Tag Archives: children

Should children’s eBooks have audio built in?

“Let your child read along as words come alive on the screen!” The advertising shrieks . Translated from marketing speak it means, “Leave your child’s education in our hands. You go and enjoy yourself while we keep them quiet for a minute or two.”

But will your child learn to read? Of course not. I think we have forgotten just how much hard work goes into learning to read. So much of learning to read is dictated by the culture around the child. If the parents aren’t reading, why should a child bother? If the parents leave children alone with ebooks to entertain them, do you really think the children are going to bother following along with the text?

No, of course not. Books with follow along audio are entertainment. There is nothing wrong with that, but don’t expect your child to learn to read with them. Children love listening to stories but they don’t have the self-discipline to follow along and learn to read for themselves. It’s so easy to imagine children as being small versions of ourselves. They should be able to apply themselves to learning new skills just as we adults do.

But learning itself is a skill that needs to be taught. If you think that you can just give a child an e-book, with a famous actor’s voice reading the story, and then come back 20 years later and expect your child to be doing well in University, think again.

To children, there is no difference between real books and e-books. They have no loyalty to the old regime of paper and ink. But what they really respond to is the closeness of sharing, being together, the passing on of difficult skills and constant encouragement. You can snuggle up together with an ebook reader just as well as a book. If you can’t, that’s your problem. You an old fuddy-duddy and you need to move on,

Where e-book’s may well be at an advantage is with reluctant readers, for whom most of my books are aimed. “Reluctant reader” is a euphemism for boys. More precisely dyslexic boys and those with attention issues! If there is one thing that grabs their attention, it’s gadgets.

Some boys will embrace e-book’s and get reading without any problem at all, whilst turning down paper books because they are not cool and come with cultural baggage attached.

I thought long and hard about whether I should put an audio track in with the Ginger Ninja iBook. So many parents have told me that the Ginger Ninja was the book that got their child reading. I decided it would be wrong to turn a book into an entertainment and deprive a new generation the chance of having this be the first book they read all on their own.

I’ve added a quiz, a video of myself talking about where I got my inspiration and another video showing how to draw Ginger. I will continue adding extra features to the rest of the series to give added value to the iBooks.

It’s crossed my mind to film a YouTube video of a “Jackanory” style reading of the Ginger Ninja and see what happens. I’d like to know what people think about this idea.

In the meantime you can get the Ginger Ninja at the iBook store for your iPad at the following addresses.

UK Store       US Store     Australian Store     Canadadian Store     Irish Store 

Let me know if it’s your child’s first book they read, and 🙂


Gloucester School Partnership – Me in 2020 Day

[slideshow]I had a fantastic day yesterday, and I think the children and teachers who attended the Gloucester Schools Partnership Pupil Voice Conference did too. We opened with talks from The Olympic Swimming Champion, Sharron Davies and Singer, Jono McNiel and myself, outlining the twists and turns that brought us to the current point in our careers. Sharon Davies awed us all by showing how long her arms are. She clasped her hands behind her back and wriggled them around her head so that the ended up in front of her. One girl in the audience could do the same. Apparently, apart from being a good party trick, it is a sign of a potentially good swimmer. Long arms are a physical advantage in swimming.

Then the children went off in groups to give their own presentations based on their aspirations and how they imagine themselves in 2020. It was wonderful to see that the children’s characters really suited some of their choices. Knowing what you are good at and what suits you best is a real bonus in life – I’m still frustrated and searching for the one thing I’m really good at!

After lunch we let balloons off into a lowering, windy sky. Each balloon carried aloft the wishes of the person who released it. (One teacher was heard to say, “I hope those balloons don’t drift off to sea and strangle an hundred turtles!”)

Then While other children learned about karate and cake decorating and singing, I led an illustration session based on my Viking Vik Books. My children were aged from reception to year six, so it was quite a wide spread. Even though some claimed they couldn’t draw, everyone did beautiful drawings – as I know all children and adults can do if they just sit down and have a go.

The Gloucester Schools Partnership is a wonderful idea, About forty schools belong. They meet up to share expertise within the group for professional development and organise group meeting days like yesterdays. There is another similar group in the country. I think it’s a really good idea.

I felt really energised at the end of the day. Talking to teachers, I felt that the new, creative curriculum is starting to ease up the stultifying effects of the Literacy Hour and give more freedom and inspiration back to teachers. Just as things have started to move in a positive direction, I truly hope the new Government are not going to take us back to Victorian basics again.

Thanks to Kevin Rowe, Melanie Newnham and everyone else who worked so hard to make it such a really great day.

Five ways to improve your bedtime storytelling skills

Bed Time Story for CatsIf you want your children to quieten down at bedtime, there are six little magic words that work almost every time. What are they?
“Who wants to hear a story?”
Simple, huh? Yes, it really is that simple. Your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will all respond willingly. Children are hard-wired to snuggle up and listen to stories. So how can you make the experience even better? Try these five tips.

  1. Make the time. Children can sense if you are in a hurry. If you rush your way through a story, they will feel cheated and nag you for more. It becomes a vicious circle – you want them to calm down and go to sleep but all you succeed in achieving is to wake them up and leave them huffing and puffing with a sense of grievance that will keep them awake, calling for endless glasses of water!
    Let them absorb the story and see all the pictures until you reach the final and satisfying ending. you may then still need to answer some clarifying questions. Remember, this is how children really learn.
  2. Get a good book. If you are not sure what to choose, ask. Everyone has a favourite and will be happy to tell you all about it. Ask at your bookshop or Library. Librarians are really nice people and are incredibly knowledgeable about books. It’s their job to help you and, like most other people, they really enjoy helping their customers.
  3. Rehearse. Yep! even if it’s a quick flip through, get the feel of the story you are about to tell. Try out the different voices. “VOICES!” I hear you say, in panicked tones. “Isn’t that like acting?” yes, it is, but children will love you for trying. It doesn’t matter how bad you are, children are the most forgiving audience. The skills you learn reading to children will improve your confidence and public speaking skills. You could pay thousands for this kind of advice and experience!
  4. Make it a special time. Wait until supper and baths are over, the favourite TV program has finished and it is definitely bed time. Have just a low bedside light on and snuggle up. Make a cosy, safe little world inside the glow of the lamp into which you can introduce fabulous imaginary worlds.
  5. Picture Books are not for babies! Picture books are for sharing. Teenagers and adults love to share a picture book if they feel they are allowed. I know I read picture books to them quite often! While you read the words, children read the pictures and begin to fall into that dream-like state that will calm them down ready for sleep.

Bedtime reading is the greatest gift you can ever give to a child. You will improve their reading and writing skills rapidly and sweet dreams lead to a rested child that is going to do better at school the next day.

Like anything in life, bedtime storytelling needs a little time and effort. At the end of the day, this is hard, but you might just find it gives you a moment to recharge your batteries too!

These are my favourites: