots of hilarious characters in this book, I laughed out loud lots of times, my favourite was probably the lunch lady Mrs Trafe and her revoltingly imaginative food – vegetarian deep-fried Blu-tack anyone?
Another David Walliams book on the shelves is "Gangsta Granny", nope nothing to do with rap music, she's a jewel thief! Lots of fart jokes in this one because Ben's Granny loves cabbage, that's cabbage soup, cabbage roast, cabbage chocolate, cabbage surprise… well you get the idea. This is a lovely book with plenty of laughs again and enough puns and twists in the plot to keep your attention to the end.
"Mr Stink" - probably my favourite of the three books, because of its lovely balance of warmth and humour. Poor Chloe is not appreciated by her family and befriends the local tramp, something her social climbing mother Mrs Crumb (pronounced Croooome) won't allow for long.
David Walliams books are strictly for those aged 6 to 86, and yes, Roald Dahl fans will love him.
Something quite different was the much praised "A monster calls". This book has won at least five major book awards including the two most prestigious British awards the Carnegie and the Kate Greenaway medals. "A monster calls" is the desperately sad and honest story of a twelve year old boy slowly losing his mother to cancer. But the book isn't the equivalent of a made-for-TV-weepie, it has lots of layers and strands to the story which roll around in your head for a few days until you find some kind of peace within. I think this story will touch the heart of everyone who reads it, but will mean different things to each person. Dark and angry, beautiful and savage, this is not an easy book, but it is powerful and deserving of its awards.
And the last book I'm mentioning in these reviews is "Redwall" by Brian Jacques, which I have flicked through lots of times but never read. My goodness - I couldn't put it down! This book has so much action I was absolutely hooked from about five pages in. There's battles, journeys, riddles, double agents, heroism – everything you could want in an adventure book. It's true that the characters are all animals but there is nothing cutesy or Disney-fied about this book, their personalities seemed to flow quite naturally from what kind of creature they are and it doesn't distract from the believability of the world. The main character Matthias is a little mouse training to be a brother monk at the Abbey of Redwall, when the peaceful life there is threatened by Cluny, a bilge rat – one of the most devious and truly heartless baddies you will ever find in a book. Although the series is huge this was a perfectly rounded stand alone book which I would recommend as a personal read for older kids or a read out loud for younger – although not for anyone too squeamish.
"Bumble-Ardy", Maurice Sendak – Junior Picture book
"Billionaire boy", "Gangsta Granny" and "Mr Stink", all by David Walliams – Middle Fiction
"A monster calls", Patrick Ness, from an idea from Siobhan Dowd – Senior Fiction
"Redwall", by Brian Jacques – Senior Fiction
Anyone who would like to review a book on the libraries OPAC computers is welcome to do so, just ask Mrs White or your teacher if you need help.
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This week's column was inspired by all the stars of the school production.
It was obvious from the performances that everyone was striving for
excellence - so this week the theme is excellence! All of the books listed
are in our library and have won a notable children's book award. Some are
very recent winners, some are older, but all are worth reading.
