Thursday 26 September 2019

From Picture Books to Chapter Books-Making the Leap. (Part 1)

I was an avid reader as a child. Funnily enough, I don't have many memories of my early reading journey, other than hearing a few classic picture books at school and having a few stories at home. I certainly don't remember being surrounded by endless colourful picture books, although reading in our family was always encouraged. I remember my dad's shelves being lined with a selection of thick, highbrow and rather academic books that I often attempted to read. It seemed I was curious and hungry for stories.
And so, by the age of six- the age my middle daughter is now-I was reading pretty fluently and curled up every night with a book in my hand. This is where my memory really kicks in. I remember sharing a bunk-bed with my cousin (another hungry reader) and snuggling under the duvet with an strong supply of Enid Blyton:The Magic Faraway Tree turned into The Wishing Chair which turned into The Secret Seven, The Famous Five and The Fantastic Four. Then came the Roald Dahl books and The Chronicles of Narnia.                                                           

Childhood favourites (link below)

Now, thirty years later, I am here with my own children and attempting to make the leap from picture books (which will always be everywhere in our house) to chapter books. And, surprisingly, it's not going as smoothly as I thought.
Over the last nine years with the arrival of our three little ones, our house has gradually turned into a library. What better excuse to indulge my love of children's books but to buy and borrow books for our children. They have literally come from everywhere -the library, discount book stores, car boot sales and charity shops - and the range is far reaching. From Peppa Pig to The Gruffalo to Barry the Fish with Fingers to Winnie the Witch. You name it and we've probably got it!

And so, what are the results of filling our house with all these gorgeous stories?  Pure magic, that's what! With a little organisation (we have book tidies in most rooms and move the stories around to encourage wider reading) I have three children who are hooked on picture books and who can listen to audio stories for hours in the car and still ask for more. I have an autistic daughter who cannot read well at all and yet can recite the whole rhyming text of Room on The Broom and Hairy McClary and Zachary Quack. and I also have an eye-rolling husband who tells me off for having books everywhere and yet, despite struggling his whole life with dyslexia and avoiding reading at all costs, turned to me one day with our eldest on his lap and said 'I love reading with the kids! These books are ace.'
But time is moving us on and, although my 8 year old daughter still needs a diet of picture books, sound books, sensory and audio books, my other two - aged 6 and 4- are ready for more.
More I can give them!  I dug out my precious copies of the shorter Roald Dahl books and began to read. They were an instant hit. I  knew the text inside out and could confidently do the voices to keep them engaged. The Twits, George's Marvellous Medicine and James and the Giant Peach went down a storm. But then what?..and here's where I noticed a change.
My four year old son- lively and boisterous- was gripped by these stories and started to show an interest in more. But my six year old daughter-who is a competent reader and writer for her age- started to trail off. If the pace or action in the story dipped at any point, I noticed she would turn away and start talking over me, playing with her toys or busying herself with other things. I encouraged her to choose a book in the bookshop that she could read on her own at bedtime. She loved doing this and chose two, only to lose interest the moment we got home. Without the lure of picture book illustrations and the enjoyable rhythm and rhyme of the text, she has begun to lose interest in the books and turn to the TV and I-pad for her instant fix.
I have one rule about books in our house. I want to foster a pure enjoyment of reading. There is never any pressure to read and they always have the choice of reading whatever they want. I encourage them to read their school books (or whatever book after school) but never force! And the reading material: picture books, chapter books, magazines and non-fiction books are accessible whenever they want it. If she wants to carry on enjoying the picture books then fine, no problem. But in my own head, as a parent and a teacher, I wonder how I move her on in her reading fluency and help her reach her maximum potential without applying any pressure? How do I get the black and white books to compete with the other sources of entertainment without being dictatorial?
For the moment I have continued to read chapter books at bedtime. My son-just turned four and in reception-is the one I thought would struggle most with reading. Yet he sits on my lap every night and becomes absorbed in the stories. He even asked me one morning before school if I could carry on reading a certain chapter book because he "couldn't wait to find out what happens." He can't yet read at all himself but his love of listening to stories has really surprised (and thrilled me). Yet my daughter still chooses not to listen - and she's not made to if she doesn't want to.
This has lead me down a path of researching the latest and most recommended chapter books on the market (I love early chapter books as much as picture books!). Again, surprisingly it's been harder than I thought to find ones that really connect in the same way as the Roald Dahl books. Although the few we have tried have been enjoyable, none of them have evoked the same reaction in my boy as Roald Dahl's humour and they haven't held my daughter's attention at all!
So in part two of this post I plan to review the modern chapter books we have tried to date. In the meantime, any suggestions for a successful transition from picture book to chapter book will be gratefully received, as will any recommendations.

This blog takes now credit for any images used. The images have been taken from Goodreads and all links are below:
The Enchanted Wood:
Barry the Fish with Fingers:
George's Marvellous Medicine:

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