Thursday January 27th is Family Literacy Day, a national awareness initiative which was created by ABC Life Literacy Canada in 1999 and held annually. This special day promotes the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. As bookstore owners and as parents, this cause is obviously very close to our hearts. Encouraging literacy in children is absolutely vital in ensuring that they succeed in their education and later careers and is a necessary component in the development of their imaginations.
In honour of Family Literacy Day, here are some of our tips for encouraging your child to read.
1) Start early. We are firm believers that it is never too early to begin reading to your child. Sitting down with an infant and reading to them not only helps to improve their language skills and visual acuity, but it's also a great bonding experience as well. We made nightly storytime part of our daughter's bedtime routine when she was just a few months old and it continues to this day over two years later. It's a time of the day that we all look forward to and a great way to unwind after a busy day. We also recommend simply getting books into the hands of children as young as possible. Sturdy board books in the hands of an infant or toddler improves their dexterity and helps them get used to turning pages.
2) Be a reader yourself. As with most things in the parenting world, leading by example is very important. If your child is used to having books in the house and sees you reading for pleasure, they will be inspired to do so as well.
3) Bring them to a bookstore or library. Take the time every so often to bring your child to a bookstore or a library and let them explore the shelves on their own. Seeing the wide variety of books available will encourage them to search out what they are interested in and perhaps enable them to find something new.
4) Find a book that will interest them. This is the most important piece of advice we have! It's a bit of a no-brainer actually: if they are interested in the book, they will read it. So, make an effort to find books with subjects that they are interested in. No matter what the age, there is a book out there for everyone. It's just a matter of finding it. There are horror, comedy, scif-fi, fantasy, romance, drama, and adventure books. There are books about sports, horses, dinosaurs, fairies, princesses, and monsters. You name it, there's a children's book about the subject.
If you are still having trouble convincing a child to read, try a different tactic. Graphic Novels/Comic Books are an easy sell for most kids and there are some amazing quality kid-friendly books out there like Bone, Amulet, Graphic Guide Adventures, and Smile to name a few. There are also many graphic novel adaptations of novels such as Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief, Twilight, Artemis Fowl, and The Babysitter's Club which might lead the child to seek out the novel series in order to continue the story. We also recommend books like the Choose Your Own Adventure series which help make the reading a more interactive experience.
Now go share a book with your kids...
Hopefully a regular feature on our blog, we would like to focus on particular children's book authors or illustrators that you may or may not have heard of before. For the inaugural "Spotlight on..." we would like to focus on the very talented Jessica Meserve!
We discovered Jessica Meserve's books through a chance encounter with her picture book "Bedtime Without Arthur". One taste of her amazing work (yes we said "amazing", no exaggeration here!) and we had to source out as many of her other books as possible. From black and white illustrations for early-reader novels to full-colour picture books, she has the uncanny ability to bring magic to anything she touches.
She has written and illustrated these wonderful picture books:
"Small (It's Not Easy Being the Little Sister)" (Random House UK, 2006): "Small" tells the story of a little sister (Small) who is stuck in her big sister's (Big's) shadow. No matter what Small does, it seems that Big always does it better. Small soon discovers that there is something that she can do better than Big and that everyone is good at something no matter their place in the world.
"Can Anybody Hear Me?" (Random House UK, 2008): Jack was a quiet child who lived on a farm with a very noisy family. They were so noisy, that no one ever heard what he said or paid him much attention. Frustrated, he sets out on his own with his stuffed bear Chester. Together they end up on an adventure in the wilderness and after some challenges and encounters with various wildlife, Jack finds his voice and confidence. When he returns to his family, he asserts himself makes himself heard.
"Bedtime Without Arthur" (Random House UK, 2009). As previously mentioned, this was the book that made us instant fans of Jessica Meserve's work. It tells the story of a little girl named Bella who relies on her karate-master stuffed bear named Arthur to protect her from the scary monsters at bedtime. When Arthur ends up missing, Bella is destined for a rough night. She then discovers that her younger brother Finley has taken him to bed. At first she is mad, but then realizes that she's stronger and braver than her little brother and that he needs Arthur more than she does.
As an illustrator, Jessica Meserve is one of the best. With every inch of the page covered in a rainbow of colour, her bright and vibrant illustrations bring a sweetness and heart to the stories. Whether joyful or scary, she is able to capture the mood of each scene perfectly. Her art is truly eye-candy for adults, but also incredibly appealing and accessible for children which is the real triumph.