Newbery Medal/Honour books (USA awarded since 1922)
Junior - "Dr De Soto"; William Steig
Middle - "The One and only Ivan": Katherine Applegate
- " The graveyard Book"; Neil Gaiman
- "Hatchet"; Gary Paulsen
- "Island of the blue dolphins"; Scott O'Dell
Senior - "Dead end in Norvelt"; Jack Gantos (coming soon)
- "When you reach me"; Rebecca Stead
- "Out of the dust"; Karen Hesse
- "A wrinkle in time"; Madeline l'Engle
- "The wanderer"; Sharon Creech
Randolph Caldecott Picture book Medal/Honour (USA since 1938)
Junior - "What do you do with a tail like that?"; Steve Jenkins
- "Olivia"; Ian Falconer
- "No David!"; David Shannon
Carnegie Medal/Honour books (UK since 1937)
Middle - '"Skellig"; David Almond
Senior - " A Monster calls"; Patrick Ness (coming soon)
- "Watership Down"; Richard Adams
Kate Greenaway picture book award (UK since 1957)
Junior - "Long Neck and Thunder foot'; Helen Piers, Illus. Michael Foreman
- "Dogger"; Shirley Hughes
- "Can't you sleep little bear?"; Martin Waddell, Illus. Barbara
Middle/Senior picture book
- "Little Mouse's big book of fears"; Emily Gravett
- "Pirate Diary"; Richard Platt, Illus. Chris Riddell
Non-Fiction (listed under 800's Poetry)
- "The Highwayman"; Alfred Noyes, Illus. Charles Keeping
Children's Book Council of Australia (since 1946)
Junior - "The very best of friends"; Margaret Wild, Illus. Julie Vivas
Middle/Senior picture book
- "Fox"; Margaret Wild, Illus. Ron Brooks
New Zealand Post Children's book Awards (since 1982 allowing for name
Middle - "Hollie Chips"; Anna Gowan
- "Old Drumble"; Jack Lasenby
- "Sting"; Raymond Huber
Senior - "The silent one"; Joy Cowley
- "Battle of Pook Island"; Jack Lasenby
(Lots of wonderful winners have been overlooked on these lists because
they have been mentioned for other reasons in previous library columns. I
hope there are some surprises and new favourites for all age groups listed
This is a small sample of the award-winning books we have at the library -
come in and grab a couple before the rainy holidays set in!
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Hi there! I'm a library book! I love my job, being read and cuddled by
lots of children every year makes me feel happy! BUT some things make me
unhappy. To help everyone care for me and my friends here are two lists to
talk about with your teachers and carers.
Library books LOVE…
To be in a book bag – I stay dry and safe inside, if you don't have a book
bag use a plastic bag
Bookmarks – any piece of clean dry paper or card will do or make a special
To be read and showed to your carers at home– that way I don't get forgotten
When you turn my pages from the outside edge – then I don't get ripped
To be in the same safe place each time I go to your house – if you live in
two houses make a safe place in each house and talk about it with your
carers (maybe a nice dry box in the kitchen or lounge)
Library books HATE…
Water – drink bottles, milkshakes, swimming pools, rain, bathrooms, all of
these places make my pages wrinkle and even when I dry out I go mouldy and
then I have to be thrown away
Food in bags next to me – especially squishy food like fruit
Being carried around loose in school bags for weeks – it makes my pages
Our pages being bent over or lying face down on our tummies – use a bookmark
People who draw or write on us – if there is a puzzle or activity to do,
photocopy the page and colour/draw on the copy
Dogs and cats – keep me away from pets
When people try to fix us at home – accidents and wear happen, but take us
back to school because Mrs White has the right tools to fix us
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The stories behind the stories
As a writer, Roald Dahl worked hard in his little garden shed with the
yellow door. He wrote and re-wrote some of his stories many times over.
Some of those stories are based on events from his life.
"The witches" - as mentioned in the column last week, both Roald Dahl's
parents were Norwegian. Many of the details about Norway in "The witches",
came from memories of his summer holidays spent there. The grandmother in
the story is based on his own mother.
"Charlie and the chocolate factory" - Roald Dahl loved chocolate, as a
child and as an adult. (Although he hated chocolate cake!). In his little
shed he kept a giant ball of silver foil from chocolate bars he'd eaten.
The original draft of "Charlie" had many more children in it including,
Wilbur Rice, Tommy Troutbeck, Clarence Crump and Miranda Piker.
"The BFG" - Roald Dahl was said to be very fond of the character of the
BFG because he valued kindness above all other virtues. The Big Friendly
Giant started as a bedtime story for his own children, Olivia, Tessa,
Ophelia and Lucy. The BFG is mentioned in "Danny, the champion of the
world" as a folklore character, before finally getting a book of his own
in 1982, with the main character named after Roald Dahl's grand-daughter
Sophie - the only family member to have a character named after them.
