Why we don’t go to the theatre (and why we probably should)

theatre curtainPhilip Pullman is arguably one of our generation’s best living authors and an all-round wise, sensible guy so I felt a twinge of shame when he recently decried that not enough children were going to the theatre.

His concerns were directed at schools which were prioritising league table performance and results over class outings to experience the arts first hand.

The facts back him up. According to Department for Culture, Media and Sport, in 2008-09 the proportion of primary school-age children who had visited the theatre in past 12 months was almost half (47.1%) but six years later, in 2014-15, this figure has fallen to less than a third (32.3%).

As a parent of a primary school-age child I have to hold my hands up. We haven’t been to the theatre for about two years. Continue reading

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5 children’s book suggestions for Halloween

I’m not sure I can pinpoint the exact moment that Halloween became such a massive thing but it certainly has become a bigger part of my life now I live with a six year old.

I almost think it’s on a par with Christmas in the excitement stakes these days, although I’m utterly delighted that my son has decided to avoid the shambolic scream-fest aka the Halloween School disco. That means one less costume to worry about, plus I no longer have to fear for the wellbeing of my eardrums.

Part of the appeal of Halloween is that it gives children complete permission to let their imaginations run wild and engage with the darker, scary side of life. Plus it’s fun to dress up if you’re under 12. Less fun if you’re over 35 and have been roped into helping out at the aforementioned Halloween disco.

Our generation’s slightly sanitised approach to parenting sometimes removes all the risk and danger out of life but I think children really enjoy the thrill of being scared – and that’s certainly been my experience any time I’ve shared a scary story with my son. In allowing them to explore their fear it reassures them that they can handle their emotions.

So in a somewhat predictable, utterly inevitable fashion, I’ve compiled a list of Halloween book suggestions to help you get in the spirit with your kids in between doorstepping helpless neighbours. Some are scary, others less so (books I mean – not the neighbours), but the list certainly proves that witches, ghosts and goblins hold enduring appeal for writers for all ages. Continue reading

What we’re reading: The Grunts All At Sea by Philip Ardagh

downloadBeing the ultimate time manager, I took the opportunity to duck into the local library while Toby was at football training, in between grocery shopping and waiting to collect him. I try my very best not to be too controlling a parent but when it comes to books I can’t resist picking out titles for Toby.

I scanned the shelves of the children’s section unsure what it was I was looking for. I considered the football themed books but I wasn’t certain I could face another football story. Our lives are full of the sport, and books offer that one opportunity to escape real life and venture into different worlds. No, I was going to believe enough in my child’s enjoyment of reading to stray away from tried and tested material.

I gravitated towards the humour section. Our reading has become quite serious of late. Toby’s latest reading book from school actually caused him to burst into tears and he did also mention that he wished our last read, Billy the Kidhad included a few jokes. Continue reading

We’ve finished! Billy the Kid

It takes a truly astounding writer to take a story filled with sadness, tragedy and real-life horror but deliver it with an underlying optimism, yet that is what Michael Morpurgo achieves in this heartbreaking children’s book about a Chelsea pensioner’s journey from fledgling Chelsea FC star to vagrant.

Billy the Kid opens with its eponymous narrator reminiscing on a park bench as an old man. And as with any octogenarian you might spot on your travels, you have no idea what incredible life story he holds inside. Thankfully Billy shares his with us and what unravels is both a history lesson and remarkable story of triumph and tragedy.  Continue reading