Tag Archives: literacy

Literacy: Simple Children’s Book Review Template

Over the summer it’s been my mission to get my son reading more. Part of that is also getting him to think a little more about what he’s been reading. Asking questions about the story and getting him to write a simple review. It’s the summer, I don’t want him to do anything too taxing, but some gentle critical thinking is a good thing. With that in mind, I’ve put this simple children’s book review template together.

This book review template is incredibly simple and great for emerging readers. My son who admittedly has been a bit slow off the mark when it comes to writing finds it simple to use and it’s really helpful in getting him to focus his thoughts after he’s finished his book.

Completing this Book Review Template would be a lovely activity to do if you get a group of children together and form a junior book club. This way they can easily share their thoughts with the group.

Literacy: Simple Children's Book Review Template

You can download this book review template for free here.

When your child is reviewing a book, the following questions could help them write an interesting and useful review – 

What did you think of the book? Was it funny or sad, exciting or adventurous?

What did you learn from reading this book? 

Where was the book set? What was it about? Was this interesting?

Was this book easy or hard for you, or just right?

Were there pictures in the book? Were there chapters? Did it take you long to read it from start to finish?

Would recommend this book to your friends? If so, why?

Would you read any other books by this author? 

This book review template also asks you to score your book out of 5 and gives you the option to choose a smiley face to sum up your thoughts about the book you’ve read.

As I said, it’s a very simple activity to do with your children which will help to encourage critical thinking about what they’re reading.

If you enjoyed this, you can find more book reviews and book themed selections here.

Review: Orchard Toys What a Performance Game

This week we’ve been playing a new board game from Orchard Toys – What a Performance! It’s kind of like charades, but with a lot more going on. We properly laughed when we played this game and it would be a great game for small-ish groups of people or families.

Review: Orchard Toys What a Performance Game

What a Performance is great to get the whole family laughing and playing together. Race your way around the performance board to be the first player or team to reach the finish. Along the way you’ll have to act out a scene, make lots of fun noises, do funny actions and activities along the way. Can you pretend to be a monkey, make a noise like a firework or wiggle your ears? If you can’t, use the magic decoder and reveal your hidden forfeit on the back of the cards!

There are over 300 fun challenges to perform, so there’s never a dull moment.

Review: Orchard Toys What a Performance Game

The box contains a jigsaw game board, 100 activity cards, a spinner, a sand timer; a card holder, a performance star, four character stands; four playing pieces, a magic decoder, a dice and an instruction leaflet.

The game is fairly simple to set up. You put the jigsaw board together, this comes in four pieces and takes seconds to do. You choose which colour you will be, red, green, yellow or blue and take your playing pieces and put them at the start.

The youngest player starts by rolling the dice and moving along the board accordingly. When you land on a square Say/Act/Do you take a card and read the corresponding instruction. If the instructions has “Guess” written on it, the other players have to set the timer and guess what you’re doing within the time. There are other squares, Spin means you spin the spinner which will choose your challenge. Landing on the ? square means you take a card and using the magic decoder, you follow the hidden instructions on the back of the card.

Review: Orchard Toys What a Performance Game

It’s all very simple and really lots of fun. The game had us doing monkey and dinosaur impressions, sit ups, touching our toes, it had us wiggling our ears and talking in silly voices. It was tremendous fun and just the kind of thing to bring out the silly in anyone.

As with all Orchard Toys games, What a Performance does have some educational benefits. It promotes imaginative play, encourages personal and social skills and can encourage group play. I think one of the biggest things we noticed with it, was it was really great for getting him to think about how to follow the instructions. This gave him more confidence to stand up and be silly, which is an essential life skill, or it is in my book.

What a Performance is a properly fun game. It’s just the thing for building a bit of confidence whilst having a whole lot of fun!

What a Performance is suitable for ages 5 to adult and for 2 or more players. It costs £16.50 and is widely available.

Review: Orchard Toys What a Performance Game

Disclosure: We were sent the What a Performance game for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Learning: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Alphabet Game

The Very Hungry Caterpillar has always been a firm favourite of ours. It’s the classic story of a hungry caterpillar who munches its way through all kinds of healthy and unhealthy foods. He then gets a tummy ache and eventually turns into a beautiful butterfly. With it being such a favourite, it is the perfect base for a bit of educational play. I put together a little game to help to really cement the alphabet into the heads of little ones, so here’s my The Very Hungry Caterpillar Alphabet Game.

Learning: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Alphabet Game

The alphabet game is really simple to play. Just print out the two sheets which you can download for free here. If you can, print the game onto card, it’ll last longer that way.  Once it’s printed out, take the card with the letters on and cut them all out. There’s a little card with instructions on there too if you need them.

You can either work with your little one to put them in the right order on the board, or you could put some of the letter cards in the right places and get them to fill in the gaps. It’s a really good way of helping to get the alphabet fixed in their heads.

Learning: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Alphabet Game

It’s ideal for younger children, but my 7 year old couldn’t resist having a play with the alphabet game too. It was a good confidence builder for him. He knew what he was doing and where the cards needed to be. Like many children, he sometimes just needs to do something fairly basic every so often to build confidence in his own ability.

It wasn’t part of my original plan for the game, but once he’d completed the board he moved on to spelling out words with the letters. This can only really be encouraged, it’s all good learning and reinforcement of what he knows already.

Not only was he practicing his alphabet, he was also exercising his hand eye coordination and his fine motor skills. We also had a good chat about The Very Hungry Caterpillar and talked about how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, it’s all good learning and pretty fun too!

Download The Very Hungry Caterpillar Alphabet Game for free here.

If you enjoyed this, you might also like my Squash and a Squeeze Story Book Bag.

Learning: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Alphabet Game

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Five Books about the Environment for Earth Day

Taking care of our environment and doing our bit to look after our planet is something we’ve always talked about with our son. We’ve always been keen recyclers and I’m known for being a bit frugal with the gas and electricity. Over the last few months the boy has been learning more about the environment both at school and at Beavers. It doesn’t hurt to reinforce the message at home too, so we’ve been doing some reading about the subject. We’ve got lots of great books about he environment and with Earth Day just around the corner, here are our five favourites.

Five Books about the Environment for Earth Day

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers. Like all of Oliver Jeffers’ books Here We Are is a beautiful, heartfelt story, it’s about the wonder of our planet and about how we should love it and care for it. It’s a simple story with a big message and one which children will enjoy reading and sharing with you. It’s a book about kindness and respect and care.

Five Books about the Environment for Earth Day

Compost Stew: An A-Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals. Composting is one of the first environmentally friendly things I learned to do as a child. It’s a really easy introduction to learning more about the environment and climate change. How do you start a compost pile? What’s safe to include? This book is perfect for Earth Day reading and provides answers for children and families looking for simple, child-friendly ways to help the planet.

The Coral Kingdom by Laura Knowles and Jenny Webber celebrates the beauty, diversity and fragile ecosystem of the coral reef. This visually stunning picture book has a strong ecological message about the need to protect this most precious environment. Follow and explore the life cycle, diversity and colour of the coral reef ecosystem; learn about the threats the reef faces and what we can do to save it. Each beautifully illustrated page is packed full of delightful sea creatures to discover and enjoy. A beautiful book with a powerful message.

Look out for Litter by Lisa Bullard is part of the “Planet Protector” series. This Look out for Litter book shows how little pieces of litter and rubbish can become a big problem. Find out how to deal with litter responsibly and learn how to reduce, reuse and recycle.

This is Our World by Emily Sollinge. This lovely board book for smaller children is printed on recycled board and uses vegetable ink! Take little ones on a fun interactive journey learning to clean the air, reduce pollution, recycle, and much more. It’s never too early to learn to care for the environment!

Do you have any favourite books about the environment you like to read with your children? 

If you enjoyed this, you might also like my Five Superb Books About Science.

Five Books about the Environment for Earth Day

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Children’s Books: Five Brilliant Books About Spring

Believe it or not, it’s spring (as I type this there is snow on the ground and the heating is on full blast). Spring is one of our favourite seasons; with the first garden flowers of the year popping up; some blue skies, and the birth of new life. We always like to visit a local farm in spring, helping to feed the orphan lambs is a particular joy. As ever, we like to keep our reading seasonal too, so here are five sensational books about spring we love…

Five Sensational Books About Spring

Spring by Gerda Muller is one of a series of four books without words, which lead the young child through the seasons of the year. Full of fun and active illustrations, this chunky board book shows the joys of playing with lambs, sowing seeds, painting Easter eggs and watching baby birds. It’s the most wonderful book to share with little ones this spring!

Children's Books: Five Sensational Books About Spring

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle. Join the tiny seed on an adventure as it becomes a giant flower! In autumn, a strong wind blows flower seeds high in the air and carries them far across the land. One by one, many of the seeds are lost. They are burned by the sun, fall into the ocean, or eaten by birds. But some seeds survive the long winter and, come spring, sprout into plants. The delicate plants face new dangers; being trampled by playing children or picked as a gift for a friend. Soon only the tiniest seed remains, growing into a giant flower and, when autumn returns, sending its own seeds into the wind to start the process over again.

Little Baa by Kim Lewis. For me, spring isn’t spring until I’ve seen and preferably snuggled a lamb. This book is perfect for lamb-lovers like me! One spring day, Little Baa jumps, skips and runs in the field. Soon he leaves his friends far behind – and his Ma too; but Little Baa’s Ma misses him and searches for him. Will she ever find her Little Baa?

Animal Seasons: Rabbit’s Spring Adventure by Anita Loughrey. Animal Seasons are a beautifully illustrated series of picture books for young children and emerging readers and they are great for learning a little more about the natural world. In this spring adventure, Rabbit leaves his warren and discovers that the woods are full of new life. There’s so much to discover that poor Rabbit loses his way, but who will help him find his way back home?

A Year in Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklam. When I was a child, I was completely enchanted by the Brambly Hedge stories. I still have my little collection of books today. The mice of Brambly Hedge have many beautifully illustrated adventures throughout the year. They mark the seasons with feasts and festivities and, of course, the mice never miss an opportunity to have a little party. This wonderful collection would make a great gift for any child and it really is a collection to treasure.

If you enjoyed these books about spring, you might also enjoy my five classic books about bears.

Children's Books: Five Sensational Books About Spring

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Children’s Books: Five Lovely Books About Love

When my son was just 3 months old he had his first Valentine’s Day. To mark this occasion I bought him a copy of the much-loved classic, Guess How Much I Love You. I’ve read it to him regularly ever since (and he’s 7 years old now).  Guess How Much I Love You and the phrase “I love you to the moon and back” has stuck with us and grown over time; he now loves me to the moon and the stars and the planets and back; and I love him all of that and a little bit more. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here is my selection of five lovely books about love…

Five Lovely Books About Love

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney is an absolutely gorgeous book which perfectly sums up how much a parent loves a child. Featuring Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare; they take it in turns to try to measure how much love they have for each other. It’s lovely, it’s heartwarming and it’s about the most famous book about love you could think of, for good reason too!

Children's Books: Five Lovely Books About Love

The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. Eric Carle’s books continue to be adored by children, their illustrations are so beautiful and unique and the stories are appealing. The Very Quiet Cricket is one of his lesser known books, but one we all enjoy reading. It’s a wonderful little story of a tiny cricket who can’t make a sound. As he grows, he meets lots of different insects and can’t chirp hello; until he meets a lovely lady cricket and in the moonlight they chirp hello, hello, hello to each other. It’s a lovely, heartwarming story with a chirping surprise at the end!

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury is gorgeous little picture book about babies from all around the world. One thing they all have in common is they have ten little fingers and ten little toes. My son loved me to read this to him, probably because he liked to look at all the children, but I liked reading it because it was really about how much I love my baby.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams’ timeless picture book classic has been read and cherished by many generations of children and their parents. The Velveteen Rabbit is the sometimes sad story of a stuffed rabbit’s wish to become a real rabbit; something he can only achieve this through the love of his owner, a sickly little boy. The book was first published in 1922 and remains loved by generations of children.

I Love You Just The Way You Are by Tammi Salzano is a story which will make mums of boys go all gooey inside. The story follows a day in the life of a mother and son. Their day is packed with activities such as dressing-up, reading, painting, having a bath and saying goodnight. The story has a lovely rhyming rhythm which is great to read aloud. It’s the perfect story to read with your preschooler before bed.

If you’re looking for a lovely book about love for Valentine’s Day; or if you just want to share the most wonderful feeling in the world with your child; then this selection of books about love is a pretty good place to start. What’s your favourite book about love?

Children's Books: Five Lovely Books About Love

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy my other children’s book round ups!

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Children’s Books: Five Classic Books About Bears

In real life, bears are such ferocious creatures that we are warned to steer well clear of them. But in the world of children’s fiction books, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better friend than a bear. I’ve picked out five classic books about bears, I’ve probably missed some really important ones, but these are my bear necessities of children’s books about bears.

Five Classic Books About Bears

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? is a classic picture book by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr. It is wonderfully rhythmic and is packed full of Eric Carle’s beautiful and iconic illustrations. It’s a great way to get pre-schoolers talking about animals and colours. Plus you’re guaranteed to get “brown bear, brown bear” stuck in your head.