"Danny, the champion of the world" - as a child Roald Dahl was friends
with a man called Claude, who worked as a butcher but whose hobby was
poaching. It was said that Roald Dahl never caught anything during their
night raids to catch pheasants in the woods, but that he never forgot the
Sometimes, ideas would come to Roald Dahl at odd moments, when they did he
would scribble them into a notebook. The idea for "The Twits" started as
just a sentence "do something against beards". Roald Dahl was quite famous
in his dislike of beards and would sometimes refuse to speak to men who
One last fun fact - 'James and the giant peach" was inspired by the fruit
trees that grew around Roald Dahl's hut - although the first fruit to
inspire him were apples. But he did also consider plums, pears and
cherries before deciding on a peach for the story!
I hope everyone gets to read or listen to at least one Roald Dahl story in
the next week, Happy Reading!
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This week we are remembering the great Roald Dahl.
Although he was born in Wales, near Cardiff, in 1916, both Roald Dahl's parents were Norwegian. His life seems to be characterised by tremendous highs and lows. His sister and father died within weeks of each other when Dahl was only three. His mother chose to remain in England so that Dahl and his two remaining sisters could attend English schools. Repton, the boarding school Dahl was sent to, received packages of experimental chocolate from the nearby Cadbury factory – perhaps contributing to Dahl's love of chocolate! While not a brilliant student Dahl seems to have had a great zest for life and sports and went on to fly with the Royal air Force in World War two. He was married twice and suffered tremendous tragedies again as an adult. The first was when his son Theo was injured in an accident which left him for a short time with hydrocephalus, then losing a daughter Olivia to measles encephalitis and finally, almost losing his first wife Patricia to a series of strokes while pregnant with their fifth child. He was married to his second wife, Felicity- known as Liccy, for only seven years before his own death in 1990. But despite, or perhaps because of his sad and eventful life, Dahl has written some of the most enduringly popular children's fiction of all time. Over 100 million copies of his 50 books have sold worldwide, and been translated into over 40 different languages! What makes his books so special? It is probably because children are often the "voice" of the story, and on the whole children are shown to be clever, resourceful, kind and heroic. The stories are often cheerfully gruesome with a strong sense of right and wrong – baddies often meet deservedly sticky ends! Also, the language is very joyous and playful, words like gobblefunk and frobscottle. Roald Dahl day – his birthday 13 September, is celebrated in the UK, Africa, Australia, Latin America and New Zealand. In the library this year we will celebrate on September 10, 11, 12 and 13, with a range of quizzes and activities, handy hints and clues around the walls, posters and quotes and maybe some chocolate too. Although we won't have a dressing up day as such, for anyone interested Yellow was Roald Dahl's favourite colour and everyone is welcome to wear it. For more information talk to your class teachers or check the Roald Dahl website www.roalddahl.com/
Don't forget to check out these great books at the Library-
James and the giant peach
Charlie and the chocolate factory
Charlie and the great glass elevator
The magic finger
Fantastic Mr Fox
Danny, champion of the world
The enormous crocodile
George's marvellous medicine
The giraffe and the pelly and me
Boy- tales of childhood
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Reading - it's not just in books, it's EVERYWHERE!!
Sometimes it is easy to think that we need special things or equipment to
have a meaningful impact on our childrens' learning - when really everyday
life gives us lots of opportunities!
Make a cookbook - a school exercise book is perfect, then start collecting
those family recipes. Mum's special pumpkin soup? Macaroni cheese? Kids
can write it down, copy it out or take a photo and write a caption. Ring
up Nanna, collect everyone's favourites. Look in old magazines, in the
newspaper, library books - you'll start to see recipes pop up everywhere!
Going somewhere? Put the map in the backseat. Point out the roadsigns,
check them off the map - if nothing else you'll be able to ask THEM, "Are
we there yet?"
Staying home? Find the map in the front of the local phone book. Get the
kids to find where all their favourite things around town are.
Let them plan a route around town, then make a picnic and follow their plan.
