Spread a little kindness…

After a tumultuous week of world politics that has left a lot of the people I know feeling confused and a bit helpless, it seemed only natural to write a blog post about kindness. As always, I turn to my ever-expanding collection of picture books to find the comfort I am looking for and happily I find it everywhere. I think it is part of my job as a parent and a teacher to make sure that children are not frightened of diversity, that they looks out for people who are having a hard time and, most important of all,  that they spread kindness wherever they go. I know most people reading this will feel the same. So if you are looking for a starting point and some positive role models look no further. Here are my favourite books for modelling kindness.

Pass it on by Sophy Henn

fullsizerender-16This book starts with the notion that not every day will be perfect but with a positive attitude you can find a silver lining. It also gives children the really powerful message that that their behaviour can have a positive effect on others and help them to have a better day. It has a short repeated phrase ‘Pass it on’ giving children something to join in with even on the first time of reading. As with everything she does, Sophy Henn’s illustrations are vibrant and beautiful and by the end of reading it you will be smiling. I have read this with pre-schoolers and with much older children. My class are 7/8 years old and when we launched our acts of kindness this was the book we started with and they loved it. It really is a fantastic way to introduce to children (and adults) to the notion that they can make a positive difference to others.

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won

fullsizerender-14Elephant is in a seriously bad mood until he discovers a surprise package at the front door. Inside is a hat. This instantly cheers him up and he decides to take them to his friend, Zebra’s house but when he gets there Zebra is also feeling grumpy. So Elephant shares his hat with his pal to cheer him up and they move on to visit the next friend (also grumpy) and the next and the next, each time cheering up their friends by sharing the many-layered hat with them. By the end of the book everyone is taking part in an informal hat parade, their grumps long forgotten because of the actions of their friends. This book beautifully illustrates that small act of kindness make a huge difference.

The Sniffles for Bear by Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton

img_8920This book tells the story of Bear who is feeling unwell. Bear is a pretty dramatic chap and does not cope well with being ill so when his friend Mouse finds out he’s poorly, he decides to pop round and try to help. It is not easy to help Bear. He wants the situation to be treated seriously and does not feel like being cheered up. (It is worth mentioning that Bear thinks he may be dying and there is a conversation about leaving a will in case your child is sensitive to these issues. The tone is quite light hearted and it is clear that neither the mouse or the author thinks he will die and that bear is over-reacting but not every child will respond well those issues). Eventually all mouse’s good intentions wear Bear out and he falls asleep and wakes up feeling much better, but now it’s Mouse’s turn to feel ill. Luckily Bear knows just how to look after his friend and is happy to reciprocate. This is probably best suited to slightly older children as the storyline and language is quite mature in places but it is a really interesting look at the tricky side of friendship and illustrates the importance of looking after each other, even when it’s tough, perfectly.

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

fullsizerender-15I have seen lots of lists lately which give ideas of books which should be staple reads during childhood an in my opinion, this should be on every one. I can still remember the first time I read this story and the way I felt about the completely selfless act Bella performed so that her little brother could be reunited with his favourite toy. One of the things I like best about this story is that it showed that this wasn’t an easy decision- sometimes doing things for others is hard. However, if Bella was ever in any doubt that she had done the right thing her brother’s reaction more than makes up for it. I believe everyone’s book shelf should have a bit of Shirley Hughes’ magic on it and this is a great place to start.

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes

fullsizerender-13The Little Gardener is a tiny figure who works all day but he is so small that he feels that, no matter how hard he works, he cannot make a difference to the place where he lives. Eventually, when he is exhausted and almost ready to give up, he makes a wish that he might have a little help. The Little Gardener falls asleep for a month, during which time some children see a flower in his neglected, overgrown garden and decide to start tidying things up. When he wakes there has been a dramatic change and the Little Gardener’s life is changed forever. This message in this book is so strong because children can see things from both sides- that it’s okay to be like the Little Gardener and ask for help and have hope, but also children have the power to help others every day through small acts of kindness even when they don’t know who they are helping. Emily Hughes is one of my favourite author-illustrators and I love everything she does. This was the first book of hers that I read and I still return to it regularly- sure sign of a winner.

 

I hope you have found something here that will help you to share the idea of kindness and positivity with your little readers. As always, I love to hear what you are reading at the moment so if you have any good suggestions, let me know below and happy reading…

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Bookhabit bedtime

We all know that reading our children a bedtime story is seen as a good way of settling our children down for the night and a cozy way to build up a bond at the end of what is often a frantic day’s activities. But that’s not to say that there is only one right way to do it. Today I will share our routine with you and then over the coming weeks I will welcome guest posts by lots of other parents from around the world. Enjoy!

Little Miss Bookhabit’s bedtime stories

fullsizerender-12It’s worth saying that she is four years old and has no siblings. Although the timings have changed a little with age, the routine has been pretty much the same since she was in her cot.

Time to go upstairs…

Bathtime is usually with Daddy unless he is working late as it gives them a bit of time to play and chat together. Once she’s out of the bath I take over with the drying and dressing shenanigans (this part can take a while!) and try to get a comb through her hair…

Then…

Storytime. She chooses two books, one for Daddy to read and one for me to read. She decides who reads what and then we settle down. She sleeps in a bunk bed so we have storytime on a beanbag which rests up against a radiator. It’s not on full blast but it’s enough to get us nice and cosy. Usually she climbs onto the lap of the person reading so she gets a good look at the pictures. Daddy reads first and then me, unless it’s one of the days he is working late and then I get to do both. Very occasionally she will let us choose our own stories but it’s rare!

