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The Tidy Books UK Blog

  • Using the World Cup as a learning aid

    Everywhere you look there is news from the World Cup.  It is unavoidable whether you love or loathe football.

    I am somewhere in the middle of those two groups.  I enjoy watching football, and usually a major football tournament would be of great interest to me.  But my interest this time has only really been ignited by ways in which my son is engaging with it.

    The stubbornness within my son’s personality means that it is a much more joyous thing to let him choose a topic to aid his learning and development, than force him down a road he is reluctant to travel.

    It seems this is true of a lot of children, especially boys, as they start their formal learning lives.

    I did not expect it to, but at the moment the World Cup really has my son’s attention, and I have been looking at ways of making the most of that.  I haven’t had to look too hard, as my son has found ways of doing that himself.

    He was given a Panini World Cup sticker book.  And he has enjoyed looking for the numbers that correspond with the stickers he has got, and has been slowly populating his new treasured sticker book.  Regardless of who the player actually is the number is all important to him, which is great.

    Older children at his school have been collecting Match Attax cards, some of which have been kind enough to give their duplicates to my son.  He thinks the few he has got are great, and has been using them to learn how to spell names of countries, and also as guides for when he is drawing footballers from the respective teams.

    His drawings have been brilliant, using different colours for the different teams.  Replicating national badges and flags, and coming up with scorelines for most of the scenes we have both drawn.  England always seem to score 10, he still has a lot to learn obviously.

    During England’s first appearance in the tournament he and a couple of his friends made flags and footballers on sticks.  They had great fun, barely paying any real attention to the game – not that they missed anything, unlike England’s goalkeeper.

    Then last night, with a little help from CITV’s Share-a-Story contest, using their template, he started his own World Cup cartoon.  Which included drawing and writing in speech bubbles.

    Yesterday really was a ‘football’ day as he wanted to conclude it with a football story at bedtime.  I had to think quickly (no mean feat) if we had one, then I remembered that Roger Hargreaves’ Mr Cool, from the Mr Men series, includes a footballer and he was more than happy with my choice.

    I am delighted that my son is engaging with the World Cup in such positive ways, and not just kicking a ball about, which he is enjoying doing too.

    Has it been the same in your house, and do you have any more ideas for me?

  • Who is dictating the bedtime reading?

    Virtually every night we are at home, I stand with my son at his Tidy Books bookcase, and we set about choosing what books we are going to read.

    Sometimes this is a very quick process, like on days when we have already discussed what to read at bedtime, or if we have played along a theme featured heavily in one of his books during the day.  Like if we’ve played with dinosaurs, popular bedtime stories then become things like Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs or Dinosaurs Love Underpants.

    At other times, the process can seem to take a disproportionate amount of time, as my son refuses to choose, and also refuses any of my suggestions.

    We commonly read two books each bedtime, adding more for good behaviour and if time allows.  I do reduce reading down to one if there is reason to limit his reading, like a late bedtime, or poor behaviour.  Luckily instances like that are relatively rare, as to this point, I have chosen to run to a reasonable rigid schedule and the boy generally knows where my lines of good behaviour are.

    I have also been mindful, increasingly so, to let my child choose what we are going to read.  I really want him to enjoy reading, and I think a big part of that is being allowed complete freedom when it comes to choosing literature.

    My focus on this was heightened recently, when I read a report, that pointed out that well meaning parents can actually have a negative effect on a child’s reading.

    However, my boy, such is his giving nature, likes to allow me to ‘choose’ a book to read.

    So, when we have two books, the principle is that he chooses one, and I choose the other.

    Great idea, except my son reserves the right of veto.  Which means my choice is actually limited to going through the list of his books, until I land on one he wants to be read to, or have a go at himself.

    This irritates me a little, and at times I have said to him; “Why do you even ask me to choose?” to which I get a beautiful and all knowing grin.

    We both really know he is in control of choosing what he reads, and long may it continue.

    But, who chooses the books in your house?  And do your kids do the same thing to you?

  • We’re reading “Don’t dip your chips in your drink, Kate”

    If it’s the case in your home, as it in ours, that table manners have become a contentious subject, then you may be interested in stories about behaving at the table. Suddenly, it seems, the eating habits of the six year old (surely influenced by the school dinner hall?) need some improvement.    I was intrigued then, by this book, about behaving at the table and wondered whether it could lighten the nightly discussions in our house.

    ‘Don’t dip your chips…’ is written by a new author, Caryl Hart who has gathered accolade enough already to be shortlisted for a Sheffield Children’s Book Award.  in 2010. The illustrations, by Leigh Hodgkinson who collaborated with Lauren Child of ‘Charlie and Lola’ fame, have a familiar cute and quirky feel.

    It’s a nicely subversive story. Kate is sent to her room for telling jokes about bogies at the table, and writes a letter to the Queen asking if she could come to tea at the palace to learn to be posh.  When the invite comes, Kate swots up on her table manners: “No slurping, no slouching, no grabbing, no burping...”    She’s surprised then when the Queen decides that manners are dull, and they eat pudding first, ping food and burp loudly.   There’s a rather apologetic end note from the author to exhort her readers to be polite at the table, but relax the rules once in a while and have fun.

    I tested this book on the six year old and his friend.   They seemed bemused at first, then amused, and some of the funnier lines got guffaws: “Why don’t you start with that big treacle tart, come on now, stuff it all in” and “Throw jam roly poly all over the dining room floor”   My only criticism is that the rhyming text doesn’t always flow easily, making it a little difficult to read aloud in places.

    Since reading, we’ve recited some of the Queen’s ‘rules’ at the table, as a joke, and also as a gentle reminder.  Strangely, the two year -old is obsessed with the book and has been asking for it two or three times a day.

    Don’t expect this book to change your child’s table manners, but it’s a neat way to start a conversation about the things in life that are less riotous fun, like table manners. The book is aimed at older children, 5-7 year olds, but strangely, the two year -old is obsessed with the book and has been asking for it two or three times a day.  In the same vein, and targeted at younger children,  we found “I don’t want to wash my hands” by Tony Ross in the library this week.  This is one of the witty Little Princess stories, and has nice scare tactics; “germs and nasties that look like crocodiles” that small children seem to relish.

    So, I’d recommend ‘Don’t dip your chips’ as a funny picture book for 5-7 year olds, whether you need to improve your children's manners or not.  Interestingly, there wasn’t a rule about reading books at the table….


    ‘Don’t’ dip your chips in your drink Kate’, by Caryl Hart and Leigh Hodgkinson, Orchard Books, Oct 2009 (paperback May 2010)

    ‘I don’t want to wash my hands, by Tony Ross, Harper Collins 2003

  • Alice in Wonderland winner

    During our successful showing at the Harrogate Nursery Fair last month, we invited people who visited our stand, to enter a book giveaway.

    As well as demonstrating our beautiful children’s bookcases, and our other inventive products, we were also giving away a limited edition copy of Alice in Wonderland to one lucky visitor.

    And that lucky visitor turned out to be Clare Mitchell, who is the commercial manager of

    MyChild is a fast growing parenting website, and currently has over 200,000 parents receiving its weekly ezine.

    They aim to offer parents, of children aged three and above, a great resource, offering a huge library of parenting advice, including many free downloads, as well as running a constant stream of competitions, amongst other things, hoping to help enable parents it their quests to help their children to succeed.

    Certainly worth a visit, if you’ve not been there before, and you can also follow MyChild on Twitter.

    Don’t forget, for all our latest news, and news we find from the world of children’s literacy, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

    Thanks to all those that visited us at Harrogate, and indeed, to all those that entered our giveaway.


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