Archive for the ‘books and reading’ Category


August 9, 2015

Babess had her reading comprehension test this week, an individual test with her teacher. “How did it go?” I asked.

“Pretty well. I think I got it all right,” she tossed off nonchalantly.

“Oh? Well done, then.”

“The first thing we had to read was: ‘She looked out the window and gasped’. Mrs D said, ‘Why do you think she gasped?'”

Babess looked at me expectantly.

“Well, why do you think she gasped?”

“I said, ‘because she was in amazement’. Because that’s something that would make you gasp.”

It’s all so obvious when she explains the world.

© UpsideBackwards 2015.

A recipe for angelic children

January 20, 2015

This morning we went to the library and the kids all borrowed several books (which I then had to help carry – ouch!). Babess is enjoying the Wimpy Kid series and Judy Moody; Fainjin loves graphic novels; and Pearl is firmly into the Young Adult section of the library now, with a wide range of genres that interest her.

Then we had to go school-uniform shopping for Pearl. As soon as we got to the shop, the younger two found a quiet corner and sat with their books. I helped Pearl find clothes to try on, checked sizing, then had to go back to find other things. I found Fainjin & Babess still sitting absorbed in their books, and another family looking past them at clothes on the racks.

“Hey guys, don’t sit in other people’s way!” I admonished them.

“Oh no, they’re fine!” the other mother assured me. “I’m just very impressed with them, actually!”

I had to grin. It’s nice to have other people think my kids are wonderful. I know that a pile of fresh library books works better than any bribe for my lot! (as long as you don’t want them to do anything other than read quietly, that is…)

© UpsideBackwards 2015.

For the love of words

March 22, 2014

Babess has been cruising the “grown-up” bookcases in the hallway recently, looking for books.  She does have a bookcase full of books at the end of her bed, but I suppose she was looking for variety.

She picked up a lovely little volume called “Bloom’s Bouquet of Imaginary Words” and took it to bed with her the other night.  Soon enough giggles could be heard, and she would read out the occasional gem to Fainjin, who would crack up.  The book is a collection of English words which have had one letter changed and been given a definition – such as “Chipmonk: a small, deeply religious squirrel”.

Today she curled up on the couch with a couple of my foreign language dictionaries (including one with Cyrillic alphabet!) and browsed for a while before putting them back.  I asked whether she liked them, and she happily replied “Oh, yes!”.

Perhaps I’ll slip “An Exaltation of Larks” her way one day soon.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.


November 28, 2013

We have a busy rehearsal and performance schedule coming up this weekend.  And every performer knows, where there are rehearsals there is also lots of waiting around doing not-very-much.

I was talking about preparing my bag for this, with stories, games, and so on to entertain the large group of potentially-bored children.  Fainjin overheard me…

“Mum!  If you’re getting a story for my class, can it be a miff?”

“A miff?”


“I don’t think I know what that is.  What’s it about?”

“Uh, it’s like… a legend…”

“Oh! A myth!”

“Yes Mum!  M-Y-P-H.  Myph.  Like a legend.”

I spelt myth out for him and had him repeat it.  Then breakfast conversation moved on and he and Pearl started an argument about Medusa, the Minotaur, and the Gorgons.

Some mornings I really feel like I need a second cup of tea.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

The Joy of Reading

July 25, 2013

Fainjin has been a little slow to discover the joy of reading.  He has never been a reluctant reader, indeed he has been keen to read his school books to us, and has progressed steadily if a little slowly through the reading levels.

But just in the past two or three weeks a slow-burning coal has suddenly burst into flame for him.  All of a sudden he’s not just reading the books sent home from school.  He’s reading lots of different things.  He has found that he can read most of the books on the bookshelf in his & Babess’ bedroom, and his Lego magazines as well.  We’ve been to the library a few times these school holidays, and instead of begging to borrow DVDs of movies, he has revelled in finding lots of books he can read by himself.

We are a reading family, with a house full of books, and as parents it is heartwarming and charming to see such an awakening.  We’re so proud to see him pull down a book he’s never read, and move his finger along the line of text, sounding out words carefully and figuring out the meanings.

Babess, after three weeks of school, seems to have found much the same thing at about the same time.  She will sound out words anywhere she sees them, or ask us “what does [some string of letters] spell?”

Yesterday she caught sight of a book on my bedside table, pointed at the title and said, “I know that word!  That’s the!”

“Yes it is,” I agreed.

“You have lots of my knowing words in your book, Mummy!” she said in tones of great wonder.

I had to agree, it is a wondrous thing.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


April 18, 2013

Tomorrow Pearl’s class is having an “Electronics Day”, where they are allowed (but not required) to bring an electronic device to school to use in their afternoon free time.  This is a reward for lots of hard work in a long term – tomorrow is the last day of term.  They’re also having a shared lunch (also known as cooking homework for Mum – Pearl wants to take cinnamon buns so those are rising as I write).

