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Reading to children

  • How to find the right books for your toddler in 3 easy steps.

      And why your toddler needs to find the right book for themselves.

    Getting a toddler to choose their own book to read is how they get hooked on reading, for life.  As parents, we’re in control of what books we buy for our toddlers, so how do we find the right books, and empower our kids to love reading?

    Koffer Finja Studio Hamburg

    We all have an ideal - our child curled up on a rainy day with a book, or reading under the duvet with a torch - and that ideal is crucial: When our kids to choose to read for fun we know that reading is an ingrained habit that becomes part of who they are.

    9 out of 10 kids say that that their favourite books are the ones they’ve picked out for themselves.* Source Scholastic What Kids want in Books

    We know too that reading for fun has a more serious purpose: It’s how they’ll do well at school and enjoy life, and as author Alan Gibbons says:

    “Ask any good classroom practitioner what makes a child ready and eager to learn and reading for pleasure comes high on the list. A reading child is, quite simply, a successful child.”  Reading for Pleasure, National Union of Teachers.

    How can we get our toddlers on the path of reading for for fun?

    3 Easy steps:

    1. 1. Simply reading together, every day.
    2. 2. Finding out what books interest them: Having a wide selection
    3. 3. Let toddlers choose what they read

    Mother and son reading

    Step 1: Get into the habit of reading every day

    It’s been very well documented: Reading together, and reading aloud, right from the earliest days of babyhood is the best start to reading you can give.  Literacy organisation, Reach Out and Read produces lots of research to show that babies who are read to have better listening skills, better vocabulary and that the habit of reading is ingrained, before they get to the stroppy toddler stage.  Read Aloud has a great infographic to show the benefits of reading to your baby and toddler.

    You can read anything to them; the newspaper, the shopping list, it doesn’t have to be just baby books.   Your baby is delighted to hear your voice, and you can start reading to your baby when they are just a few weeks old, and keep going.    1000 Books Before Kindergarten recommends we do just that:  Read 1,000 books to your toddler before they start school.   Routes to Reading has lots of tips on what to do if your baby keeps crawling away!  Persistence is key!

    Step 2: Finding the right books for your toddler

    There are lots of recommended book lists you can turn to for inspiration.  Literacy organisation  Booktrust has a great Bookfinder where you can choose a list that’s right for your child’s age by different themes such as funny, inclusive or family life.  Or to find a recommendation for exactly your toddler’s age, Routes to Reading lists books they recommend for 6, 7 or 8 months, right up to 36 months, which you can buy directly from them.  Author James Patterson also has some great book lists by age ranges, including picture books for ages 0-8 on his ReadKiddoRead site.

    Father Reading to Children

    The sorts of books toddlers enjoy have interesting illustrations with details to point out and talk about.  They are best with not too much text, so that your toddler won’t start to lose concentration before they can turn the next page.  Repetition within the story, and rhyming are great ways for toddlers to predict the story so that they can join in.  As Carol Quick points out in KidsHealth, toddlers want to feel included and competent in everything they do.

    Find books in your local library.  The librarian has done the hard work of creating a toddler friendly selection, and you may find there is a wider choice than that in a mainstream bookshop.  Or organise a swap with friends.

    If you can, create your toddler’s own home library. How Kids Develops has a useful checklist of the sorts of books to include.

    Step 3: Let toddlers choose what they read

    Giving your toddler the choice of what to read is embeds the idea that reading is for fun.  Teacher and writer, Melissa Taylor says: Parents discourage their kids from reading by not letting them choose their books.   Don’t be overly concerned if your toddler chooses books you don’t like or don't’ think are ‘good’ books.

    Try not to say no, even if the book looks like it is for an older child: Let your toddler discover for themselves, or be prepared to paraphrase the hard bits.   Be prepared too, to read the same book over and over again if your toddler wants it.  ReadWriteThink has some sound tips on helping your child to take charge of choosing a book.

    “Let children choose their own books, from an appropriate selection. This helps build a lifelong love of reading.” Building Blocks US Dept Health and Human Services

    Parents do a great job of encouraging reading for fun, to let kids browse and choose.  These are some of the ideas that came to light in Scholastic’s survey:  Over half of parents said they let their child choose from a book fair, or let them browse in a library or to make suggestions of books they might like.


