‘Please can you buy me reading glasses, so I can read too?’ one of my young sons asked while we were reading a picturebook, many years ago. ‘If only it was that easy …’ I thought. The request was followed by an explanation that reading is a process that takes time, patience and encouragement. Though wouldn’t it be marvellous and magical if by simply putting on a pair of glasses we could all read?
Reading can be a joy! Books are portals to other worlds; far off places we never imagined existed. There’s nothing as absorbing as getting lost in a good book. But not everyone feels this way. Reading can be a challenge, especially if it seems like the rest of a class can pick up a book and read out loud without a problem. There are a lot of ways to encourage reluctant or hesitant readers on the cusp of independent reading or readers about to take the initial plunge.
There are many ways to read, including sign language and braille as well as simply following groups of letters on a page. We have a wide selection of books to help readers taking their first steps and to assist emerging readers along. Some of our books highlight the feeling of triumph when you get to grips with reading; others emphasise the frustration involved. Tiny hands (0–4) will be enticed by bath books, cloth books and board books. Expect chewing, throwing and batting. Big Dog, Little Dog by Élo is a colourful lift-the-flap book, which will delight again and again.
For 2–4 I Do Not Like Books Anymore by Daisy Hirst highlights that reading does not always go to plan. Just Read! by the talented Lori Dergman with water-colour illustrations by Victoria Tentler-Kylov is a fantastic book about getting to grips with the process.
For emerging readers, publisher Barrington Stoke specialise in dyslexia-friendly books making reading accessible for all. Their ‘Little Gems’ is a terrific series designed using special features to make reading more accessible, including clear font, coloured paper, lots of illustrations and engaging text. Another useful series supporting independent reading is the Bloomsbury’s Young Reader series, Jack and the Jungle is just one of the many fun stories available.
Sometimes learning a new language can also be a welcome distraction from trying to get to grips with reading. For some primary school is the place that a number of children encounter Irish for the first time, simultaneously to sound and letter recognition. My Little Album of Dublin is an ideal way to transport readers on each page around Dublin, picking up Irish words along the way.
Non-fiction and fact books can be a very clever way to keep up momentum as they provide a rich-learning experience with text laid out in bite-sized chunks of information. For budding scientists aged 5–7 Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System by Dr Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman is perfect to discover lots of fun facts about the solar system.
Chapter books with a good balance of illustrations, in particular series also support young readers. Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly extensive series is hilarious. The Bad Nana series by Sophy Henn is an absolute hoot. Paula Harrison and Jenny Løvlie’s Kitty and the Moonlight Rescue is a dramatic compelling chapter book.
For 7+readers and sports fans, both Gill Books and The O’Brien Press are releasing exciting new sports series featuring Irish sports legends. Gill’s Irish Sporting Legends series by Paul O’Flynn features dyslexia-friendly text highlighting the stories of Bernard Brogan and Joe Canning. The O’Brien Press’s Great Irish Sports Stars features two well-known Irish sporting champions: Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper by Donny Mahoney and Cora Staunton by Eimear Ryan. Both are the start of series that are accessible and reader friendly – perfect for sports enthusiasts.
When energy flags, it is good to take the focus off reading, and encourage time together to seat down and become familiar with books without learning, highlighting that sitting down with a book is an active, physical and enjoyable activity. Happy reading!
Síne Quinn, MPhil Children’s Literature,is an editor working with Cubicle 7 Entertainment, and Irish and international publishers, CBI Book Doctor and creative writing teacher for the Bookmarks Programme at TCD.
I Do Not Like Books Anymore
Walker Books, £4.99 ISBN 9781406369137
The adorable duo, siblings Alphonse and Natalie, return in another hit by the brilliant writer and illustrator Daisy Hirst. Natalie announces that the words in her books looked scrambled and are wrong. She declares that she does not like books anymore! Hirst captures her frustration and disappointment in a charming and simple way. This story is an excellent way to emphasise that the process of reading can be a challenge but with time does get easier. The sibling dynamic and wonderful expressive illustrations add to the pictuebook’s charm. Highly recommended. (Age 2–4)
Jack and the Jungle
Malachy Doyle illustrated by Paddy Donnelly
Bloomsbury Publishing, £11.99 ISBN 9781472959614
Bloomsbury Young Readers series is created by reading experts. Written by talented story tellers and illustrated with bright gorgeous and engaging images, the lively stories will entice emerging readers. When Jack moves to a new house, he finds his new garden boring, until he kicks his ball over the wall into the next garden, which looks like a jungle. Soon he meets Abbie, a wolf, three tigers and a snake … Set out in chapter format, this charming story is very accessible and complemented by vibrant animated illustrations. With wonderful tips for grown ups, including ‘Thinking Ahead’ with suggested questions to ask before reading the book as well as Word Explorer and Reading Fun, this book is ideal for encouraging and building confidence. (Age 5+)
Bad Nana: Older Not Wiser
HarperCollins Children’s Books £8.99 ISBN 9780008268053
If you haven’t encountered Jeanie’s Bad Nana, you are in for an absolute treat. Sophy Henn’s hilarious series about a subversive turban-wearing grandmother will entertain and provide a real thrill. All the books in the series are recommended, including Bad Nana: All the Fun of the Fair. The storyline is compelling and clever use of fonts alongside wacky illustrations make this a perfect series to tempt emerging readers and reluctant readers. A mad cap adventure filled with mischief and mayhem, readers will long to get their hands on all the series. (Age 5–8)
My Little Album of Dublin
Juliette Saumande illustrated by Tarsila Krüse
The O’Brien Press, €12.99, ISBN 9781847179982
Readers of all ages will be captivated by this beautifully illustrated English/Irish word book and picturebook. Turn the pages as each double-page spread transports you around Dublin from Croke Park to Dublin Zoo. The small amount of words both in Irish and English on each page enables the learning process, making it accessible and fun – regardless of language proficiency. With so much to see and discuss, including a wide selection of interesting words, this is a wonderful resource for the classroom as well as at home. From balloons, balúin, to zebra, séabra, readers will delight in extending their vocabulary both in English and Irish. (Age 5–10)
For more reviews check out Inis magazine which is published by Children’s Books Ireland, the national children’s books organisation whose vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life.