5 ways to make reading fun for kids

5 ways to make reading fun for kids

5 ways to make reading fun for kidsAs part of my semi-regular series that spotlights the author members of the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group, I’ve invited Karen Hughes over to visit.

Karen is the author of the Kalika Magic series, a fantasy quest exploring themes of courage, resilience, and the power of imagination, for readers 9+.

In this post, Karen explores ways to get kids reading – and to make it fun!

It’s hard to get a job if you can’t read, our kids are told. If you want to be a professional – a doctor or a lawyer or a beancounter at Macquarie Bank – then you need to be a good reader. You need to be top of the class, the one with the best marks, the one who finishes homework and hands it in on time. Sadly, with all this focus on marks and testing and measuring our children against each other, we’re in danger of putting them off reading all together.

What happened to sitting in a tree all afternoon with a battered copy of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’? Or hiding under the covers reading ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ by torchlight? When did we forget that reading was supposed to be fun?

I think we worry about our kids too much. We put so much pressure on them to perform, to compete, to live up to our expectations. We pile them with homework and tell them where to be and what to do every minute of the day. No wonder they want to disappear inside the closest computer screen.

Reading is more than a job skill. A good book opens up a world of adventure. It gives kids the chance to escape when life gets tough. There’s a richness and wonder in storytelling that nourishes the soul, a magic in a well-crafted sentence that creates the same feelings in the reader as listening to beautiful music or admiring a fine painting. It teaches kids that their imagination is precious, that creativity is important, and that not everyone thinks the same way.

So how do we make reading fun for our kids? Here are five ideas.

1. Join your local library – Make the library a regular hangout. Get an ice-cream afterwards. Let them play on the computer if they must, but make sure they’ve picked a good book to take home. You can suggest books and encourage them to look in the right section, but make sure it’s their choice. If they want to read fairy books or animal books or strange books about skeletons, let them (maybe hold off on ‘Game of Thrones’ for a few years).

2. Read to them – Kids are never too old for bedtime stories. Choose something that’s fun and that you’ll both enjoy. Andy Griffiths’ ‘Just’ series is great. ‘Grimm’s Fairytales’ is always good – especially if you can find an original version with bloodthirsty stories like the Robber Bride.

3. Encourage them to read to you – Take turns reading a novel together, maybe a page each. This is a great way to get them interested in more difficult books or classics they mightn’t pick up by themselves. Try ‘The Hobbit’ or ‘The Wind in the Willows’ or anything you loved as a child. You’re allowed to be nostalgic. If it’s obvious that you love hearing the story, chances are they’ll love reading it to you.

4. Turn off the screen (or be tricky and limit it to ebooks) – Kids model the behaviour of the people around them. If they see you on Instagram all the time, they’ll want to do the same thing. If it’s normal for you to sit on the lounge with a book, or read in bed before turning out the light, then it’ll be normal for them. If you can’t prise the screen away from them, use it to your advantage. Get the BorrowBox app and download books for them. It’s free and easy, and you don’t even have to go to the library.

5. Let them be bored – Reading takes concentration. It takes free time. There’s no reason for kids to pick up a book if they have something better to do.

Roald Dahl said it best:

… please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.

From the age of eight, a child’s rational brain begins to develop and their brain waves change. They move from a state of wonder, where they absorb everything like a sponge, to a more critical wavelength. They begin to form their own view of the world, creating habits and patterns that will last a lifetime.

One of these can be the love of books. And books are worth loving. Children find courage and strength in the stories they read. Thalia from Hong Kong wrote to tell me she had painted the Kalika word for ‘courage’ on her pencil case because ‘it makes me feel brave like the kids in your books’. Harry from Spain wrote to say he wanted to read more Kalika Magic books because ‘Kai worries about things sometimes, just like I do’.

The love of reading is a wonderful gift to give your child. It goes beyond school and tests and competing for the best marks. It’s something that will stay with them forever.

The Howling Sands, book 4 in the Kalika Magic series, is out now. Find out more about Karen Hughes and Kalika Magic here

Kalika Magic series for kids 9+ by Karen Hughes

How to grow readers

How to grow readers

How to grow readersBoth of my boys are readers. Mr12 is a die-hard reading addict, much like his mother, and has the blog to prove it. Mr9 is less obsessive, but always has a book (or four) on the go.