Television List - have the kids plan out their TV viewing (with days and
times) for the week and make up a chart - have them evaluate which ones
are really their favourites and what gets watched just because the TV is
Shopping lists - Write one out together or make a simplified one just for
them. Take them shopping, look at prices and tick things off - everyone
loves to tick a list!
Family Rules - Yes, just like the SuperNanny! Get the whole family to help
write them up and put them somewhere to be read often. Make sure there are
a couple of rules that apply to grownups - the kids will keep a close eye
on those ones!
Letters and postcards - Encourage everyone you can think of to send
postcards to your family, it's easy to forget how great it feels to get
one. Also, consider making a "Flat Stanley" - that is a cut out drawing of
a boy( it could be a girl) who fits inside an envelope and gets posted to
far flung places. If the person at the other end can take a photo of
Stanley and then post him and the photo back, it makes for a pretty
exciting experience for everyone. (I once met an older couple from
California who were holidaying with a "Stanley" for their grand-daughter -
I think they enjoyed asking strangers to take the photos for them!)
All of these things involve reading, writing and talking. Find which ideas
the kids really like doing and expand on those - but most of all have FUN!
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Series to Sink Your Teeth Into!
Only a few in the Junior section but lots in the Middle and Senior Fiction
sections, when reading for fun and following a set of characters gets
Clifford - Norman Bridwell
Fancy Nancy - J. O'Connor
Hairy Maclary - Lynley Dodd
Rowan of Rin - Emily Rodda
Jane Blonde - Jill Marshall
Magic Tree house - Mary Pope Osborne
The Wests - Joy Cowley
Pearlie - Wendy Harmer
Sophie - Dick King-Smith
The Fortunes - Margaret Mahy
Ozzie Kingsford - Val Bird
The Borrowers - Mary Norton
Cabin Creek - K. Gregory
Jake - A Butterworth
True Tales - Alan Zullo - Not actually a series as such but a great set of
books by this author including "Kid Pirates", "Shark stories" and "Animal
The Guild Triolgy - Joshua Mowll
Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Ally's World - Karen McCombie
Deptford Mice triology - Robyn Jarvis
Rangers Apprentice - John Flanagan
Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula Le Guin
Cairo Jim - Geoffrey McSkimming
This is quite a small selection from our shelves - there are lots of
others... Harry Potter, Geronimo Stilton, Clarice Bean, Redwall, Series of
Unfortunate Events, Baby sitters, Alex Rider, Horrid Henry, Charlie Small,
Spiderwick Chronicles, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Thea Stilton...
Plus lots, lots more!! I hope this list has a few new names to check out
Happy (Series) Reading!Back to the top
Books for the tough stuff.
This week it's a list of books for when things aren't running as smooth in
life as we'd like. Sometimes a good book won't so much "fix" a problem as
open up a chance to talk about it.
Some classes have been working with the 'bucket' books - so I've listed
those first as they are useful for discussing a range of things including
self esteem, kindness to others and manners.
Fill a bucket: a guide to daily happiness for young children - Carol McCloud.
Have you filled a bucket today? - Carol McCloud.
Brothers and Sisters
The pain and the great one - Judy Blume. (picture book)
My little brother - Debbie Gliori. (Picture book)
The worst thing about my sister - Jacqueline Wilson. (Senior)
They really like me - A. Hines. (Picture book)
Brother, brother, sister, sister - Helen Dunmore (Senior)
Two homes for David - Jillian Sullivan. (Picture book)
Every second Friday - K. Lightfoot. (picture book)
Charlie Anderson - Barbara Abercrombie. (picture book)
Two of everything - Babette Cole. (picture book)
Candyfloss - Jacqueline Wilson (senior)
A bad case of stripes - David Shannon. (Middle/senior picture book)
If you're an apple you can't be a banana - Pauline Cartwright. (Middle)
Girl gang - Pete Johnson. (senior)
Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli. (senior)
But excuse me that is my book - Lauren Child. (picture book)
Why should I share? -177 (Junior Non-fiction)
The selfish crocodile - F. Charles. (picture book)
The last chocolate biscuit - J. Rix. (picture book)
Self-confidence and shyness
A cool kid like me! - Hans Wilhelm. (picture book)
Shy guy - Giles Tibo. (picture book)
Say hello Tilly - Wendy Smith. (picture book)
Selafina - Catherine Hannken. (Middle/senior picture book)
Some of these books are very obviously about the issues, some are a lot
more subtle. Either way, we all like to feel as if other people have had
similar experiences to us and that we are not alone in feeling the way we
do. A good book can be a great comfort.
