5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Boys into Bookworms

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Raising a boy who takes pleasure out of reading books just as much as from a soccer ball or a Play Station might sound easier said than done, but, in the long run, it’s all worth it.

There are lots of books there that can stand on their own two feet and win the battle against a Nintendo, a Xbox or… even Minecraft!

Here are five easy steps to get your son to enjoy reading.

  1. Visit the local library together.

Let your son wonder around the library, see a book and sit down to page through it. Don’t rush him. Find books with little text and lots of images geared at what your child is interested it. Then slowly move to books with short chapters.

If your child struggles to read himself, then read to him, aloud, every day. He’ll still get to enjoy the story without feeling frustrated and books will still be a positive experience for him. Until he’ll enjoy them by himself.

  1. Leave reading material around the house

Be it a picture book on his favorite topic, a magazine or a comic book, you want him to pick it up and enjoy a page or two at a tiem. How-to books on sport are a great place to start getting a boy interested in reading.

Never make reading a chore. Rather surround your child with books, rather than forcing it on him. Place a bookshelf in his room and allow him to choose a few books to place in it.

  1. Read yourself.

Children often mimic what they see and we, as parents, are our children’s mirrors.

Kids, especially boys, love silly books. Books with jokes are a great way to get them reading, sometimes even without them even noticing they are doing it.

  1. Get Dad involved.

Get Dad to read too if your son struggles with reading. Even better, try a father-son book club and perhaps get involved with other dads and their sons. Book clubs are not only for girls – have a BBQ-Book Club, for example.

Remember, having positive role models help both boys and girl staying interested in reading.

  1. Start a reading list by writing down what your son read and what he would like to read next. Allow him to rate the books. This way you can both see where his interests lay and he can feel more in control over his reading.

Studies show that children who have been introduced to books from an early age have a positive attitude towards reading and a greater chance to become successful readers. But a successful reader isn’t only someone who devours one book after another. A successful reader will also understand what the story line is about, will get its meaning and will also be able to focus on the task at hand for a longer time. For this is what reading entails, being able to focus indefinitely. Or at least until Mom or Dad come to switch off your light and forceful y remove the book from your hand because… tomorrow is school.

Five great books for boys:

  1. Captain Underpants series is a great place to start and a Best Seller in Children’s Chapter Books;

  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid has over 10 000 reviews;

  3. The Boy’s Book of Adventure: The Little Guidebook for Smart and Resourceful Boys  a fun book packet with facts on outdoor and nature;

4.The Book With No Pictures if you’re brave to say out loud everything that’s written on each page;

  1. Joyful Trouble a fun read about a real dog and World War I, Best Gifted Young Adult book in UK.

Originally written for Red Tricycle here.  

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Does School Attendance Guarantee Literacy?

The key factors to achieve a high literacy level in a country

Does School Attendance Guarantee Literacy?

Early each morning a father braves the traffic riding his bicycle to his son’s preschool and then to work. It is an old bicycle model and he’s mended one of the tires but it transports both of them and that’s enough. He’s made a seat for his boy, right behind his own. His son has to go to school so that he’ll be ready for big school, when time will come. He’ll probably have to adjust the size of the child seat by then, but that’s something to worry about later. Today’s rainy; the roads are wet and the drivers impatient.

Early each morning a man runs 10km to get to work. He chose not to take the bus to save extra money and the work he’d found, although far, is good work and it pays for his children’s school, books, uniform and food. He knows the road off by heart and some of the drivers know him, they wave and give him priority. Just the 10km he has to run back at the end of the day is a bit much, but he’s got no choice.

It is determination that’s pushing these men, and many others, forward. The willpower to get the work done, to get that pay cheque, to pay those school fees, because school is important. They want their children to have the chance they never had. But is determination enough without an opportunity? Is school attendance that opportunity? And, above all, is it enough?

Most of us take reading, the simple act of understanding and subconsciously analyzing a text and taking enjoyment from it, for granted. We’ve been brought up in a culture of reading without even realizing it. Books, either electronic or hard copies, are within our reach, literally. What happens if the access to books is denied to a child? If the school or township is not having a library and even school books are scarce – because of financial restrictions or bad management?

