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Encouraging children who struggle to read.

World Book Day is an annual celebration of books and reading.

World Book Day is an annual celebration of books and reading.  This year World Book Day falls on 5 March. World Book Day offers a great opportunity for children – it allows everyone to find something to enjoy about literature. This seems quite obvious but it is a point worth making. Not every child is a natural reader and all develop as confident readers at their own pace. Some, like my daughter, have to contend with a learning difficulty that makes independent reading more difficult.

Others, like my son, have a social communication difficulty than can make identifying with characters more problematic.  How wonderful to have day where everyone can talk about their favourite books and fictional characters.  At my children’s school the children are allowed to dress up as their favourite character for the day.  This makes all the children equal. Nobody has to read out loud, or show how slowly they read or even say how many books they have read themselves.  They only have to share their love of their favourite book with their peers.

We have always read to our children.  This proved particularly helpful when my daughter’s problems with reading started.  We were able to read her far more complicated books than she could read to herself.  This enabled her to listen to chapter books and to develop an understanding of more complex narratives and extended character development. This also allowed her to continue to build on her love of literature.

Come World Book Day two years ago she chose one of the characters from the books we had been reading to her. This was one of the fairies from the ‘Rainbow Fairies’ series of books by Daisy Meadows. She loves these books and has collected many of the series over a number of birthdays.

Last year my daughter dressed as the witch from the ‘Worst Witch’ by Jill Murphy. My son dressed a dinosaur from ‘Dinosaurs and all That Rubbish’ by Michael Forman. We also attended the book fair that was put on at the school. My children love this event – All the children love this event and it is always a pleasure to see children so excited by books.

Last year both my children chose books and we went off to meet a friend for dinner.  Our friend was running a little late and my daughter took out her book and asked if she could read it. At this point she had only managed to read picture books but I didn’t point this out as she happily held up the chapter book she had chosen.  My friend arrived and we started nattering not really noticing how quiet my daughter was being.  My daughter read all through our visit with our friend and then went off to her room when we got home.  The next morning my daughter announced she had read the book and it was great.  I was amazed that she had managed to do this and a bit confused about where this sudden breakthrough had come from.  So I asked her how come she had read the whole book and she answered quite simply – because she had picked it up from a shelf that said ‘read it yourself’.

I always remember this moment with warmth.  We had had so many struggles in the years before this – fraught homework sessions and frustrated reading practices.  We had also had uncertainty about where progress could come from. It made me laugh that my daughter had taken a sign so literally and that this has enabled her to take a massive leap in her own development.

My son has opted for animals for previous World Book Day costumes – often an animal in the book he read most recently.  This year we have had a breakthrough thanks to the wonderful ‘Tom Gates’ series.  Prior to this year, my son has read voraciously, but mostly chosen non-fiction.  He started to read chapter books but was never interested in what would happen next or how they ended.  He only started to be interested in character when he found graphic novels.  Asterix has been his main man for the last couple of years.  He loves the books and really enjoys reading them backwards to find out what caused Asterix’s over the top melt-down.  He finds it hilarious.  The Tom Gates books were the perfect stepping stone for him from the action/image based presentation of graphic novels to the text-heavy experience of chapter books.  We had great fun making a ‘Dude 3’ t-shirt for his costume.  This managed to mix creativity with a sneaky Occupational Therapy session to improve his fine motor skills.

My daughter has previously favoured fairies, witches and cats and has chosen this World Book Day to take a different kind of developmental step. This year she is going as ‘Katniss Everdeen’ from the Hunger Games.  I can’t help but feel a bit proud that my daughter wants to be a morally driven revolutionary. My biggest stress this year is convincing her she cannot actually sharpen the tips of her home-made arrows.

We are always happy when World Book Day comes around.  We have always had the belief that the joy of literature can communicate itself and that there are many ways to appreciate books (listening, dressing up, drama etc).  Children choose characters in books that they identify with and this enables them to have a relationship with the book and with literature that is elevated above the the act of reading words on the page.  We enjoy World Book Day because it gives us the perfect opportunity to remember all of these things.

Ideas for World Book Day costumes | http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books site/gallery/2015/feb/16/what-to-wear-on-world-book-day-2015

Suggestions for getting involved in World Book Day http://www.scholastic.co.uk/world-book-day/