Happy reading.Back to the top
Satisfaction from Non-Fiction.
One of the really interesting things about working in the library is
seeing which books are the most popular. There are definitely trends and
fashions in fiction – an entire class might be gripped by a fascination
for a particular author, while the next class along, despite being similar
in age, may have little interest in that author. Non-Fiction however,
seems to have consistent favourites – even over quite long periods of
time. Thanks to a magical report generating ability by our library
computer, we can look back over the most popular books in Non-Fiction
during the last 6 months, the last year and the last ten years! Here (in
no particular order) are some of the top picks;
The beginners guide to drawing cartoons
100 most disgusting things on the planet
Guinness World records
Dangerous book for Boys
All about...series about animals, of these the most popular is All about
I can Cook... series, including I can cook French food, Italian
Machines at work - Truck
Car Science with Richard Hammond
Encyclopaedia of the Human Body
Top 10 series, most popular are Snakes, Marine Animals, Dinosaurs
Outdoors with Geoff
Isn't it amazing? Drawing, Cooking, Animals, Dinosaurs, World Records,
Trucks and Cars and doing stuff outside! With a little variation in the
titles of the books this list has been pretty consistent for ten years –
and has probably held true for longer.
Non-Fiction reading teaches lots of skills too – how to use an Index,
what a glossary is for, evaluating whether information is relevant or
reliable. These skills are indispensible when researching for a specific
purpose but can be learned and talked about while reading for
entertainment. So don't forget to peek over shoulders when Non-Fiction
books come home – you might rekindle a long-lost childhood fascination of
Happy Reading.Back to the top
Some inspiration for Book Character day.
Next week, Thursday the 8th August, is dress-up as your favourite book
character day, so here are some suggestions to start your thinkers
1. English Legends - Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, Maid Marion, King Arthur,
2. Traditional Fairytales - Puss-in-Boots, the Steadfast Tin Soldier,
Little Red Riding Hood, Aladdin, Peter Pan, Wendy, Lost Boys.
3. Dr Seuss - Cat in the Hat, Thing one/two, Daisy-Head Mayzie.
4. Famous Kids - Horrid Henry, Max (from Where the Wild Things Are),
Ramona, Peekay (from The Power of One).
5. Spies/Superheroes - Alex Rider, Jane Blonde, Zac Power, Skullduggery
Pleasant, Captain Underpants.
6. Cartoons/Graphic Novels - Where's Wally? Asterix, Tin tin, Lucky Luke.
7. Pirates - Long John Silver, Tough Boris, Captain Abdul, the Mum from
The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate.
8. Greek/Roman legends - Perseus (or go modern with Percy Jackson) a
9. Animals - Elmer (Patchwork Elephant), Angelina Ballerina, Hairy
Maclary, Franklin the Turtle, Curious George, Clifford the big red dog.
10. Fairies - Pearlie, Flower Fairies, Daisy Meadow Fairies, Shirley
Remember it's about the power of the imagination and believing in your
character and their personality that makes a sucessful dress-up costume.
Look at stuff around the house with a fresh eye and be prepared to try
stuff on until you feel the part - a little face paint or makeup can often
provide that finishing touch too!
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Well, it looks like it might be a rather rainy holiday so here are some
suggestions for some book-related games and activities!
Recipe related books:
"The witch in the cherry tree" - Margaret Mahy. Has a recipe and
instructions for making witch shaped biscuits.
"A great cake" - Tina Mathews. Lovely story about cakes of the imagination
and an edible recipe to end the story.
"Green eggs and Ham" - Dr Seuss. Just poach your eggs in green food
colouring - could be a great ending to a Dr Seuss themed day!
Encourage the kids to keep a diary of actual or madeup events of the
holiday - two weeks isn't as daunting as a years worth of entries. Inspire
"Charlie Small" series
"Judy Moody" - Megan McDonald
"Clarice Bean" - Lauren Child
"Diary of a Wimpy kid" - Jeff Kinney
Offer lots of photos and show them how to cut out words from newspapers to
give the pages that graphic feel.
Create a cartoon strip or one giant page of adventures in the style of;
"Captain Underpants" - Dav Pilkey. Flip-o-rama anyone?
"Terry and the Gunrunners" -Bob Kerr. Yep, I'm always encouraging people
to seek out this New Zealand style comic strip adventure.
Books with Maps - re-create the one in the story or be inspired to make
your own pirate style. You could take turns hiding something around the
house to find to test the sucess of your maps.
"The man whose mother was a pirate" - Margaret Mahy
"We're going on a bear Hunt" - Michael Rosen
"The Hobbit" - Tolkien usually has a few maps in the cover pages to get
Puppet shows - you can draw your own or cheat and photocopy the ones out
of the book and put them on kebab sticks, one old shoe box later and you
have a theatre! Some likely characters;
"Hairy Maclary" series - Lynley Dodd
"Winnie the Pooh" - A A Milne
"Bad Jelly the Witch" - Spike Milligan
Fairy tales, try; three little pigs, Cinderella, three billy goats gruff...
These are just a few suggestions and the kids will come up with loads more
- but sometimes one book can kick off a theme for events that might
include inside and outside activities, visits to museums and discussions
about your parents and grandparents favourite pastimes.
Be inspired by books - avoid that dreaded "B" word of the holidays!
Happy reading and creating!
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Melvil Dewey – Who's He?
Today we say thanks to Melvil Dewey, the creator of the Dewey Decimal
system. Melvil Dewey was born 10 December, 1851 in New York State, USA,
and went on to revolutionize the library world. He designed a way of
organising books that is still in use today in over 200,000 libraries in
at least 135 countries. The Dewey system has a simple idea at its heart –
it uses ten categories to classify every kind of book. (Although fiction
is usually sorted by the last name of the author, it too can be classified
on the Dewey system – in the 800's for literature.)With this system any
person who can read basic numbers can find a specific book from amongst
thousands of others in a library.
Melvil Dewey was also interested in spelling reform – he believed that all
unnecessary letters should be removed from words – he even went so far as
to change his own name to Melvil instead of Melville and for a short time
his surname to Dui.
Melvil Dewey died on 26 December 1931, but thanks to his life-long
obsession with making things as simple and organised as possible we say
"thanks" to him in libraries all over the world every day!
Here is a quick guide to the 10 categories Melvil came up with:
000's Generalities (groups/collections of things)
100's Philosophy and Feelings
200's Religion and Mythology
300's Social Studies (things to do with people in communities)
500's Science (things that occur in Nature including animals)
600's Science and Technology (science that has been used by people)
700's Arts and Recreation
900's Geography and History
Happy reading and thanks again Melvil!
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Reading at Home
There is little doubt that reading is a basic life skill - not only during
our school days but on into adulthood. Awakeri School has excellent
programmes in place to support both struggling and confident readers - but
what can you do at home? Here's some easy do's and don'ts.
1. Do read to them. At bedtime or morning time or while waiting for a
sibling to finish sports/music training, ANYTIME. 15 minutes a day (or 3
lots of 5 minutes) equates to 1% of your day.
2. Do tell them about what you read - whatever that is. A conversation
starter might be "I was reading in the Beacon about...
3. Stories are books that aren't written down yet! Do tell them your
stories, from your childhood, from travels, from your day, anything. "I
remember when milk was 7 cents and came in a glass bottle..."
4. Don't make reading more or improving their reading a battle between the
two of you, keep it as relaxed as possible.