Reading is proved to be linked to academic achievement, emotional intelligence and self-esteem.

the key factors to achieve a high literacy level in a country – Patricia Furstenberg

Literacy level in South Africa

The Data Portal Index Mundi presents the following rates for Literacy (%) in South Africa (adults 15 years and older):

The Data Portal Index Mundi presents the following rates for Literacy (%) in South Africa (adults 15 years and older)

“The Annual National Assessment (ANA) test results serve as a proxy for the quality of education in South Africa. The purpose of the Diagnostic Report is to provide detailed evidence of the knowledge and skills that the analysis shows learners were able or not able to demonstrate in the ANA tests.” (Department of Basic Education). The ANA is administered in Language and Mathematics on learners in Grades 1-6 and 9 in both public and independent schools and it was launched in 2011.The standards used by South Africa in assessing its literacy levels are the self-reported ability to read and write short sentences. The 2012 General Household Survey (GHS) conducted by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) considers all South Africans age 15 and older with a Grade 7 or higher education qualification as literate. But are these numbers reflecting the reality of our country’s literacy level?

Analysis of results: overall performance average (learners’ scores ranged from 0 to 100%).

For a better idea of the real issues behind these numbers here are some sample questions and answers. Source: Annual National Assessment 2014, Department of Basic Education, Republic of South Africa.

Grade 4 – Detailed Analysis First Additional Language

Grd 4 – ANA Diagnostic Report

Grade 5 – Detailed Analysis First Additional Language

Grd 5 – ANA Diagnostic Report

Grade 9 – Detailed Analysis First Additional Language

Grd 9 – ANA Diagnostic Report

Grade 9 – Detailed Analysis Home Language

Grd 9 – ANA Diagnostic Report2

Grade 9 – Detailed Analysis Home Language, example two

Grade 9 – Detailed Analysis Home Language, example two

Access to reading material in South African schools

Learners in a primary school with and without a library fulfilling minimum standard which, according to the National Guidelines for School Library and Information Services, are access to at least one of the following: a central school library OR a mobile library OR classroom libraries:

Learners in primary school in SA with or without a library
Percentage of learners, per province, in primary schools without and with a library.
Percentage of learners, per province, in secondary schools without and with a library.

Government schools and the learner allocation received

The 2009 UNICEF report stated that 53% of SA learners were in non-fee schools. These schools are completely dependent on funds from the government. The funds are allocated per learner, depending on the poverty of the area around the school and are amended annually.

Percentage of learners in schools funded at the minimum level in 2011, by province.

The percentage of learners funded at the minimum level is deeply concerning in Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal where only 10%, 15% and 23% of learners, respectively, were funded at the minimum level.

School attendance

Percentage distribution of learners in ordinary schools, by phase, in 2011 (as provided by the Department of Education).

percentage of learners in schools by phase, 2011, Depart.Basic Education

The government does not provide pre-Grade R programmes in schools. Moving up from Foundation Phase to Senior Phase the proportion of learners decreases.

In conclusion, the learner’s lack of access to reading materials due to chronic deficiency in library infrastructure is the biggest problem most government schools in South Africa face. It presents severe repercussions for the future of most children schooled as well as for the real level of literacy in South Africa for many years to come.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

Or South Africa, for the better.

This article was written for and published on the Huffington Post SA on 7 April 2017

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Huffington Post SA
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Why We Need A (New) Generation Of Readers in South Africa

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg
Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg
Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success, by Patricia Furstenberg

Why We Need A (New) Generation Of Readers in South Africa

“Readers are leaders”, said one great teacher; leaders of their own lives. Being able to understand what is expected of us beyond our job description or mastering those psychometric tests in a job interview could be life changing situations. Turning that first date into a success or having the ability to understand (and survive) our partner’s emotional needs are, definitely, lifesaving situations. What all of these occasions call for are our wits and… empathy. So relax; you’re not the odd one out if, at times, you feel for your boss. You should be celebrating instead.

