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Princess Books? Give Me a Break!

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Encouraging our eldest daughter to develop a love of reading has luckily not been too difficult for us; developing her reading interests beyond "Princess Books" has been the hurdle. You know the books we're talking about here - the pink, the frilly, the 'life is sweet' type that sometimes offer a free tiara and the like.

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 At an education conference this month, popular children's author Lauren Child said that "
as a child she felt like a sponge, absorbing information from everywhere". My daughter's preoccupation with all things princess left me wondering if we really could've applied this to her - "everywhere", or from just one genre?

I was always a firm believer in the principle that it didn't really matter what children were reading, just so long as they were reading. At parent- teacher interviews, I reassured parents that their child's preference for a specific genre or topic was nothing to worry about. We really should be grateful that children are showing an interest in reading at all. Now I'm not so sure.

Yes, we know that a high interest level in a text can potentially motivate children to read more challenging material, but surely limiting content to one area of interest is forgetting about educating the whole child in favour of developing reading skills? 

Learning needs to be broad and balanced. Children's reading should therefore reflect this balance, the reading genre wide and unlimited (though not totally unchecked). But how do we achieve this? 

I realised that my own daughter's interest in Princess Books was fueled by her everyday belongings and play experiences. The Disney films, costumes, jigsaws - goodness, even her lunchbox, all reinforced the appeal! It was our own fault that we had princess overkill. So then we had a think about other things she enjoys. Art. Santa :) Baking. Horses. Walking in the Woods.

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 We had it. Walking in the Woods. Perfect. There are so many wonderful picture books set in woodland/ the forest. (Don't forget to include nonfiction in your wider reading!) Relating real, first hand experiences to reading helps young children make a connection and creates what is known as a "book hook". Here you will find a specialist book list, published last month by the UK Literacy Trust, that features popular "books with hooks" for just this purpose. And here we have our first reading of Stick Man in a tree!

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Of course, you don't have to go to this length to generate a connection with a new topic for reading! However, using a little imagination to bring a book to life makes the story tangible, meaningful and often essential. How do you help your children hook up with books? Now, to get a break from woodland books........?!

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Comments

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learningparade

Mother Reader - love the compromise!
Tom - I totally agree with you about the whole marketing thing, it makes my blood boil sometimes!! (And the box is usually played with more in our house, lol)
Mary Ann - Thanks for stopping by!
Book Chook - You've done a great job this week, super hosting! :)

Tif

I have yet to experience this, but I have a feeling I will be and will be bookmarking the book hook site! Thank you!!

Teacher Tom

When it comes to frilly books with tiara's attached to them I don't think we're talking about books that are "freely" chosen by the children -- they are at the receiving end of a marketing campaign.

Before having a daughter, I was a big fan of Disney, but I very quickly came to deeply resent how aggressively they were targeting my child with their marketing messages.

Frankly, now that she's a teen, I see the same thing happening with Harry Potter, Twilight, etc. Not that they are awful books, but the genre is rather limiting. I'm glad her teachers are making her read more interesting books that don't have all the hype. It's really opening her eyes to the world of "not judging books by their covers."

I like this strategy of "books with hooks." Thanks.

Mary Ann

We've read the fairy books by Daisy Meadows so many times they all seem to blend together! But they were great in building up our daughter's attention span. You're so right - it can be trying to a parent's patience, but it was a phase and she, too, got tired of it. Love your idea of thinking about other "book hooks"!

Book Chook

It IS a dilemma. I truly do believe in allowing kids to choose their own reading material. But I understand that parents and teachers want them to experience a range of material too.

When my son was small, we had his picture books from the library and my picture books, and generally chose from both piles each night. As he got older, we would read chapter books together that we'd consulted over the choice, and he would choose his own books for independent reading. Occasionally he would let me "sell" him on a book, but not often.

As a young man now, he is both eclectic and idiosyncratic as a reader. I like to think the eclectic part comes from me sneaking books under his nose!

Esme

Looove that reading of STICK MAN in a tree! That's priceless. Glad to know about your lovely blog...

Jen Robinson

Thanks so much for contributing today, Caroline. Looking at the child's other interests makes sense to me. There are a lot of societal factors that contribute to the desire for "princess books", and while I'm philosophically in the "let them read what interests them" camp, I can see using these ideas to broaden the picture, too. Thanks!!

MotherReader

It practically killed me to read the Rainbow Fairy series out loud - so sickly sweet. We finally had to agree that these were going to be her "read to herself" books, while I shared other books that I could read to her without excessive eye-rolling on my own part. ;^)

Terry Doherty

Oh, a great problem to have ... a new passion. You make a very good point about how we *do* this to ourselves in the "what" kids have. We have found with my 8YO that finding princess stories that are more involved, like Barbie and the 3 Musketeers, has actually led to her interest in new things - like fencing ;-)

Ian

I am quite lucky thus far, my son likes all kinds of books. But, then again he is only just learning to read, and is largely being read to. I hope he keeps the variety up as he develops, but if not, I now have tips like this to rely on. Thank you.

Zoe @ Playing by the book

My youngest is fixated on On Top of the World by John Prater at the moment, which is about going on a slide, and I had been thinking of taking the book to our local playground so that we could read it on the slide :-) Now I've read your post I'm thinking, what's stopping me? I'll get a coffee from the park cafe and we'll have a lovely time in the spring sunshine...

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