5.Do figure out what your child likes and then find books to match. Lots
of popular movies were books first (see my previous blogs!) or track down
books on sport, lego, cooking, horses, sharks, fairies, cars...
6.Don't wait for a birthday or Christmas to buy books - most Op-shops have
a corner of good quality books for around 50c to $1. Try CReW, the
Salvation Army and Hospice stores. For the same price as lollies you just
might find a life-changing book.
7. Don't make statements like "Oh, he/she is sporty, not into books". It's
a destructive stereotype and all those All Blacks and Silver Ferns with
business and medical careers might beg to differ with you.
8.Do join and go to, your public library, particularly over the Summer
holidays. If you haven't been for a while they are much more
child-friendly and relaxed than they used to be. Maybe sign up the whole
family with their own card - if the kids see the whole family in on the
act, they won't want to miss out - that means Dads too.
I hope that at least one of these suggestions makes it on to every
families "I CAN do that" list. Experiment, enjoy, cuddle close, read and
talk about books and stories.
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Words to aspire to.
On the outside of the library there is a large sign with words of
inspiration for the qualities in ourselves we all strive to have. Things
like Honesty and Kindness and Courage and Determination. So here are a few
books about others who have shown Courage and Determination - sometimes in
"The Gruffalo" - Julia Donaldson. Clever mouse never lets his size get in
the way of besting others!
"Hairy Maclary's Bone" - Lynley Dodd.
"Giraffes can't dance" - Giles Andreae. Sometimes being true to yourself
takes the biggest kind of courage.
"The man whose mother was a pirate" - Margaret Mahy. Don't listen to
"Pigtails the pirate" - David Elliot.
Chapter books for middle size readers and older.
"Matilda" and "James and the giant peach" - Roald Dahl (actually almost
everything by Roald Dahl features courage and determination)
"Charlie Bone" series - Jenny Nimmo.
"A series of Unfortunate events" - Lemony Snicket.
"How to eat fried worms" - Thomas Rockwell. Well' if that doesn't take
courage I don't know what does...
"Terry and the gunrunners" - Bob Kerr. New Zealand's answer to
Tin Tin and the baddies get their proper comeuppance thanks to Terry.
For older readers.
"Tale of Desperaux" - Kate DiCamillo. Brave mouse thwarts lots of enemies
in pursuit of his happy-ever after.
"Once" - Morris Gleitzman. The ultimate bravery, set in World War two.
"Stargirl" - Jerry Spinelli. Another book about being true to yourself.
"The Breadwinner" - Deborah Ellis. Life under the Taliban.
"Kensuke's kingdom" - Michael Morpurgo. Washed up on a desert island,
Michael and his dog Stella are all alone... Or are they?
"Redwall" series - Brian Jacques. Courage and determination and chivalry
in an ancient Abbey.
It's interesting that lots of these books have mice as the central figures
- I guess it shows that true strength of character is about what you do,
not what size you are.
Hope this provides some inspiration in your lives! Happy reading.
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Ten great movies that were great books first!!
1. "Babe" was the movie, the book was originally called "The Sheep-pig" by
2."War Horse". One of a number of great books by Michael Morpurgo who also
wrote "Private Peaceful" and "Toro Toro".
3. "Eragon" - awesome action movie, very cool quartet of books by
Christopher Paolini, who was only 15 when he wrote "Eragon" the first in
4. "Stormbreaker" - yes! Before there was Alex Pettyfer on the big screen
there was Anthony Horowitz, the author of this action packed series about
5. "Mrs Doubtfire", quite an old movie but memorable for Robin Williams
cross-dressing as a Scottish nanny to spend more time with his kids.The
book is called "Madame Doubtfire", the author Anne Fine is a former
children's laureate and author of many wonderful books.
6. "The Narnia chronicles". Okay, so probably everyone already knew that
these were books first but the movies are so good why not get in quick and
read all seven in the series BEFORE the rest get made into movies! 7. "The
Golden Compass", a very memorable scene with two polar bears (not for the
faint hearted). So, did it happen in the book? Find out in "Northern
Lights" (the books title) the first of the three "His dark Materials"
trilogy by Phillip Pullman.