    “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” Maya Angelou

    Toddlers like to choose books without you too, and creating their own library at home will make them feel in charge of their books and reading.   When its not story-time, put books within easy reach of your toddler.  It helps maintain their sense of independence, and helps build up their love of books.

    Invest in a kids bookcase that makes it easy for your toddler to pick out the book they want.  Tidy Books makes a range of kids bookcases designed to make books attractive to toddlers as they show the books’ front covers, and make books easy to access independently.

    As this expert says of Tidy Books:

    “This quality piece of furniture is both a practical storage solution and a learning vehicle offering children easy access to their favourite books ...The experience is multi-sensory and three dimensional: they can see and recognise the cover images, browse, touch and read….Giving words and images a firm place in your house, your children learn to appreciate the importance and fun of literacy and books at an early and crucial stage in their lives.”  Dr. Klaus-Dieter Rossade, Faculty of Education and Language Studies The Open University.

    What would you add to that that list?  Feel free to share anything you find works well in getting your toddler to love books.

    Further reading

    If you want to delve in further, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) also monitors the level of reading ability of member nations, and highlights reading for pleasure as a key indicator to determine academic success through its PISA study

    Research study on independent reading and school achievement levels:

    Story time

  • The huge impact just 34 reading helpers made in Enfield

    We want to get more children reading, and we've partnered with Beanstalk, children's national literacy charity to donate with every purchase of Tidy Books' products.   Alexis Nielson of Beanstalk talks about the impact that Beanstalk's reading helpers are making in Enfield, North London, where they are supporting over 100 children, a borough where last year 500 children aged 11+ were unable to read well,  through the commitment of just 34 reading helpers.

    beanstalk image

    Beanstalk works to recruit, train and support reading helpers who volunteer in local primary schools to provide one-to-one support to children who are falling behind with their reading.

    Each reading helper works with three children for a whole three terms, spending half an hour with each child on a twice weekly basis and giving them their undivided attention to help build their confidence and improve their reading attainment.

    Their sessions are individually tailored to each child to ensure that the session is supportive and enjoyable. By ensuring that the child finds the sessions supportive and fun, reading is able to become an enjoyable experience, and the child’s enthusiasm and confidence is able to flourish.

    One of the key areas of growth in the last two years has been Enfield, where shockingly over 500 children left primary school in 2014 unable to read to the required standard.

    Thanks to the support of the community and local funders, Beanstalk are now supporting over 100 children throughout Enfield through the commitment of 34 reading helpers. This is a fantastic achievement, as they had very little presence in the borough three years ago.

    Beanstalk’s Volunteer Support Worker for the area tells the following story:

    “I visited one reading helper at an Enfield primary school for an annual visit, where she told me that one child she helped was a selective mute. The reading helper was completely unaware of this when she first started reading with the child as the child spoke to her (albeit quietly and not very confidently). One day the child came to the session having had a fall in the playground and hurt her knee so the reading helper informed the teacher/TA, who kept asking the reading helper how she knew and the reading helper kept telling the teacher/TA that the child had told her. It was only after quite a few sessions after this incident that the reading helper was told by the school that the child was a selective mute and would not speak to the other children or the teacher or the TA and only to the reading helper! At the reading helper’s annual visit, the child was happy to interact with me about the book she was reading and it was hard to believe that she was a selective mute!”

    Beanstalk works with children who are already displaying the early signs of the short-term consequences of illiteracy and aims to help children overcome these problems. This is to ensure that more children leave primary school achieving the expected level in reading attainment and displaying a confidence and enjoyment of reading. They aim to prevent children from continuing on a path to long-term disadvantage and the negative long-term consequences of illiteracy.

    Beanstalk recently launched their Annual Report and Impact Report for 2013-14, emphasising how specialist one-to-one support by reading helpers is able to transform the skills and confidence of thousands of young children throughout England.

    The report highlights how 93% of the young children supported by Beanstalk reading helpers during the 2013/14 academic year showed meaningful improvement in their reading level. Furthermore, the report also shows that 74% of the children supported improved their reading ability by at least two reading sub-levels, compared to minimal progress the year before receiving one-to-one support.

    Sue Porto, chief executive of Beanstalk, added “This year we will support over 10,000 children across England but there is much more we can do.

    “I would encourage all those who can help us on our journey to supporting 18,000 children a year by 2018 to get in touch.”

    Beanstalk needs more volunteers to help children across England.

