Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Welcome To The World Of The Written Word (Alliteration!) and #DadsRead


Just recently Albert has been taking all sorts of brain leaps and really starting to get his learn-on. He's constantly working out how to do new things like some sort of out-of-control Pokemon, it's quite amazing to watch day by day just how much he evolves. Not long ago he figured out that his hands are attached to his body and that he can control them! What a discovery. This has put into motion a long chain of events that means he is now interested in books! What a proud dad I am. Every day I get home from work and we have our play time together, and at the moment one of the things we love to do is to read books.


Just to clarify, he is only just gone 9 months old so I'm doing most of the reading to him but everyone has to start somewhere! I don’t think he understands all (if any) the words I am saying, but he loves sitting still on the floor with the open book in front of him, while I read out loud, and is clever enough to turn the pages over himself when I wiggle them. At the moment he has all the dexterity of a drunk-monkey, so we have books with cardboard pages so it's easy for him to get his fingers under them to flip them himself, but he is getting there and is getting better every day. I read everything on the page to him and point out the words as I say them (I even sing and do voices, it's a whole show), he follows my finger and concentrates, then laughs and slaps the page in agreement (drunk-monkey). When we have finished the book and he has closed the last page, he has a little whimper-cry that it's over, and we start reading it again. And that’s learning! We have a few different books (more about them later) and get through quite a few in a session before he decides to move on to other daily pursuits (i.e. chewing things and general destruction).



I consider it very important for his development to do this every day, especially as he is enjoying it. Hopefully books will be completely normal to him and he will start to learn soon that the words on the page are the words I am saying. I want him to be really good at reading and enjoy it and be motivated to do it, and I think involvement at as early an age as possible is a great start.

Roald Dahl, J.K Rowling, Tolkien. Here we come!

Albert with some of his more 'Adult choice' reading material. i.e. a underwear shopping catalogue.


I love reading myself, I read every day on the way to work (I walk at the same time - I've only walked into a tree once), I read at lunch, I read on the way home and I read before bed. I probably get through around 2 books a week on my kindle and have done ever since I was a boy myself. Reading is such a big part of my life that I want to do whatever I can to get Albert interested in it, so sitting down every day and reading to him is as great for him as it is for me. I feel it's a really good bonding exercise for us as well. I love spending that time together where he really concentrates on something and where I feel I can have a direct positive affect on him. It’s one of things I really look forward to doing as a father and always thought about before Lucy fell pregnant.

I think a massive part of my reading habit stems from my childhood of being read to and having involvement with reading. I have a few strong memories of what I guess must be pivotal moments in affecting me as a young one as I remember them so clearly! 

 - This greedy fellow:

 - Various childhood books received as gifts for Christmas and Birthdays. (Always a book in the stocking at Christmas!) but mainly Where’s Spot sticks out from my earliest memories of books (more on Spot later the little scamp). The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark was also a childhood favourite.

 - Sitting down each night in bed as a young boy and having Enid Blyton - Secret Seven/Famous Five read to me by my Mum, being whisked away on adventures and not being able to wait until bed time to find out what happens. I still remember that bedroom clearly (we have long since moved) and how it was decorated, and my only memory of it was in bed hearing those stories - I can't remember anything else about it! I think this is where my love of novels and Young Adult Fiction began, and I still love adventure books and YA today. Thanks Mum!
 

 - Being a volunteer librarian in Middle school (years 5 to 8). Volunteer librarian! Probably not the coolest thing to be at school, it was actually the least cool thing to do (and I went to Juggling Club so that’s saying something) but I didn’t care, I loved spending lunchtime there one day a week putting the books away. There was something special about being surrounded by all that potential. Thousands of experiences sitting there on the page waiting to be read. Within minutes you could start reading and be anywhere doing anything. I still love shelves of books in shops etc, and even in my own home there are big bookshelves full of them.

 - Going into Sainsbury’s with my Dad when I was 13. The Lost World: Jurassic Park 2 had just been released at the cinema. I loved the first film, and the book by Michael Crichton was on sale there. I asked if I could have it and my Dad brought it for me. I read the whole thing and devoured it! It was my first experience of an ‘adult’ novel, and I have been reading them ever since. I collected all Michael’s books and have read them all multiple times. I have done and still do class him as one of my favourite authors ever. I was deeply saddened to hear of his death in 2008, and I think it’s telling how much more that affected me than deaths of other more public figures such as actors, musicians, politicians and supporting characters on The Simpsons.

My 'Michael Crichton' Shelf at home:


I look back at all these moments and can almost see how much my reading life has been shaped from an early age by them, and how much it had affected who I am. My life feels so much richer because of it. Thanks Mum and Dad! If I could instil some of that into Albert then I will be happy.


I said earlier that I do most of my reading on a Kindle now, but I will always love paper books, and I still buy some Hardbacks by my favourite authors for my collections now. That first moment Albert learnt to turn a page will always stick in my mind, much like some of his other firsts (first rolling over, first standing, first time puking in his own ear while simultaneously pooing all over the floor etc). It's a special moment. I hope there will always be some paper books around. It would be a shame in years to come if the first time a child learns to turn a page in a book, it was by pressing a screen, rather than flicking up the corner of the paper and moving it slowly across in anticipation to see what the next page holds. Charlie Brooker recently wrote an excellent and very funny article about this similar theme in the Guardian HERE, it’s worth a read if you want a laugh!