Here’s when and why reading comes into our lives.

You know that special feeling when enjoying a good book? At first the world around us seems to be fading away as we’ve happily secluded ourselves. Then, after closing that volume, we feel like we’ve just roused from a daydream. “Oh, this place is still here… Look, my family!” Not surprisingly to discover that we can connect with them on a deeper level because we can now read (surprise!) their emotions so much better: like under a spotlight!

Empathising with those around us is the epitome of human evolution. The scientific world refers to it as the Theory of Mind (ToM) and research shows that, apparently, improving one’s ability to “read” people’s emotions is as easy as picking up a work of literary fiction. Psychologists Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd proved in their scientific study Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind published in Science just that.

“Theory of Mind is the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one’s own beliefs and desires.”

By assigning different reading material to a number of participants and afterwards testing them Castano and Kidd have been able to measure how well the subjects identified emotions in others. The readers of literary fiction scored, by far, the highest.

TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg1 – No reading or non-fiction reading will NOT improve the subject’s ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Theory of Mind, Castano & Kidd)
TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg2 – Reading Popular Fiction insignificantly enhances the subject’s ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Theory of mind, Castano & Kidd)
TheoryOfMind-PatriciaFurstenberg3 – Reading Literary Fiction temporarily enhances the subject’s performance and his ability to detect and identify emotions in others (Roland Barthes)

Can You Read People’s Emotions? Take The Times quiz.

Why we need empathy – and books – in South Africa

From a parent’s point of view I certainly want my children to be successful in life.

Reading impacts greatly on a child’s evolving mind and, apart from its neurological, educational and psychological benefits, by improving their empathy reading helps children socialise at school and thrive in life.

Besides knowledge, sharpening a child’s empathic skills is just as important. If a clever brain is measured through its IQ (Intelligence Quotient), an empathic mind is measured through its EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient). A person with a high EQ will be able to better understand his own emotions as well as be able to better relate to the emotional status of those around him – thus improving his social skills and, eventually, the general social welfare of his generation.

Empathy is also proved to be crucial to a child in peer-pressure situations. Empathic children are less violent and develop into adults with a lower risk of emotional or behavioural problems later in life, violence and substance abuse included. (Did you feel as if you hated people?)

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success

Reading is linked to empathy, self-esteem and academic success

In a world where technology is omnipresent and social issues are on the rise; during a time when the rift between communities widens and the politics, not the civility, governs; when social indifference, not social compassion seem to be ruling our lives; when today’s major subject couldn’t be further away from tomorrow’s job and when employment policies, not work equity seem to rule, a new generation of readers, of emphatic human beings, is more in demand than ever before. “Fiction may change how, not just what, people think about others.” (Kidd, Castano)

5 Ways to foster empathy in our children

5 Ways to foster empathy in our children

5 Reasons why we need more good books in our lives

  1. Reading promotes empathy, helping us better understand other’s emotional state, a stepping stone to build meaningful relationships and more human societies.
  2. Reading promotes social welfare by bringing people together through enjoyable means.
  3. Reading develops consciousness; when one reads information is being absorbed on a conscious as well as unconscious way.
  4. Reading enriches our lives.
  5. Reading stimulates the intellect and the soul.

Surely reading literary fiction couldn’t be the only way to improve one’s ToM. Art, movies and musical performances also come into light.

I may not have read all the volumes of Hugo’s Les Miserables, but I remember watching the movie. The character of Jean Valjean still gives me goose bumps. Perhaps a 21st century musical production would be just as effective?

It would be interesting to find out if and how coming in contact with other works of art influences one’s empathic levels.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Proposed literary fiction for your child

“I cannot remember the books I have read any more than the meals I have eaten; but they have all helped to make me.” (Emerson)

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Read further on the Huffington Post South Africa, a post by Patricia Furstenberg.

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10 Enchanting Christmas and Bedtime Books for Babies and Young Readers

10 Enchanting Christmas and Bedtime Books for Babies and Young Readers

10 Enchanting Christmas and Bedtime Books for Babies and Young Readers

Which parent is not feverishly searching, at least once, for Christmas bedtime books ideal for babies or young readers?

