Reading Books And Preparing Your Child For School

18/11/2014 14:31 | Updated 20 May 2015

Cheerful kids lying in the park against the sky and reading books.

Considering my last foray into academia (although not that long ago - it was 2009) consisted of writing a dissertation on the merits and misfortunes of Playboy bunnies prancing around on-screen, you could say I'm a bit nervous about imparting my scholastic wisdom to my children.

Which is why I was pretty relieved to know, upon receiving D's reception school packet (yes, totally losing my mind that my baby is heading off to school in two months! Where did the time go?!) that the basic requirement from parents, in terms of helping children with their homework at this stage, is reading to them.

Phew. Through a mix of laziness (you can do it in bed) and pure self-interest (I love books, shame I can't manage to read any over 12 pages these days), reading is about the one thing I can manage to do with any consistency.

As an only child growing up with a single mother who worked a lot, I can't remember a time when reading wasn't a solace for me. It was a friend, an escape and a chance to fall in love with words, with new places, with people (especially hunky romantic-hero types that there seemed to be a serious dearth of in my NYC high school).

So, I read to the girls. Liv is just getting into board books, and not just to chew - she's obsessed with the Jennifer Adams/Alison Oliver series of literary classics that have been reinvented as baby books. We were given a counting primer of Romeo & Juliet and Pride & Prejudice which she wanders around flinging at me. She loves the latter book's description of Two Gentlemen - Mr Bingley and Mr Darcy. Liv has interpreted both illustrations as her favourite male protagonist: Daddy.

With D, we're still doing our princess-with-an-empowering-twist books (The Worst Princess is seriously funny and wonderful, and we're currently obsessing over Tracey Corderoy and Joe Berger's witch-granny themed Hubble Bubble, Granny Trouble series).

It's not all fun and funny voices though; D has reached the slightly-boring-for-parents stage of reading which requires her to actually start learning to read words. Phonics, we've arrived - and so have books with an endless repetition of words like 'pat,' 'tap' and 'mat.'

We're regulars at the library, but because it's often busy and the books for the first-stage reading level seem to be constantly out, over the past few months I've expanded my horizons and decided to try out The Reading Chest, a mail-order lending library with a revolving selection of phonics books that you can exchange a few times each month for variety, that D's nursery recommended to parents to try over the summer.

Considering one of the first books they sent us was called A New Home and featured various images of pink heeled sandals and marabou-feather mules, which doubled as houses for people, you could say they know their audience. D was thrilled.

We also tried out Bookbuggy, a mail-order service that sends you personalised book packs based on your child's interests and current life requirements (potty training, moving house, expecting a sibling etc).

We were sent Dogs Don't Do Ballet - already one of our favourite books (it's by the author illustrator team, Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilvie, behind The Worst Princess) that happens to feature a doppelgänger of Bolshy the bulldog, wearing a tutu. The pack also contained two more hits: The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman and 100 Things by Masayuki Sebe, a beautiful, colourful counting and finding book.

Did I mention we've also signed up to the free Mythical Maze Summer Reading Challenge at our local library? D is hooked after being given a scratch-'n-sniff smelly Yeti sticker after reading two books...

The best part about our reading sessions is that they're not about pressure - they're about spending time together and having fun. Although when D grabbed Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt's Chocolate Mousse For Greedy Goose (a gift she received as a baby from her great-grandfather) the other day and proceeded to 'read' it to Liv, including my sound effects, I couldn't help feeling a little bit proud.

And thinking it's time I start my own summer reading list.

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