He’s a dipper, is Mr9, and I always watch his progress with great interest. Why? Because if he finishes a book, I know that book has something really special, so I read it myself to try to find out what that secret might be…

(If you’re wondering, the last books he completed were John Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice and Richard Roxburgh’s Artie and the Grime Wave).

I’m sometimes asked how I get them to read. With Mr12, there is no ‘get’ involved. He discovered books at five and has inhaled them ever since, to the point where dragging him away is often more of a problem.

Mr9 is a different case and not a boy who would choose to read when he can run, jump, kick a ball or, equally, play a screen.

But he is surrounded by readers.

I read, The Builder reads, Mr12 reads… The house is full of books and there are always more and more coming through the door. We go to the library, we frequently ‘poke around’ in bookshops. Every time I go to an author event I get the boys a signed book from one of the other authors.

The Builder and I have read to both boys since they were born. Me, ad nauseum, The Builder, regularly. Even now, I still read aloud to Mr12 on occasion, despite the fact that he is more than capable of reading all by himself, just because we both enjoy it.

And every night, we send them off to bed to read, partly for relaxation, partly for reading habit, partly for enjoyment and, frankly, partly for my own vicarious pleasure. (Seriously, the thought of being despatched to bed at 8pm every night to read is pretty much my idea of heaven these days.)

For me, growing readers is about finding the right books (you’ll find some great suggestions here), creating a habit, and then enabling it as much as you can. But I also get that some kids are tough nuts to crack when it comes to reading. So, let’s open this up for discussion…

What do you think? Are your kids readers? What steps did you take to get them there?

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

 You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here

If you’re looking for the right book for your young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community! It’s the best – and kindest – place on the internet to find suggestions.

Five favourite bookshops on the NSW South Coast

Five favourite bookshops on the NSW South Coast

5favouritebookshopssouthcoastnswWe are surprisingly well-serviced by fabulous bookshops here on the NSW south coast. We’ve got the beautiful ones, the friendly ones, the incredibly well-stocked ones, and the ones that combine all of that and more.

These are five of my favourites in this area:

boobook on owen, Huskisson: There’s something about the combination of carefully chosen books and the proximity of Jervis Bay that makes this little bookshop very, very seductive. It’s a lovely space, with a terrific range of children’s books. My boys love popping in for a browse.

Dymocks Books, Nowra: I love the team in here. Love. They are so knowledgeable and so happy to chat about books, and the customer service is always A-1. These guys are readers and it shows. A huge selection of books and staff who will happily help with recommendations and suggestions.

Harbour Bookshop, UlladullaPlugged in to the local community, with an excellent selection of books and events to match. Perfect for your holiday read, a special gift or thoughtful advice on books you’ll love!

Dean Swift Books, Nowra: With an ever-changing calendar of events, this indie bookshop works hard to promote books and authors in the region. The friendly staff are ever-helpful and my boys have a particular love of the ABC Shop incorporated inside (Doctor Who, anyone?).

Anne’s Second-Hand Bookshop: If you love a good browse in a second-hand bookshop, don’t go past Anne’s! Really well-curated selection of used books and lovely, friendly staff as well.

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

 You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.


The drama of reading at school

The drama of reading at school

Today was Reading day at the school. I’m a regular. I’ve been rolling in for an hour or two from the start of kindy, when I was working through ‘I can walk/I can run/I can read’ style texts with kids who couldn’t keep their eyes on the page for more than 15 seconds at a time.

In those days, Reading was known as ‘AKA Torture’. Now, it’s kind of fun. I am genuinely astounded at the progress.

How do kids learn to read? Even having watched Mr6 do it has not explained the magic.

I’ve been allocated Group Reading this term. I was offered training, but, after some discussion, the teacher and I agreed that I was probably up to the task.

Mind you, it is no easy ride.

Keeping six almost-seven year olds focussed on a book takes some wrangling. Occasionally, I even need to get out the voice that my sisters have dubbed the ‘Mean Aunty Al’ voice. I prefer to call it ‘Cool, Mean Aunty Al’ but they insist my nieces and nephews are not buying into the Cool at this stage.


Today, two of my little groups did some work on the three-page plays they are going to present to the class.  They have read them through a few times and are at the stage of having to act them out.

Mr6’s teacher suggested I ‘have them think about the kinds of actions they might need for their characters’.

I had visions of Robert De Niro working through the motivations of Third Billy Goat Gruff. That vision kept me amused for quite some time.

Anyhoo, it was interesting to see the different approaches of the two groups. Group one – Mr6’s group – have all chosen one character each to play and have stuck to that. Their reading is coming along nicely, but they were adamant they did not want to read it through a second time ‘with actions’.

They’ll stick to the reading, thanks.

Mr6, who is the Big Bad Wolf in the truncated version of The Three Little Pigs (which features, disconcertingly, email), has been wandering around the house repeating what he thinks is his funniest line for a couple of weeks.

It goes something like this: “I’ll be huffing. There might be some puffing. And there’s a pretty good chance that  your house will fall down.”

He is tickled pink with this.

Group two has a much more improvisational approach to their play (The Silly Billy Goats). There was a small all-in brawl before we began about who would take which part. The boy who ended up Second Billy Goat was desperate to play Mysterious Creature, but the group would not have it. He sulked through his part.

This group was thrilled to have a chance to act it out and helped me to construct a ‘bridge’ out of our reading mats. The Mysterious Creature wedged himself under the bag rack, so as to be more mysterious. They made every effort to out-Billy Goat each other when tripping across the bridge.

It was all very hilarious. So much so, that the teacher from the class next door came outside to tell us, in a Very Serious Teacher Voice, to keep it down.

End of hilarity.

I realised at that point that I am an amateur. I went home to work on my Mean Aunty Al voice. There’ll be huffing… There might be some puffing… But there’s a pretty good chance that it will be Cool.

AL Tait cartoon by Mick Elliott

Image Credit: Mick Elliot

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and a new ‘almost history’ detective series called the Maven & Reeve Mysteries (you’ll find book #1 THE FIRE STAR here).

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

The drama of reading at school

The mystery of my Blyton voice

Tonight I realised that I have an Enid Blyton voice. It is terribly proper, pitched slightly higher than my usual speaking voice, and rounded at the edges. Perfect for talking about lashings of ginger beer and the importance of being polite.

It’s been creeping up on me for a little while, this realisation. As Mr6 and I worked our way through books one to five of the Famous Five series, with its references to Anne’s love of keeping house and the thrill of hard-boiled eggs, right through books one to six of the Secret Seven with its jolly hockey sticks overtones and its terribly privileged young protagonists, I wondered why my throat hurt if I read more than one chapter.

It’s the strain of my Blyton voice.

It only really came to the fore this evening, thanks to a rapid switch between reading one of Dav Pilkey’s haphazard Captain Underpants books and a quick adventure in the Wishing Chair with the Terribly Polite Goblin. Captain Underpants demands a sort of ‘Cor Blimey’ excitement – quite the contrast with the tea, scones and Sunday Best vibe wheeled out for any Blyton.

It’s quite specific, the Blyton voice. I can’t think of any other books we read that require it.

Not Zac Power, that’s for sure. Not Harry Potter. Not even the 27th Annual African Hippopotamus Race.

Anne of Green Gables or The Secret Garden might be candidates for it, but there’s likely to be little call for those in a house full of boys.

I read recently that Enid Blyton’s books have been ‘sensitively’ updated to include mobile phones. Julian even calls his maternal figure ‘mum’, not ‘Mother’. Shudder. I will have to stick to vintage editions as there would be no call for the Blyton voice in such books.

Still, it’s good to know that I can pull it out when I need it. I’ve been asked to do a reading at the school mass on Friday. I think this is a cunning plan to ensure my attendance. I can’t think of a better outing for the Blyton voice, though, can you?

Does Enid Blyton bring out the ‘terribly English’ in your reading voice? Perhaps you have another secret voice that only appears when you read certain things? Please share. It would be good to know that I’m not alone in sounding like a complete pillock.

A L Tait The Fire StarAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and a new ‘almost history’ detective series called the Maven & Reeve Mysteries (you’ll find book #1 THE FIRE STAR here).

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

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