Anyway, now Bert can turn pages I thought I would show you some of the books we like to read together. Mini review time!



Where’s Spot?



I remember this book the most from my childhood. Basically Spot goes missing and his Mum searches around the house for him. Each page is a room in the house and there are flaps that when you lift them, show what is underneath - under the bed etc. Instead of finding Spot in various hiding places, she finds all sorts of other animals. A bear, a lion, a monkey and so on - without any sort of suprise or questions about why there is a lion under the stairs. Quite inexplicably there is a hippo in the piano, I can’t imagine how it got there, or why, but there is. All those animals under one roof like some sort of zoo gone mad. The toilet must be a total disaster area and the whole house must stink. No wonder Spot is hiding, he is probably trying not to get eaten. Anyway, Bert loves the flippy parts to this, he flips each one several times and always bends his head down to look under the flap to take a peek. I am hoping he doesn’t take this too seriously and think crocodiles always live under the bed, and say NO when you challenge them on it.



Making Friends: Just Like Us



This one has some more animals doing things, this time with alliteration. Each page has a flippy part that reveals 2 humans doing the same activity as the animals. Hence... Fish Kiss Carefully... (then flip)... just like us! Thus teaching children to kiss like fish do. I am not sure that fish do kiss carefully, if at all, but then it’s a kid’s book and not Attenborough so what can you do.



Peppa's First Pet



I think he likes this really just because it’s Peppa Pig, not for the storyline (Which won a Pulitzer back in 2009). Secretly I think he likes Peppa Pig because Daddy Pig is like me. Pink face, black glasses, no hair... err... eats like a pig and maybe smells like one too. For this one Peppa goes to the vet for her goldfish - which is unhappy’ (sounds like it needs an animal psychologist - but moving on). They go on the bus and for some clearly obvious reason there is a moose playing a tuba or something, then the fish is ok. The End. Hoorah! Bert’s favourite parts are where I do the tuba noise, PARRRRRPP!! And when I shout BIG RED BUS at the end in the style of Ty Pennington from Extreme Makeover.

That’s Not My Lion!



This book is Bert’s favourite. Each page has a lion on it, but it’s not the author’s lion. Oh no, That's not my lion they say on each page, repeating it about various different lions, then you can probably guess how it ends. The lions each have a different material built into the page which you can feel, thus telling them apart. Textural! That’s not my lion... its ears are too fluffy, and so on (I assume not all lions have fluffy ears). He loves feeling all the different bits! When you get to the end you find the right one - That’s my lion, its mane is so shaggy. I am not sure about the wisdom in teaching children it’s OK to go around feeling different parts of random lions, but I hope by the time he is old enough to be alone with a lion then he will know better. My favourite part is the title having an apostrophe. Never too young for apostrophes.

And that is just a few of our favourite books. We love reading them! We'll move onto some animal encyclopedias soon though. The illustrations are great but quite frankly the information provided about animals in children's books is wildy inaccurate.



What books do your little ones like to read? Any suggestions?




Finally, just as we have been learning this new skill and reading together, I came across a fellow dad blogger Tom Burns who was promoting a campaign called #DadsRead. You can read about it HERE. This is being run by Zoobean and the Good MenProject, and is being run around Father’s Day. It’s encouraging all dads to read to and with their children. As reading with Bert is so important to me I jumped at the chance to get involved. It’s not surprising that as the majority of primary care givers are mothers, they end up doing most of the reading to their children, but I don’t think that means fathers feel they shouldn’t do any. I think all parents should read to their children, and it's a shame if any don't.



A recent article in the Telegraph HERE brought to my attention that "only 19 per cent of 16-24 year-old fathers say they enjoy reading at bedtime with their children." Which is pretty astonishing to me, why wouldn’t you enjoy reading to your kids? I won’t rehash the whole article and the various reasons when you can read it there through the link, but needless to say the benefits of it are well documented, both for the child and for the parent. I would recommend to any father to get involved and read to their kids. I’ve been doing it to Bert ever since he was born and find that it is just one of the ways that has helped us bond. Now he is taking more involvement and has started his own journey into the world of the written word, I’m glad to be a part of that. The first story I read to him was a short story about Dragons - he was a few weeks old!


Would you like to be involved? We need your help with #DadsRead!

Here are five ways to show your support for this grassroots initiative:

  1. Share photos of dads reading with the world! If you have a great picture of your dad reading with you OR if you’re a dad and you have a picture of you reading with your kids, share it on Instagram or Twitter and tag it with #DadsRead.
  2. Share your stories about the importance of dads reading with us. If you have a favorite article or blog post about the importance of dads reading, share it on Twitter or Facebook with the #DadsRead tag. If your dad helped you develop a lifelong love of reading, tell us in the comments below or comment on one of our stories that we’ll be sharing on Facebook.
  3. Tell people about #DadsRead. Do you know someone who might be interesting in the #DadsRead campaign? Or think it sounds like just the sort of thing that your library’s reading group might be interested in? Help us spread the word!
  4. Come to our Twitter party for #DadsRead. On Thursday, June 12 at 8 pm ET, Zoobean and The Good Men Project will co-host a Twitter party to celebrate the #DadsRead campaign (and give away some awesome prizes).
  5. Make dad reading a daily ritual in your home. If it’s not already built into your daily routine, make sure that both parents get the opportunity to read to kids regularly

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