Children’s Books: Five Classic Books About Bears

Goldilocks and the Three Bears – there are many versions of this 19th century fairy tale, but it’s the classic tale of Goldilocks, a girl who finds a cabin in the woods belonging to the three bears. She can’t help but creep in and explore – she sits in their chairs, eats some of their porridge, and sleeps in one of their beds. When the bears return and discover her, she jumps up, runs out and is never seen again. Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a classic which will never go out of fashion!

Paddington by Michael Bond has recently been made into a hit film, but the book is always worth returning to. This friendly bear from deepest, darkest Peru, dressed in a blue duffle coat and wearing a hat stuffed with marmalade sandwiches. Paddington has become a classic character in English children’s literature. These beautifully illustrated, easy reading books make the perfect bedtime story to share with your children.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury is undoubtedly a modern classic. The story follows a family on an adventure, through swishy-swashy swathes of grass and across muddy fields. They get a bit wet and a bit cold, and when they finally find a bear, they’re a little bit scared. I always feel a bit sorry for the bear at the end, I think all he wants is a friend. It’s a beautiful story, fantastic to read and the textures of the grass, the mud and the wind are so evocative and great talking points for you and your child.

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne is such a classic, no books about bears collection should be without him. This adorable and quietly wise bear is loved by adults and children alike. There are a million different Winnie the Pooh books available; from pop-up books to philosophy books for adults; but you can’t get any better than the original.

These classic books about bears are to my mind, essential reading for children and adults alike. There’s something friendly and cuddly about these bears, some of them are a bit edgy, but on the whole they just want to be your friend. Have I left any classic bears behind?

Children’s Books: Five Classic Books About Bears

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Is your school part of Premier League Primary Stars?

Some children take to school and learning like a duck to water, while other children need a bit of gentle encouragement and motivation. Premier League Primary Stars have been visiting and supporting my son’s school since they launched earlier this year. The Premier League Primary Stars scheme uses the appeal of the Premier League and links with local professional football clubs to inspire children to learn, be active and develop important life skills.

Premier League Primary Stars is available to every primary school in England and Wales, and is open to boys and girls aged 5-11. All teachers need to do is register on the Primary Stars website and they can instantly access a wealth of free teaching materials covering English, maths, PE and Sport as well as PSHE.

Is your school part of Premier League Primary Stars?

There are free to download lesson plans all linked to the National Curriculum. The lesson plans help to underpin a range of key values including equality and diversity; self-esteem; resilience; teamwork and fair play. Being part of Primary Stars means schools can also access extra resources such as videos, free football kit and sports equipment as well as free book boxes for school libraries.

The free resources have been created in partnership with industry experts Edcoms and the PSHE Association; National Literacy Trust and other key stakeholders. Children’s authors Cressida Cowell (‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series) and Dan Freedman (‘Jamie Johnson’ series) helped create the programme’s English resources, while Rachel Riley the Sky Sports presenter and mathematician is a consultant in the development of Maths teaching resources.

Schools can work with a local Premier League football club who will come in and work with the children. The teams help to inspire their learning, as well as teaching them a few footballing skills along the way. The kids really benefit from having their local football club coming in. My son’s school is linked to Manchester City FC and last term they had players coming in to work with the kids, which was great!

Launched in March 2017, Premier League Primary Stars is already in 10,000 schools across England and Wales. The scheme is having a positive impact on the learning and outcomes for so many primary school aged children.

Premier League values underpin everything on offer, encouraging children to:

  • Be ambitious – work hard and never give up on their goals
  • Be inspiring – set a great example to others
  • Be connected –work well with others and in a team
  • Be fair – treat people equally and think of others

Is your school part of Premier League Primary Stars? If you’re not sure, ask your class teacher. They might not yet be aware of this brilliant scheme to inspire and encourage kids all over the country to learn and develop a whole range of life skills.

Is your school part of Premier League Primary Stars?

For more information on Premier League Primary Stars visit their website www.plprimarystars.com.

 

Premier League Primary Stars are currently running a Writing Stars Poetry Competition. To find out how you can get involved click here.

This blog post was written in collaboration with Premier League Primary Stars and Mumsnet.

Premier League Writing Stars Kids Poetry Competition

This month I’ve been finding out more about the Premier League Primary Stars programme which is currently being used in over 10,000 primary schools across England and Wales. Primary Stars helps to develop literacy, numeracy, PE and PSHE skills in the schools, with all participating being linked up to and supported by their local football teams. My son’s school has had several exciting visits from Manchester City FC players to help motivate and encourage pupils.

