Shaun the Sheep

We’ve just returned from a thoroughly satisfying trip to see Shaun the Sheep.

And I realise that I may be cheating talking about a movie in a “reading” blog but I think visual forms of storytelling can be just as valuable in encouraging literacy skills – particularly if you have a reluctant reader.

We don’t go to the cinema often and there have been occasional outings that have left me really disappointed with children’s movie-making but not this one!

Shaun the Sheep was a delight: daft, charming, funny, dramatic and heartwarming. Everything it needed to be and more.

Toby laughed out loud at many points and I even raised a chuckle several times – even at the scatalogical stuff of which there was plenty to amuse a six-year-old boy.

Although the plot was utterly daft, it was predictable when it needed to be but also had the capacity to surprise and delight.

It was packed full of feeling too. I particularly liked the empathy that the central character of Shaun demonstrated towards an unloved warthog. It was a subtle subplot in an action-packed storyline but as a parent I do like to see some heartwarming messages coming through.

It occurred to me watching Shaun the Sheep that being entertained and amused is reason enough to see a movie with a child, but as with books there is greater educational value wrapped up as fun – stories teach children to care, and Shaun the Sheep is a film that doesn’t work too hard to really make you care.

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Grown-up reading

Toby came home with his first proper book assigned by his teacher for reading practice.

It’s a Roald Dahl book too, which is pretty great news for us because Toby is really enjoying all things Dahl and it’s given him fresh motivation with his reading, which had disappeared a bit.

I’m glad because reading was becoming a real chore at home. I think the standard of reading books he’s been getting have been fine – better than some I’ve heard about but you have to question whether they do much to inspire children to actually enjoy reading.

Anyway I’m delighted that Toby’s teacher has been bold enough to give him a proper book and I will vow to exercise some patience as he works his way through it and hopefully his reading will go from strength to strength.

A budding author

The Birpy Pig

The Birpy Pig

I’m so excited that Toby is getting into writing stories. This was my favourite activity when I was at primary school.

Loving his front cover for his debut: “The Birpy Pig” (should probably be Burpy). Can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.

Watch out Roald Dahl – there’s a new name in town!

What we’re reading: Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

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Toby has discovered Roald Dahl thanks to receiving some of his books for Christmas. We worked through The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine in no time at all and like generations of children before him Toby has decided he wants to read more of Dahl’s work. It’s no surprise really.

Roald Dahl’s books were a memorable part of my childhood, as they were for many of us who grew up in the 1980s. I think my favourite would have to be the BFG and I’ll really excited about sharing that one with T.

It’s interesting revisiting them as an adult. I was a little disappointed in the Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine. They were kooky and full of that hallmark black humour and gore that kids love. The language was silly and fun but the writing wasn’t as sharp as I thought and the plots were a little thin.

Still, what do I know because Toby loved them, and I think what makes Roald Dahl so special as a children’s author is that he appeals directly to the child, tackling topics (farting and bogeys or grandmas that you really don’t want to kiss) that the adults in a child’s world fail to address. In short, Roald Dahl tells the truth. And I really believe that that’s what kids most respond to – not just the farting gags or the gore or Quentin Blake’s fab illustrations. He also puts the power in the hands of the animal or juvenile characters and makes the adults look utterly daft. I think this is the key ingredient to some of the most successful children’s books of all time – kids that are smarter than adults.

Anyway, Fantastic Mr Fox is a new one for me, and so far I’m really enjoying it and Toby is too. The writing is slick, and the simple plot packs in the right amount of suspense and tension. We’re only on chapter four but Toby has been gripped and even disappeared under the duvet during a particularly tense moment. It hasn’t taken him long to buy into the characters at all and I’m really getting into reading this one aloud.

The story even prompted a discussion about why farmers need to shoot pests, and Toby didn’t particularly buy my explanation about famers needing to earn a living. “But they’re already rich,” he said. Ah, a socialist is born.  . .

Stay tuned to find out what we think of the next instalment.

Scores so far

Read-aloud-ability: 4/5

(Is this easy and enjoyable to read out loud?)

Fun factor : 4/5

(how much fun is the story for your child?)

Fidget factor: 0/5

(does your child sit still to listen or start dancing around?)

Fear factor: 3/5

(How scary is it?)

Page-turn-ability: 4/5

(How much do you want to keep reading?)

Welcome

Hello and welcome to my blog.

I love books, films and most forms of storytelling – I even dabble in a bit of creative writing too – so when I became pregnant one of the things I was most looking forward too about being a mum was sharing books with my child to be.

Six years on, and an enthusiasm for books still lives in my son Toby despite the lure of YouTube videos (Stampy is a favourite) and the Xbox (Minecraft, Lego Marvel and now FIFA all demand copious amounts of is attention).

It all began when he was three weeks old. I was a real novice when Toby was born. I struggled to even hold him properly and feeding and constant nappy changing presented challenges that I was completely unaccustomed to dealing with. The one thing I could do was read to him.

It didn’t matter that he didn’t understand. I felt in control when I read and it was very much my way expressing my love. My own personal vision of motherhood very much involved books so here I was realising that. If I was failing on living up to other mothering standards here was something I could be good at. I was in my comfort zone with a book in my hand.

Through the years together we’ve done a good job of sticking to the bedtime story ritual. It’s been challenging at times. During those toddler years the last thing you want to do after a three-hour bedtime battle is snuggle up and read your precious little rebel a story but I always tried to.

Likewise as a mother who works full time it can be tempting to skip the story at bedtime to duck off to the sofa with a cup of tea but it’s usually always worth the effort. Our bedtime story is more than just reading – it’s a chance to cuddle and confess the worries and thoughts of the day we’re just about to leave behind.

Also as Toby gets older I’m discovering a world of children’s literature that I so passionately want to share. And that’s why I wanted to write this blog. I want to share the books and authors that have kept me and my son turning pages long after bedtime. In an age of digitally led entertainment forms, I find that simply magical.

Enjoy.