Guest Post: Lindsay J. Sedgwick – On turning your kids into book-loving hibernating bears

Good afternoon one and all! As a confirmed and passionate reader, it hurts my heart more than I can say that my kids have not yet discovered their own love of reading. Although they are still happy to be read to, picking up a book in a spare moment is just not something they would ever think of.

This is why I’m happy today to welcome Lindsay J. Sedgwick, author of the MG Wulfie series (Little Island), with her tips to get kids reading – there are definitely some here that I’ll be trying out!

Read on below for details of Wulfie: Beast in Show…

If you love to read, you can always escape – from today’s problems, from tomorrow’s – for a while. Like a hibernating bear, you can shut out the harsh realities and live in a different world. As a writer for kids, I want to pull them into stories that are fun, that are exciting, that are, ultimately, uplifting, but with so many digital distractions – not helped by the pandemic – how can we pass on a love of reading to our children?

1. Read, lots. 

Let them see you lost between the spine of a book; that this is something special and yet everyday. Talk about books, characters and stories you love. Between homeschooling and work, it’s hard to find time to read, but this is time for yourself too and that’s important for our own mental health. Perhaps one way is to make a reading pod with cushions in a corner of a room and designate a quiet half hour where you read and your kids are free to read or draw with you? 

2. Read to them before they get too old to let you… 

20 minutes at a time. Find a book that’s fun to read, so it’s fun for all of you. You could start reading a book out loud and walk with it. They will follow like baby fowl so that by the time you curl up on a sofa, they are hooked. Reading aloud is also meant to be really good for your brain; if it doesn’t come easily, it will get easier. Ask older children to read to you or to their younger siblings/ cousins/ kids of your friends. 

3. Follow their interest

Even if it’s something you don’t ‘get’, use what interests them as a way to get them reading and engaged. Magic, time travel or puzzles, bugs or history, real life stories or slapstick, football or dinosaurs… you can find something for them to read. It might not be a book; it might be it a magazine, comic, fan-fiction online or encyclopaedias such as the Guinness Book of Records. 

4. Try the books out first*

I don’t believe in talking down to kids ever, but a book where the sentences flow, where the opening paragraph intrigues or amuses them, in which you want to keep turning the pages will hook their interest. Especially for children reluctant to read so read a few pages to make sure they will manage it because you want to build up their confidence. If it’s tricky, sit with them and help them read the words they can’t. The context should help them absorb the meaning.

* Doesn’t apply if they are let loose in a library – oh let’s hope those days come back soon! 

5. Ask them to review the book

Ask them what it’s about, who they liked in the book and why, who they didn’t like, what the story was about, how it made them feel. They could write a review and illustrate it or, depending on how tech savvy you are, you could record it. Maybe you could upload the review to friends and family, or send it to an author – it’s one of the best things in the world to hear back from a child who has enjoyed your book!

6. Oh and libraries. Don’t you miss them? 

The glory of libraries was being allowed to choose a pile of books –favourite writers and random books.  Some would be good, some not but it didn’t matter because the books were free to borrow. And librarians are usually brilliant at recommending books once they know what your child likes. Some libraries are offering online sessions for kids with readings and art-based activities so they’re worth checking out. 

7. Make them authors

Want them to love books? Get them to write their own! This was something I did do with my own daughter and her friends – I’d get them to make up stories on the spot that I’d jot down – the madder the better, no editing required! I’d type them out into thin columns that I could print out, cut and stick into a tiny book of folded or cut out blank paper (A6), leaving space for them to add illustrations. Add a coloured card cover with the name of the story and the author. Lo and behold they are authors! 

Funniest book I remember as a child?

I think it was probably The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton although it was the lure of a different world arriving every day at the top of the tree that hooked me in. And for humour and rhythm, nothing beat AA Milne’s books of poems – When We Were Young, Now we are Six… I imagine my mother read them to me but they were fun to read aloud and so I remember many of them still…‘Jonathon Joe/ had a mouth like an ‘O’/ and a wheelbarrow full of surprises…’ ‘I had a little beetle/ so that ‘Beetle’ was its name/ and I called him Alexander / and he answered just the same.’

Great tips there from Lindsay – and I totally agree in wanting to be able to access the library properly too!

Wulfie: Beast in Show is published today by Little Island, and Wulfie: Stage Fright is also available now.

More about Wulfie: Beast in Show

Libby lives with her mean step-brother, Rex, who tells her scary stories so she can’t sleep. At school she is a loner. All Libby wants is a best friend – and to get revenge on Rex.

Libby’s life changes forever when she finds, in an old trunk in her bedroom, a little purple wolf-like creature named Wulfie.

Wulfie can talk. He can grow as big as a bear or shrink down as small as a snail. He’s sweet and kind, but he loves to get into trouble.

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