Beautiful art aside, she is also able to tell a great story! As an author, she tells simple and highly entertaining stories that contain very complex ideas. Her books are enjoyable and a fun read, but also a great way to approach serious subjects with little ones such as self-esteem and what it means to be a younger sibling in the family.
We would be remiss if we neglected to also mention her illustration work for other authors. First off is the adorable "Daisy Dawson" series of novels for early readers (Candlewick Press). Written by Steve Voake, these books chronicle the adventures of a young girl who has the ability to understand and talk to animals. These sweet and funny adventure stories are made even more enjoyable by Jessica Meserve's black and white illustrations. They are consistently our top recommendations for early readers aged six to nine. Jessica Meserve also illustrated the picture book "The Baby (But I'd Have Liked a Hamster)" for author India Knight (Penguin Group, 2007). Telling the story of a little boy dealing with his brand-new baby sister, this is one of our favourite stories for families expecting a new sibling to the household.
If you aren't familiar with her work, please rush out and pick up a couple of her books. You won't be disappointed! For more information and images from her work, please visit her website http://jessicameserve.com .
Now go share a book with your kids...
When Kate was in University, she worked at a YMCA camp as a residential counselor during the summer break. She worked with children as young as five-years-old all the way up to fourteen-years-old. No matter what age they were, each night everyone got into their bunks and she read a short picture book or a few chapters from a novel to them. This "storytime" was often what calmed the nervous campers and created a routine that helped all of them feel at home and able to get some shut-eye (of course a little game of "who can be the quietest?" worked in special circumstances too).
She realized the importance of choosing the right story for each age group, not just for suitability of content, but in terms of interest level as well. Creating that bond between children and books can be as easy as pulling books off the shelf and talking with children about what type of stories they enjoy. Your local librarian and bookstore employee are also excellent resources to help you find the right book for your child.
This month we're giving away a $1,000 worth of books for your child’s school library to three members PLUS three $100 Raising Readers prize packs to build up your child’s home library. Here are the great books you'll win:
"A Bedtime for Bear" by Bonny Becker & Kady MacDonald Denton (Candlewick Press)
The latest installment in the "Bear and Mouse" series delivers the laughs once again. It's time for bed and Bear requires everything to be just right in order for him to fall asleep. Unfortunately, he has a sleep-over guest, his friend Mouse, who is continually keeping Bear awake. Lots of silliness in the illustrations and text to keep everyone laughing, but also a lot of heart which is why this series is such a great read. Ages 4 to 7.
"Judy Moody, Girl Detective" by Megan McDonald and Peter H. Reynolds (Candlewick Press)
Book nine in the delightful Judy Moody series follows Judy as she becomes enamored with old "Nancy Drew" mysteries which puts her in a detecting mood. Judy, her brother Stink, and her friends set out to find themselves a mystery and end up on the trail of a dog-napper. With twists and turns and lots of nods to "Nancy Drew", beginner readers will once again enjoy the latest entry in this creative series. Ages 6 to 9.
"Ghost Trackers" by Chris Gudgeon (Tundra Books)
Based on the youth reality television series, this book details the techniques and technologies of paranormal researchers, discusses the different types of ghosts, and tells some spine-tingling tales of hauntings in the past as well as more recent cases. Suitable for children aged nine and up and creepy enough for any kid fascinated with things that go bump in the night. Ages 9+.
"The Darkest Powers Trilogy Omnibus" by Kelley Armstrong (Doubleday Canada)
Fifteen-year-old Chloe's life is normal enough until a relocation to a group home opens up a world of paranormal activity, magical powers, and genetic experiments. This Omnibus edition compiles all three books in the Darkest Powers Trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong. Full of mystery, suspense, and romance, it is sure to satisfy any teen interested in urban fantasy. Ages 14+.
"Revolution" by Jennifer Donnelly (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
"Revolution" tells the story of two young girls who live parallel lives two centuries apart. When seventeen-year-old Andi is sent to Paris to live with her father during a difficult time she discovers a diary written by young girl who lived during the French Revolution and soon becomes obsessed with it's contents. A tense drama perfect for lovers of historical fiction. Ages 14+
Now go share a book with your kids...