Children's books and magazines...
Thank you so much for all your feedback and enthusiasm about my husband's educational apps which I talked about in my last post - I was touched and delighted by your response.
I'd said at the end of that post that if you were interested I'd share some of our other favourite education-based things - not designed by my husband - and it seems some of you were. I have so many I'd love to write about, but I'll try to cram them all into one post so that it doesn't feel as though you've unwittingly subscribed to a parenting blog if you came here hoping only to find sewing (for those that did, the cat in the photo above is dreaming about birds made out of Tana lawn Liberty prints and if you return soon, I may be thinking along similar lines).
To give this post some context my children are 10 and 8. My daughter has been a bookworm since a very young age and my eight year old boy is dyslexic, but also adores reading - it's been a struggle to find things that aren't so text heavy that they overwhelm, but which don't patronise his intellect or wonderful vocabulary by using overly simplified text and storyline. I think many of the books below walk this thin line perfectly (although, I should say that over the summer, happily, something clicked for him and so although spelling is still a big issue, on a good day he can now enjoy tearing through a book as thick and text-heavy as my daughter - the books mentioned here don't necessarily reflect that).
So let's begin with magazines. Magazines, especially compared to books, feel expensive, so both children have requested many of these subscriptions from grandparents for birthdays and Christmases and it seems to be a gift that they really enjoy giving as it's appreciated throughout the year. These are our current favourites: Aquila magazine pictured above is a thought-provoking magazine which explores a different topic in each issue. Its content is pleasingly grown-up and covers everything from world issues to encouraging moral debate and its themes have often coincided with ones the children happen to be covering at school - this seems to cause a great deal of delight as they can bring their own knowledge and familiarity to it, whilst gathering new ideas at the same time, making it feel very relevant. It's more suited to an older child, perhaps 9-12.
|Anorak and Puffin Post magazines|
|Puffin Post page spread|
I've also been meaning to mention Aramazu for absolutely ages. My little boy had spent over two years struggling to learn to tell the time by the time we found Aramazu when he was aged 7. I ordered the book, not really expecting much and expecting even less when I began reading it. The book tells a story about time that turns conventional methods for learning it on their head and leaves any seasoned time-teller feeling slightly perplexed as they read through the first pages. However, by the middle of the book one begins to feel that the man who wrote it may just be a genius. I can still remember that the morning after the book arrived, my little boy woke very early and so I took the opportunity to take him downstairs and read through the Aramazu book together. It was amazing to both of us that after an hour of painless work using the Aramazu method he could read most times on the clock and by the end of the day, he could even tell the trickiest of times, such as 'seventeen minutes to three'. My little boy is not a willing card-writer, but that morning he asked if we could write to the Aramazu man and thank him for creating the book. For a child with dyslexia learning something with ease is an empowering and unaccustomed feeling and I still credit this book with kick-starting a more positive attitude toward his own abilities, but it's suitable for all as learning to tell the time seems to be a universal struggle for young children. The book requires that your child can count to 60, but if they can't yet do that, then there's a different book that can help them master some of the more basic times, provided they can count to 12. We bought the watch too, but really it's not necessary as after a week or two my son was happy reading the time on regular clock faces (there's a clock for practising with moveable hands within the book) and wanted something more grown-up looking.
I think I've mentioned the wonderfulness of Ed Emberley and his learn-to-draw books many times, but if you haven't read about them, I go ino more detail here. They're wonderful and suitable for ages 3 to adulthood!
Have you seen or read The Invention of Hugo Cabret? While there's probably several hundred books that I could tell you about that we've loved (you can read my review of Wonder here, for instance), it's this one that feels worth mentioning in this post and which stands out. It's a totally unique book - hugely thick, deliciously heavy and filled with hundreds of hand-drawn pictures which at times take over from the writing in telling the story. The mixture of picture and written text allows your child's imagination to take on the role of storyteller and become completely imersed in Hugo's world. If you haven't seen the film, that too is wonderful. It is so beautifully and uniquely shot that it feels completely in keeping with how special the book is. My guess is that the book would be appreciated by children from age 8 onward, but that there is no upper age limit. I don't know anyone who has read this and not loved it.
Over the last few years, while I've been searching for books for my son to read, I've found the following to be really good. I mention them not because they are the most outstanding works of fiction out there, but because they are so suited to a child who finds reading challenging, but who still wishes to become immersed in a complex storyline without feeling as though they are confined to reading material intended for much younger children.
We have always loved Allan Ahlberg and these stories, pictured above, are a demonstration of his genius at writing books for an older audience. They are quirky, without being affectedly so; have story lines full of adventure and intrigue; and make us howl with laughter as my son reads them out loud. The text, which is rich and varied, is broken into manageable chunks by the wonderful illustrations which help a slower reader retain a sense of the twists and turns in the storyline as they go.
Over the years we have built up a huge collection of Usborne's See Inside series of lift the flap books for older children, pictured above (I haven't put Amazon links as it feels too exhausting for so many titles). These books have intricate, detailed pictures and there is often an element of humour beneath the flaps. They really made up the core of my little boy's favoured independent reading material between the ages of five and seven. They cover subjects which he felt naturally interested in and the snippets of writing are factual and appealed to his sense of wanting to know minute details about castles, pirate ships, sea life and all the other subjects they cover. What made them so accessible for him is that when the writing appears it's just a few words at a time, so not overwhelming in any way, and once the words had been deciphered there was the reward of opening a tiny flap to reveal more pictures beneath.
Finally, my mother bought my son Michael Rosen's Poetry Anthology last Christmas and it is one of his most well-thumbed books. It is full of the most perfectly selected offerings that are both humourous and poignant and my little boy will suddenly give me a recital of one of them while I'm brushing my teeth or making the bed. He seems to very much enjoy getting just the right intonation and inflection in his voice. It's always a surprisingly sweet contrast to the side of him that is so utterly obsessed with football. Our favourites are Marbles by Michael Kavanagh and The Art Lesson by Trevor Harvey.
I would love to hear what your own children have loved or found useful, or even what you enjoyed yourself as a child, whether it's a book, magazine or even an app.