Why Don’t Children Read More? (part 2)

I have read 13 books so far this year. Many of them have contained at least one mistake, and a few of them have been so riddled with mistakes I couldn’t help wondering whether the publishing company had even heard of the concept of proofreading. I’m not even talking about just typos. Typos are annoying, and they should be picked up before a book goes to print, but even proof-readers are human and I can understand why the odd one slips through here and there. I’m talking about huge, glaring mistakes that spoil my enjoyment of a book because they don’t make sense.

I read a book once where the names of all the characters changed for one chapter in the middle of a book! That was highly confusing, but as an adult I worked out that the writer had changed the character names part way through writing, and forgotten to alter them in one chapter. Imagine what a child would have thought in a similar situation.

I read another book that contained the sentence: “Things are haveing (sic) to have a lot worse get before they better.” Ok, so I worked out what it meant – that’s beside the point. Coming across a sentence like this throws me out of the story and makes it harder to engage with the characters.

When there are errors like these every 2 to 3 pages, I feel like giving up and hurling the book across the floor. I love reading, so if errors in books make me want to give up, I imagine the temptation would be 100 times greater for a child who is already reluctant to read. Is it any wonder then if they don’t bother?

So far I have looked at libraries and the quality of books as reasons why children might not read. Tomorrow I’ll look at the last reason I have thought of. Do you have thoughts on why children don’t read more? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Getting Children Speaking in the MFL Classroom

Book - KS3 French Speaking ActivitiesHow do you get your class speaking more of a language? I came across these great books recently which are packed with interesting ideas.

There is a KS2 and a KS3 version of the book, but the blurb on them recommends getting just one or the other as the content is very similar. I’ve been using the KS3 book with upper KS2 with no problems. Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to use many of them yet, but I’m itching to get a chance.

My Year 6 French beginners really enjoyed the survey where they had to find the name and age of everyone in the class. Obviously they already knew the real names and ages of their classmates, so I gave each of them a card with a French name, an age between 1 and 12 (as those were the only numbers we’d learnt) and a symbol to show how they were feeling.

You do need to monitor this activity quite closely, as some of the children will try to take the easy way out and copy answers over other pupil’s shoulders, but on the whole I found that the children had fun with it, and I heard lots of good French spoken in the classroom,

What activities or resources do you use to increase the amount of language spoken in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Summer Reading

It’s the summer holidays. Hopefully everyone is enjoying the time off, but if you or your young ones are getting bored, why not have a look at these books?

For KS1: Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat by Ursula Williams. This is an old book now – I remember reading it when I was a child myself – but it’s still just as appealing now as it was then. You can’t help but feel sorry for poor Gobbolino who really doesn’t want to be a witch’s cat. The story tells of his adventures as he searches for a home where he can be just a normal cat.

KS2: Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. Poor Percy Jackson doesn’t realise that he’s a demi-god until one of his teachers tries to kill him. After that his life gets seriously turned upside-down when he discovers that his best friend is a satyr and that the god of war really has it in for him If, like me, you have an interest in Greek mythology these books are even more special, but even if you’ve never been a fan of classical history the Percy Jackson series is a great read that will appeal to boys and girls alike. Start with Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and just keep going! I’ve finished this series, but on my summer reading list I have the second series: The Heroes of Olympus.

KS3: The Everlost Trilogy by Neal Shusterman. What happens when you die if you don’t end up where you are supposed to be? You end up in Everlost, and the only ways to avoid sinking into the centre of the earth are to keep moving or to find a ‘dead spot’ (a place where somebody else has died) to stand on. Everlost is divided into those who want to help the lost souls find their way to where they should be, and those who want to stop them. With a cast including pirates, ogres and people who can take over the bodies of the living, there is quite a battle. For younger readers it’s just a good read – for older readers it has quite an existential feel – Jean-Paul Sartre would have been proud!

KS4:Unwind (also by Neal Shusterman). This one covers some quite gritty issues. Imagine a world where it is illegal to terminate a pregnancy, but when your child reaches the age of 13 you can change your mind. If you decide that having your child was a mistake you can apply to have them ‘unwound’, which involves every single part of their body being used in transplants to save other people’s lives. How would you feel if you had grown up believing your family loved you until the day the authorities come to unwind you? How would you feel if you had grown up in a family that believe in donating 10% of their possessions to charity, and you are their 10th child? This book follows the lives of some children who are on the run to save their lives. To escape the ‘unwind order’, they must stay alive until they are 18.

Young Adults: There probably aren’t many people who haven’t already read Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy, but if you are one of them – what are you waiting for? It’s set in the future after there has been some sort of uprising, and the divide between the rich and the poor is very clearly defined. As a punishment for the uprising, the various districts are forced to enter two of their young people, one boy and one girl, into a contest where they have to fight to the death in the name of entertainment. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark may be teenagers, but the action is tense and fast-paced enough to keep adults turning the pages as well. I have heard a few critics say that this book is just a rehash of Stephen King’s The Running Man, but to me this seems a bit harsh. It is true that The Running Man was probably more visionary at the time, because reality TV wasn’t the bulk of entertainment in those days, but The Hunger Games is more than just reality TV taken to extremes – especially as the plot unfolds further in the second and final books.

These are my recommendations for summer reading. What are yours? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.