    If you would like to become a Beanstalk reading helper, then visit, call 020 7729 4087 or email for further information.

  • GIVE A BOOK for Book Giving Day

    You can celebrate International Book Giving Day this Saturday 14th February in lots of different ways:  Leave a book in a waiting room for a child to find, give a book to your local playgroup, or get involved with charity, Give a Book which helps encourage disadvantaged children to build their love of reading.

    Adeela Khan of Give a Book explains what they do.  Read on to see how you can get kids reading.

    Give a Book is a UK based charity that started in 2011 with the sole aim of giving books where they will be of particular benefit. Our core belief is that to pass on a good read-to give someone a book-is a transaction of worth. We provide practical solutions to help disadvantaged people in local areas by working with schools, the local community and partnering with other organisations to provide books to encourage an enjoyment of reading.

    gab pic 2 gab pic 1

    Our books go directly to schools and a range of charities, including the following: Age UK, Beanstalk, First Story, Maggie's Centres, Community Fostercare & Six Book Challengers.

    One of our latest projects is the Magic Breakfast Book Clubs


    gab pic 3 gab pic 4

    Working with Magic Breakfast we set up a pilot scheme—books for breakfast for primary school children, hungry in all sorts of ways. We gave 100 new books, notebooks and pencils to a  school located in an area where 73% of children were from income deprived households. Now the children are enjoying the new books and it is helping them engage more with reading and literacy in a more fun environment.

    After the success of the pilot, we now have 10 Book Clubs up and running with more in the pipeline. There is a continuing need, as there are growing numbers of pupils in areas where books and reading are not part of their everyday home life and the clubs fill a gap to encourage more reading for pleasure.

    Comments from some of our recipient schools:

    Reaction from the children has been very positive, they were very excited to get the new books, pencils and notebooks. The system we use is like a lending library, the breakfast club runs daily between 8.15 - 8.45am with about 25 children attending. The books are available at the Breakfast club for the children to browse, choose one, sign it out and take it home, notes are written in the notebook about the books they liked. Year 6 children are enjoying the responsibility of being Magic Breakfast book club monitors and help sign the books borrowed in and out. It’s a great initiative, thank you!’

    "The books from ‘Give a Book’ have been very much appreciated by the children and their families. Books are not always a high priority for many of our families; so it is good to know that the children have received quality books appropriate to their age and level. Teachers have loved the fact that they have had the opportunity of being able to choose books which relate to a topic or an author they have been studying …. which has meant that the children may be more motivated to read."

     We have also given books to every child in a school for excluded children, where there were no books at all,   we have been able to stock a library in a school that had none and have given books to First Story for their festival, and gifted each participating pupil an individual book for Christmas.

    Every £5 donation gives a book to someone who really needs one. It's easy, simply donate via our website and we will do the rest. We use donations to source new books at cost price, then package and post the books to the various charities and schools.

    If you are looking for a great excuse to pass on that good read, make a donation and help someone else enjoy the pleasure of books, because reading really does matter!

    What will you do to celebrate Book Giving Day?


  • Book Bingo: The School Book Group Review #4

    Our school book group, Book Bingo brings you another brilliant children's book review,  by Grace age 6.   The Book Bingo group store their book club choices in a Tidy Books Box.

    Book name: Dippy’s Sleepover

    Author: Jane Clarke

    Summary: “Dippy goes to his friends house for a sleepover. He feels ashamed of wetting the bed but he finds out that Spike does it as well, and they laugh about it”

    Favourite part & why: My favourite part is when Dippy finds out Spike wets the bed too”

    Rating: 2/5


    Melanie Copus of Esher Church School writes:

    In class, Grace had been learning about how stories can teach us morals and how to tackle real-life issues, so she particularly enjoyed finding a book like this to read. Especially one with such enticing pictures throughout!

      The story line lends itself well to much younger children who have an adult to read to them, and they can follow the pictures and listen along. However, it’s also a good for a book to have sitting in a childcare setting or the classroom so other slightly older children can access it. Such elements of life are a normal part of child development and can happen throughout the primary years, yet they are the things that children can get most embarrassed and self-conscious about if not treated with in the right way. Having books like this around remind children this is normality and simply a part of growing up. 

    Have you read this story with your children?  What did they think?

    Book Bingo's selection of books will be stored in a Tidy Books Box, giving the school book group a special place for their choices.

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