8. The movie was called "Ramona and Beezus" and starred Selena Gomez, but
the "Ramona" series has been making people laugh for years and years- it's
written by Beverly Cleary.
9. "Bridge to Terabithia" - a beautiful book by Katherine Paterson and you
need just as many tissues for the book as the movie.
10."Stuart Little". Such a great feel-good movie, from the same author as
"Charlottes Web", E B White.
And the best bit about reading the original book of a movie you like? You
get all the little details about the characters that you always wondered
about - plus you can imagine them to look how ever YOU choose.
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Ten top tips for choosing books from the library
1. Find a book you have read before and read something else by the same
2. Go to an area of the library you don't usually go to.
3. Look down on the low shelves - lots of people look in the middle but
sometimes there is a real "treasure" hiding down low.
4. Ask a friend about what they like to read.
5.Try something completely new, for example if you usually like mysteries
try a funny book for a change.
6. Ask your teacher or Mrs White for a suggestion.
7. Grab a book and read the explanation on the back (called the blurb) and
the first page.
8.Try a picture book - they are fast and entertaining - don't forget to
look carefully at the illustrations, they're mini works of art.
9. Ask to look in the blue box for the books that have just been returned.
10. Remember - Middle and Senior school students are allowed 5 books out,
so be BRAVE!! Perhaps pick 3 you are confident of enjoying, 1 suggestion
from a friend and 1 wild and crazy choice!
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"Using the catalogue computers in the library."
Available for use in the library are three OPAC computers. OPAC stands for
Online Public Access Catalogue, that means that these computers store the
information about the books available in the library. These are a great
tool for some things. For example, if you could remember the name of a
book that you had borrowed once before but could not remember the author,
the OPAC computer can search for you. Provided that the title you remember
is close to the actual title of the book, it should come up on the screen.
The information listed will include the author, the subject of the book,
whether it is a fiction or non-fiction book and often other details like
if it is part of a series. Perhaps you like a particular author and want
to find out which books by that author we have in the library, the OPAC
will call up a complete list. It will also tell you whether the book is IN
the library or being borrowed. Perhaps you need to research a particular
subject - let's say Sharks, the OPAC will give you a list of the Shark
books in our library and what Dewey number to look for on the book spines.
But it is only a tool - if the words to be looked up are not spelt
correctly the OPAC may not find a match for you. If you are not sure,
check with someone, either Mrs White or your teacher or the on-duty
librarians. If you need to write something down, there are pieces of paper
and pencils by the computers. Remember, your EYES are still the best
search method to use in the library. Happy Reading! Mrs White.
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Once upon a time picture books were what you read until you moved on to proper books...
those with chapters!! Not so anymore, increasingly picture books are
designed and aimed at older readers to explore complex issues in a fresh
way. Generally referred to as Sophisticated picture books they often work
on many levels at the same time – so a younger class will laugh at the
slapstick comedy elements of the story while an older group will recognise
the unfairness of a situation or the larger events that led to a
confrontation. At the library we have wonderful picture books in the
junior fiction section which all students are welcome to borrow, as well
as a separate section of middle to senior aged picture books which have
more challenging themes including history, biography, war, racial
prejudice, environmental issues and mathematics. Many of the books in both
sections are award winners and it is likely that this genre will be
increasingly popular in our visually orientated society. Of course, lots
of them are just flat out funny with amazing art work that is a pleasure
to look at whatever your age!! And if you still think that it's not proper
reading or somehow "cheating" for your child to bring home a picture book,
consider this – when you hear a report on the radio of breaking news, are
you content to accept that information as it's reported or is your
instinct to find a TV or visual format so that you can see that breaking
news for yourself? Try to picture the events of 9-11 without those images
of the planes hitting the towers – would it have the same emotional
impact? Clever combinations of words and artwork create stories that
absorb children – and ultimately improve their understanding of all books.
Happy reading (and looking!!)
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