By Jillian Henning www.hennathome.com
Edited by Cathy Martin
It goes without saying that children tend to switch off when the summer holidays begin. The lack of routine can be especially challenging and their concentration levels dip each week they’re out of school if not stimulated, but a great way to tackle that is through reading.
A primary school teacher I know told me before the summer break that a child who doesn’t read over the summer nearly goes back to square one and I was so conscious I didn’t want that to happen with my daughter before entering Primary Two after all the hard work in her first academic year.
Libraries NI has a great scheme over the summer called The Big Summer Read. Your child gets to set a target of how many books they are going to read over the summer. They get a card with their name on it and when they return their books they get a special stamp. Along with the card comes a book chart where they can document what books they got out, as well as stickers, colouring in pages and - the biggest hit in our house - wash off tattoos of book worms.
Some of our favourite books thus far in the big read are
1. Don’t Call Me Choochie Pooh! By Sean Taylor
A book about a little dog with a big personality. He is totally fed up with his owner carrying him around in a handbag (so embarrassing!) and feeding him little heart treats (in front of others who laugh!) when all he wants to do is play with the other big dogs and earn some respect. After finally feeling like he belongs when he meets some friends who enjoy jumping in muddy puddles and chasing sticks, he makes the shocking discovery that they also have embarrassing owners. Turns out he is not so different after all.
2. Elmer by David Mckee
This book is so well known for the happy go lucky colourful patchwork elephant. After being ashamed that he constantly stood out all the time, Elmer decided to paint himself grey so he could blend in with the other elephants. Not only did they not recognise him, speak to him or even look in his direction as he was the same as everyone else, they all felt gloomy because Elmer, the one elephant who could make them laugh, had disappeared. Or so they thought. Once it started raining and the paint washed off Elmer realised it much more fun being himself and everyone appreciated him more. A good lesson in learning its ok to be yourself.
3. Splish, Splash, Splat by Rob Scotton
This book is about a cat called Splat who is having the worst day imaginable. Then he finds out he has a play date with Spike, a cat he doesn’t like because they don’t have anything in common. Just when he thinks the day can’t get any worse he hears that his class is going for a swimming lesson and he hates the water! When all of his classmates jump into the pool and start splashing around, Spike and Splat are left standing at the edge looking nervous. It turns out they might have more in common than they think. They decide to face their fear together and once they achieve that, the playdate is much more fun than expected.
4. Never Use a Knife and Fork by Neil Goddard
This tongue in cheek book about the chaos of mealtime shows children what they shouldn’t be doing at the table. This had my little ones laughing aloud while shouting “you shouldn’t do that!”. It’s short and to the point, so we had to read it several times over a few times. Turns out you shouldn’t hide spaghetti in your hair or keep crisps in your underwear! A hilarious rhyming story about terrible table manners.
5. Norman The Slug with The Silly Shell by Sue Hendra
This is an absolute favourite of ours and one of many in a series of different creatures. Norman is slug who just longs to have a shell so he can hang about with all the other snails. He will go to great lengths to try and find something that will closely resemble a shell to fit in. Finally he finds the perfect item, a sprinkle covered donut. He then discovers maybe his dream isn’t to have a shell after all and sets his sights on something more extravagant. This book teach young children through humour that yes you should chase those dreams but not to forget who you really are in the first instance.