The lambs are in the fields - I saw them last week while driving North along the A68 and the A82 - they are everywhere! Spring is on its way and hopefully you are feeling its freshness. But if not, keep on going ... it will come soon enough... maybe even when your children have gone back to school! This might sound harsh and unloving, but the reality is that during the holidays, whilst there is more time to enjoy being with your wonderful children, there is also more to do. There are more meals to prepare, more clothes to wash and countless days to plan. Fact: There are 24 hours in the day and children only sleep for some of these. So, how do you keep them busy?
This week, I am suggesting books for your children to read - or for you to read to your children. Even when they are older children love being read to. I think it's fair to say most parents feel quite pleased when their child is either happy and laughing, OR doing something educational ... like reading. Reading is an easy way to broaden vocabulary and improve creative writing. When children read, they pick up tips and ideas on how to write. So this week, I bring you seven fantastic books for 8-12 year olds. Hopefully, I have chosen something here that they won't have read and that will lure them away from their tablet or smartphone ... just for a bit.
7 Gems of Wisdom - Books for a Happy Easter
1. Shakespeare Stories retold by Leon Garfield - Recommended Age: 9+
Twelve Shakespeare tales are retold by Leon Garfield in this book, capturing all the original richness of the characters, plot, setting and spirit. This is the perfect introduction to Shakespeare for the young.
2. Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah - Recommended Age: 9-11 years
A riveting memoir of a girl growing up in a wealthy Chinese family during the 1940s. Adeline's family considers her bad luck after her mother dies giving birth to her. Life doesn't get any easier when her father remarries as her stepmother is vindictive and cruel. Adeline yearns and continuously strives for her parents' love and although she wins prizes at school in the novel, these are not enough to compensate for what she really yearns for: the love and understanding of her family. She blossoms in spite of everything and the story ends as her father agrees to let her study in England.
3. Two Owls at Eton by Jonathan Franklin - Recommended Age 9-90!
This is the wonderful story of the author's experience as a schoolboy, when he takes two baby tawny owls back to school with him. He has no idea how chaotic this will be and while the birds show no respect for Etonian routine and tradition, trashing his room and disrupting his daily schedule, they teach him a great deal. They charm his housemaster and everybody who meets them as they grow from balls of fluff into beautiful adult birds, with hilarious stories along the way. Jonathan works to train them for eventual return to the wild. Will that be possible?
4. The Giver by Lois Lowry - Recommended Age: 10+
My son's friend Caleb said that this is a book that makes you wise. And Caleb was wise already. The story is set in a seemingly ideal world. It is the future and there is no war, no hunger, no pain. No one in the community wants for anything. Everything is provided. But when Jonas is given his life assignment at twelve years old, as the Receiver of Memory, he begins to understand the dark secrets behind his community and to understand that it is not as perfect as it seems. It is only with the help of the Giver, that Jonas can find what has been lost. And it is only through his personal courage that Jonas finds the strength to do what is right…
5. Survivors by David Long - Recommended Age: 10-13
Incredible real-life stories of extreme survival that will amaze you: the sailor who survived for 133 days on a raft in the Atlantic when his ship was torpedoed; the teenager who fell 2 miles from an aeroplane and trekked through the Amazon jungle to safety; the woman who was trapped under freezing water for so long her heart stopped but who was rescued four hours later, and revived by medics. Children will be in amazed when they read the incredible stories of these survivors.
6. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding - Recommended Age: 11-12
A plane crashes on an uninhabited island and the survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. They set-up camp and establish a mini-society but over time their sense of order fades, and their childish fears are transformed into something deeper and more primitive. Before long the well-behaved schoolboys have been transformed into a tribe of faceless, murderous savages.
First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is recognised as a classic and is on many school reading lists. It has been described as dark, tragic, brutal and pessimistic. Even so, it deals with a fundamental issue of humanity: are people naturally prone to evil? Definitely one to discuss.
7. The Great Blue Yonder by Alex Shearer - Recommended Age: 11-12
After finding himself dead from a bike accident, Harry emerges on the Other Side, a strange land where the sun is always setting but never quite disappears, and dead people wander about, waiting to move on to the Great Blue Yonder. Harry's not sure exactly what the Great Blue Yonder is, but he doesn't want to go there until he's found some way to let his sister know that he's sorry for the mean things he said to her just before the accident. To do that, he'll have to return to Earth as a ghost - and face what life there is like without him.
Here endeth my gems of wisdom .... and if these don't seem quite right, perhaps because you have reluctant readers in the house, try a series like Willard Price's Adventure Books, Chris Ryan's Alpha Force books (for slightly older readers) and the books by Abi Elphinstone and Lauren St.John. I could go on ... but I won't as time is precious and you must go ... and do your stuff.
Next week: Term starts again soon, so I'll bring you some gems of wisdom that I hope will help you inject a little bit of structure, style and improvement into your child's English comprehension. This is of course a parent's point of view but these tips have worked well for me and my children. A friend recently told me that a book existed called "secrets of the comprehension" which made us smile as we recalled our recent 11+ journeys . Next week, I will share my secrets:"secrets of comprehension"!
Until then, I leave you with a photo taken when my family went on a lambing experience holiday in Cornwall, with BBC Countryfile Magazine. Spring is definitely here!