Premier League Writing Stars Kids Poetry Competition

Primary Stars has recently launched a fantastic kids poetry competition, with winning entries being published in a book. Other prizes include author-led writing workshops and Premier League Trophy school visits, as well as poems being read aloud by football stars.

Premier League Writing Stars is open to all primary schools in England and Wales and aims to get pupils writing poetry in different creative forms, whether it be in a rap, song lyrics or haiku.

The great news is, the first 1,000 schools to enter the competition will also receive a bespoke “Book Bag” of poetry which is great for expanding school libraries and encouraging a love of poetry.

For more information on how to enter Writing Stars click this link.

The Writing Stars competition invites schoolchildren aged 5-11 to write around the theme of resilience; what does it mean to you to try and try again? Have a look at this brilliant advert from the Premier League Primary Stars campaign, where footballers and children recite the William Hickson poem “Try, Try Again”.

A few famous faces have had a go at writing a poem on the try, try again theme and they’re brilliant. Take a look at the poetry of Alan Shearer, Ben Shephard and Alex Scott (female footballer who has played for England and Arsenal).

All Writing Stars entries will be read by a panel of judges including former Chelsea midfielder and children’s author Frank Lampard; Lauren Child, the author-illustrator of the Charlie and Lola series and Waterstones Children’s Laureate; Yannick Bolasie, the Everton winger and lyricist; and Young People’s Laureate for London, Caleb Femi.

The closing date is 22nd December.

How can you get involved?

Primary Stars is a fantastic scheme for primary schools to get involved in. They have a huge range of free resources for teachers to use, so it is worth checking with your child’s teacher to see if they are using Primary Stars already.

Get writing! I’ll be showing my son the advert and talking to him about resilience and how try, try and trying again is the secret to success in all things. We will also be having a go at writing a little poem at home.

Reading and writing poetry at home is a great way to encourage a love of the written word. Poetry doesn’t have to be hard work. You can write a limerick, haiku, sonnet or song. You can even write a rap. It doesn’t matter what you do, the goal is to enthuse children and encourage them to love learning!

Giveaway & Review: Storytime Magazine for kids

Sometime last year we were given a copy of Storytime Magazine to read with the boy. I was immediately impressed with the beautiful illustrations and the stories which were just the right length for a bedtime story. Each issue was filled with stand alone stories with some related activities. The boy recently picked up a copy and with his new-found confidence with independent reading, read it over and over and over, to the point of near obsession.

At first I wasn’t sure how he would feel about reading a magazine instead of a book (because he can be a bit funny like that sometimes), but he went nuts for it. Every night he would race to bed so we could read several stories together. Each story was the perfect length for a bedtime story and beautifully illustrated. Overnight, Storytime Magazine became a firm favourite with us both.

Giveaway & Review: Storytime Magazine for kids

Storytime Magazine is a kids’ magazine full of great stories. It’s packed with fairy tales, myths, poems, and much more; all of which are beautifully written and illustrated, with puzzles, games and colouring in too. What I really like about it is there are no adverts. I always find adverts quite distracting, so it’s nice not to have to fend off an attack of the I wants when you’re reading together.

I feel like we’ve stuck gold with Storytime Magazine. Every story is interesting, exciting and seems very different to his school books, but at the same time it’s all linked to his curriculum. At this point reading, all reading is great for him and if we can instill a love of reading then it opens up wonderful, fantastical worlds for him to discover.

Giveaway & Review: Storytime Magazine for kids

My son really loves his Storytime Magazine. He likes to flick through and really study the illustrations before picking out a story for us to read. We’ve always enjoyed reading together. These magazines are a bit different and in a world full of school books and reading schemes. Reading these stories together isn’t a chore, or like homework. It just feels like we’re reading for pleasure and that is such a lovely gift to share with your child.

For more information or to subscribe to Storytime Magazine, visit their website.

WIN Storytime Magazine bundle of 12 back issues worth £39.99

Catch up on what you’ve missed so far with 12 of the best issues from the Storytime Magazine back catalogue – with classic stories including Beauty and the Beast, Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Three Billy Goats Gruff and many more!

To be in with a chance to win a Storytime Magazine bundle of 12 back issues worth £39.99, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a Storytime Magazine bundle of 12 back issues worth £39.99.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 12th November 2017.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
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I contacted Storytime Magazine and told them how much we loved them. They kindly send us two issues of Storytime for the boy with no obligation to review them. All images and opinions are our own.