After that…

She chooses a song to sing. It’s usually a Nursery Rhyme/ Counting song type of thing and I do the singing unless she’s still feeling wide awake. Sometimes I get requests for a disney theme which can be interesting as I only really know the chorus of most of them and it turns into more of a humming/ lalala-ing type of thing. Recently she has started to go without the song because she’s been really tired but I’m hoping it will make a come back when she’s ready.

img_8858Finally…

She climbs into the bunk bed, we get plenty of cuddles and kisses and Molly the mouse ready with her (she’s still a label sucker and loves the toys from ikea with the super long labels) and then it’s lights out. Well, except for the grow clock, night light and the landing light outside her door so it’s darker rather than fully dark.

Usually that’s enough to get her off to sleep and then I can get on with the task of being an adult again!

Tips and Tricks?

I find having a dimmer switch very useful so we don’t have to have the light on at full strength. Other than that we just try to keep it pretty similar most nights. This is one of my favourite times of day and so if she’s being tired and a bit difficult I try to just slow down and remember that these story times won’t last forever.

Favourite Five Bedtime Stories

Quick Quack Quentin by Kes Gray and Jim Field

Anything with Angelina Ballerina in it (Katherine Holabird and Helen Craig)

Any of the Winnie the Witch stories (Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul)

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright and Jim Field

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

And there you have it. That’s how we do bedtime stories in our house. I’d love to know how you do yours and of course, if you fancy collaborating and sharing your bedtime stories with us, send me an email or contact me on instagram. Happy reading!

 

 

 

January: the perfect time to buy books!

It’s a new year. Our houses are bursting at the seems with all sorts of gifts that we received over the festive period and we know we don’t need any more stuff. But what about all those people with birthdays in January? What about your friend who needs a pick me up but is trying to ‘eat clean’this month? What can we do about our resolution to cut down on screen time and spend more time interacting with our kids? The answer to all of these questions is of course- get your hands on the perfect book!

I am that Auntie that ‘always buys you a book for Christmas/ your birthday’. If you are thinking of buying some books this month, here is a list of some of the books I bought as Christmas presents for my friends and family. You can even see a couple of them being enjoyed. I am confident that every parent of a child receiving a book as a gift will be over the moon that it isn’t a bulky/ plastic/ novelty item and if you match the right title to the right person then you will be onto a winner.

‘Animals’ by Ingela Parrhenius

img_8465Who I bought it for: My one year old niece

Why I chose it: It’s a huge hardback (I have my hand on the photo to give you an idea of scale) so it has the feel of being a ‘special’ book. This also means she can crawl all over it and get up close with the animals- and she does! She is at that age where she is learning lots of animal sounds so it fits in well with her interests but goes beyond the everyday animals and has some more unusual ones in there too. Plus it will grow with her as she becomes interested in letters and the alphabet. And it is unbelievably beautiful and stylish so it looks great propped up in the corner of her bedroom. Perfect!

 

‘Under Water/ Under Earth’ by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

fullsizerender-10Who I bought it for: My three and a half year old nephew.

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Why I chose it: My nephew is the most curious boy and is full of questions about everything. He also loves anything to do with building and construction. This book is a beautiful hardback so like the one above it feels really special. It is also clever because you can open it from either side- there is no front or back. One half is Water and the other is Earth. I did say to my sister that I thought it might be a bit old for him but he has loved all the cross sections and finding out about what is doing on down there (she says she has learnt a fair bit reading it with him as well!) I love that this book will be as relevant for him in five or six years time as it is today, there are not many gifts you can say that about. (Side note- He will be getting this author/illustrator duo’s other beautiful best seller ‘Maps’ for his birthday. Ssssh don’t tell!)

‘Kitchen Disco’ by Clare Foges and Al Murphy

Who I bought it for? My daughter (age 4)

img_8462Why I bought it: I had heard about it from some literary consultants and thought I’d give it a try. I’m so glad I did! It’s a really silly story about fruit partying in the kitchen at night but the beauty is in the rhyme and repetition that make it so easy to join in with. It is a real ear worm and after reading it I will find myself walking around the house reciting it to myself! The upside of this is that she had it memorised after a few reads and now ‘reads’ it to us, her Grandparents, herself and her toys making her feel good about reading independently. I’m sure this is going to be very popular so watch out for it this year, I think it’s going to be everywhere (unless you already have it and in that case I bet you love it as much as I do!)

‘The Building Boy’ by David Litchfield

img_8461Who I bought it for: originally my nephew but he is going through a very sensitive phase so I gave it to my daughter instead

Why I bought it: I’m a huge David Litchfield fan, ever since reading ‘The Bear and the Piano’. I absolutely love his illustrations. They are just phenomenal and make me want to dive into the page. Pair this with heart warming, emotional stories and you are onto a winner. However, I bought this without reading it first and as beautiful and senstive as it is, it does deal with the loss of a grandparent and my lovely senstive nephew would not enjoy that right now. However, my daughter, who is going through the phase where she is asking all sorts of questions about death, has enjoyed it and it has lead to some interesting discussions. I would not hestitate to recommend it but just makes sure it suits the person you are buying for.

So there you go. A few pieces of inspiration if you are struggling for a treat. And remember, children’s books can sometimes be the perfect present for big kids too so don’t rule them out for the adults in your life, especially if there is a sentiment you are trying to express. Sometimes kids books just do it best (Remember that scene in Friends where Chandler buys The Velveteen Rabbit for Joey’s girlfriend?)

Now I will leave you with the proof, if proof were needed, that these books are well loved… My sister sent me a couple of message of them enjoying there books. One said ‘This is not a set up!!! He is absolutely loving your book today. Never heard him say wow so much. Best Auntie EVER xx’ Well, I’ll take that…

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