When my daughter was six month old I began reading to her “The Little Duckling.” We would cuddle together every day and enjoy the little bird’s adventures of bravery. It was a magical time for me and for my daughter as well. Later on she would look excited just seeing this book!

My son loved the touch and feel story of a puppy. It was a board book and, no matter how hard I tried, he would always put it in his mouth. I guess that’s what board books are for! He loved the touch of the puppy’s fur on the cover and, mostly, having his family around him at story time.

Later on I would read to both my children Enid Blyton’s “The Faraway Tree” and to this day my teen children remember the warm, fuzzy evenings and the big book we shared and delighted in together.

What’s left when books are outgrown are the memories; a fuzzy warm feeling of safety in mom’s arms, dad’s silly voice dad makes while trying to work out different voices, a bright cover or a beloved character. Tucked away in a special space in our children’s hearts; to take with through life, to give them a sense of family when they’re on their own and something to look forward to when starting their own family.

Here are some of the 10 most enchanting and fun board books (most of them) with Christmas and bedtime stories to enjoy with your little ones.

1. Llama Llama Jingle Bells

From the beloved bestselling “Llama Llama series” by the author and illustrator Anna Dewdney comes the enchanting Christmas story, “Llama Llama Jingle Bells.” The illustrations are bright and easy on the eye, depicting adorable characters. Anna Dewdney is a master of the verse for young children, her rhymes being “polished and precise” (Publishers Weekly).

Llama brings a gift to his friend (a book smile) then Llama becomes excited thinking of present “Llama Santa” him! Back home he bakes cookies with Mama Llama and they leave Santa a snack. Mama carries a tired little llama to bed. The Christmas morning is met with excitement and joy.

Sadly, Anna Dewdney died this year, age 50, due to brain cancer. She left us sweet Christmas bedtime books for babies and young readers.

2. Llama Llama Holiday Drama

Another wonderful bestseller by Anna Dewdney. “Llama Llama holidays. Jingle music. Lights ablaze. How long till that special date? Llama Llama has to wait.”

Even though babies might be too young to really worry about “how long IS it until Christmas?” the musicality and rhythm of this Llama Llama story are just what little ears need.

And, of course, there’s that cuddle at the end of the story, when Mama Llama reminds little Llama that “Gifts are nice, but there’s another: The true gift is, we have each other.”

A great read for an after-read of cuddles and squeals of delight.

“Dewdney continues to display her very real understanding of preschooler mentality.”  Delivering clever rhymes. Library Journals LLC and, of course, this book contains Dewdney’s artistic illustrations.

The Llama Llama character was first introduced to young readers in 2005, with  “Llama Llama Red Pajama”. Ms. Dewdney was considered “rock star to preschoolers”  by the children’s-book journal The Horn Book

This one is a hardcover edition.

3. The Legend of the Candy Cane: The Inspirational Story of Our Favorite Christmas Candy

It is never too early to tech children that Christmas IS Jesus Christ’s Birthday! And this story does just that.

Lori Walburg spins a timeless tale, sweet and heartwarming while James Bernardin brings it alive with his warm, lavish rich illustrations.

A charming Christmas story for your family to grow old with.

Children often wish for the simplest of things, while grownups tend to be more realistic. Who is the stranger that rode in the small prairie town? Will he turn out to be just what all the children hope for? And, do you know why candy canes are being made as a symbol of Christmas? Ever wondered why the cane is shaped like a J?

“Remember Jesus when it comes to Christmas, He truly is the reason for the season.”

4. Song of the Stars

Best-selling author Sally Lloyd-Jones gifts us with an exciting book “The Song of the Stars”. It is a meaningful read about the joy of giving and the magic of Jesus’s Birth.

Stories for babies don’t need to always rhymes. Sometimes the excitement in the voice of the reader is what makes it all worthwhile.

“The world was about to change forever. And it almost went by unnoticed…” Jones begins and she goes on in a free-flowing, rhythmical way, using figures of speech to bring her story to life, songs to a child’s ears:  Leaves “rustle with a rumor,” the wind “whispered it softly in the sycamore trees,” a “big brown bear sniffed the air,”

The bright illustrations of Alison Jay show nature, animals and, finally, the town of Bethlehem with shepherds, sheep, and angels surrounding it, then a little barn and the baby, surrounded by animals. The baby held by his mother and surrounded by pure love, animals and his family.

5. Elmo’s 12 Days of Christmas (Sesame Street) (Big Bird’s Favorites Board Books)

What would Christmas be without Sesame Street’s beloved Elmo?

Hee-hee! Ha, ha ha! Laugh with your little one while reading out loud this amusing Christmas story by Sarah Albee, a New York Times Bestseller Trust herstorytelling capabilities and her children’s writer intuition as she delivers her own take on the 12 Days of Christmas, Sesame Street st‌yle!

With sweet verse and even more lovable characters depicted in bright, colourful illustrations, Elmo’s 12 Days of Christmas (Sesame Street) is a sing along, read along, laugh along book. Find Elmo in each day of Christmas!

Perfect size for little hands and a classic Christmas bedtime books for babies!

6. The Hat

Written by Jan Brett, the author of the bestselling book The Mitten, here comes another story to treasure! Try your hand at making different animal voices with this fun, heart-warming filled with cute farm and forest animals.

A clever and appealing before Christmas story. Ever wondered where your missing socks are? Well, if you would live in a Scandinavian farm, then after reading this story you would know for sure.

The illustrations are brilliant and original, depicting glorious Scandinavian farm surroundings. Telling the story by themselves, the illustrations are an added bonus and something that will make youyou’re your child enjoy the book again and again, for amy years to come.

Find the missing sock in them! “The pictures, story, and subject matter make this a natural for sharing aloud.” (From School Library Journal)

There’s something for the parents to enjoy in this book as well! Whimsical and imaginative. A must-read for every child and her/his parents.

7. The Crippled Lamb

This is fantastic, revised edition of the same classical book, a board book perfect for little hands and durable to survive quite a bit of chewing and tossing.

The illustrations are beautiful and even grownups would want to pause on a page to enjoy them.

We read about a lamb who feels out of place because he is not as perfect as the other lambs. But his wonderful friend Abigail always reminds him that “God has a special place for those who don’t belong.”

A must read children’s book that’s sure to be enjoyed often than only once a year!

8. Goodnight Moon

A #1Bestseller by Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. Although not a Christmas story, “Goodnight Moon” is a fantastic read for bedtime.

With clear, bright illustrations and easy to grasp rhymes, this book has a magic of its own. The gentle repetitions and the joy of finding little mouse on every page are perfect for creating a calm bedtime routine.

A gem of a book belonging near every bed.

The little bunny tucked in his bed says good night to all the objects around him in his cosy moonlit room.

In this classic of modern children’s literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.” (From the Back Cover)

9. Ten Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (Classic Books With Holes)

Maybe not a Christmas story, but a classical nevertheless.

With lively rhymes ready for singing along, Bouncy illustrations and HOLES for poking little fingers. Or make your child giggle by poking your own fingers through the holes in this board book.

A great book to singing out loud, count along, tell time and speak about feelings. And why not, to allow your little one to jump on the bed – with you nearby.

Sweet, bright illustrations. Count the little monkeys.

A book and a game in one, a real treat for the whole family!

And, one of my top Christmas bedtime books for babies and especially young readers is:

10. The Lion and the Dog

Both my children loved this book and seeing the cover had brought back many wonderful memories!

A beautiful picture book with musical rhymes that celebrates diversity and promotes kindness, sure to strike a chord with the many fans of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

“I like the beautiful messages of friendship, faith, optimism, and kindness conveyed through this story. The rhyme scheme makes it a lyrical read, making it appealing to the children. The illustrations are wonderful and they give clarity to the author’s concept and words.” (Readers’ Favorite)

What are YOUR family’s favorite reads? I would love to hear about them.

Written in 2016 for Redtricycle website.

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