We heard about this E-day during the parent-teacher-child conference, and I was initially baffled as to what Pearl could take for it.  We don’t have much in the way of child-friendly electronics.  No game machines, i-pods etc.  But Pearl’s face lit up.  “Mum!  Can I bring the e-reader?”

“Oh!  Yes, you could take my e-reader to school,” I agreed.  Pearl explained to her teacher that we can load library books onto it.

He grinned.  “So, for electronics day, you want to bring a book and read it?  Great!”

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Reading at school

September 5, 2012

Babess is very proud of her “reading”.  It’s mostly memorisation, of course, but she likes to point to the words and predict the story, and she’s very very good at remembering the words in simple readers.

Yesterday we sat in the library and read several easy books together, getting uneasy glances from some other mothers, and one friendly impressed comment.  That gave me the opportunity to say that Babess is older than she looks, and has a brother at school whom she is keen to copy – which relieved some of the uneasy glances a bit.

This morning when we took Fainjin to school, Babess wanted to “read” one of her library books to his teacher.  Mrs X is lovely with Babess, and encouraged her to sit on the big chair to read.  Mrs X sat on the floor next to her and called the class on to the mat (it was time for school to start anyway) to listen to Babess’ story.  Babess did very well – although without looking at the words at all! – and the class all clapped her efforts.

Mrs X awarded her a scratch-and-sniff sticker for reading so well, and Babess glowed all the way home.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

A too-reliable alarm clock

June 23, 2012

The Dad and I were both very very tired last night.  I was so tired I could barely stand up, and felt quite ill.  We had good, and even quite bloggable reasons – it has been a busy few days, and I had had very little sleep the night before.

Babess had a birthday!  She’s four!

We saw Flight of the Conchords on stage! (They were brilliant).

The dishwasher broke, late on a Thursday so we couldn’t call the repair company until Friday morning and they can’t come until Monday – and we’re hosting Babess’ birthday party on Sunday.  Boo.

Pearl, Fainjin and I went to the school Matariki celebration, at dawn on the beach looking up at the stars and freezing our toes, then warming up with porridge, milo and cheerful conversation MUCH too early in the school hall.

Pearl went off to her first weekend-long “camp” with Girls’ Brigade, fascinating the younger two who have visions of her in a tent in the wilderness (in fact she is in a lovely retreat centre out in the country).  They keep asking whether she has a bed, is there any food, will she have a shower, is there a roof?

So last night, over dinner, I suggested to Fainjin – who is our alarm clock most mornings – that perhaps we could have a sleep in.  He looked dubious.  “You can get up at 6 if you like,” I said, “even get dressed.  You can play with your Lego.  But please let Mummy and Daddy sleep until the first number is 8.”

He agreed, and soon enough we went thankfully to our beds.

This morning, at 6:42 (later than normal, at least), he came running into our room.  “Mum!  It’s after 6!  Time to get up!”

“Fainjin, remember, we’re sleeping in?  You can get up but Mummy and Daddy are still asleep.  Come back when it’s 8 o’clock.”

“Oh.  Yeah.  Sorry!” and he disappeared.  But not for long.  He came back in several times over the next half-hour, asking questions and checking in.  He helped Babess get up, set up breakfast, played for a bit, and then I heard the sweetest sound.   He was reading to Babess!  He had retrieved his school reader from his school bag, and was reading her the story.  She made sage comments on the pictures while he sounded out the words.

We went to the library today and he was chuffed to find some books that he could read all by himself with minimal help.  Perhaps tomorrow morning he’ll read to Babess again.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.


May 15, 2012

Babess has been watching her big brother learn to read, and has been picking up some tricks.  I am going to try to film her “reading” a book, because it is delightful to see and hear.

She points to each word on the page as she speaks, and the cadence is the same as if she were slowly reading the words.  But the story she tells is usually one of her own devising, based on the illustrations.

Yesterday she was reading Lynley Dodd’s “Slinky Malinki: Catflaps” in the car, and she had a marvellous conversation going between Scarface Claw and the other cats.  At the end “all the cats went inside to watch Slinky Malinki’s TV, except Scarface Claw because he was too… loud.”

The only problem with trying to film things like this is that if she knows we’re doing it, she will perform for the camera instead of just reading to herself.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.


Happy Birthday Daddy

May 1, 2012

There was great excitement this morning, as the children presented The Dad with his birthday presents, which we had shopped for at the weekend.  He was duly appreciative, and we went on with the day.

When Babess got to daycare, she announced to one of her teachers, “It’s my Daddy’s birthday!”  The teacher said, “Really?! Perhaps you can make him a card today.”

When The Dad went to pick her up at the end of the day, he was told Babess had spent all day making him things.  I can believe it.

First there was the card:

Front of the birthday card

To Dad, Happy Birthday, love from Babess

Is it just me, or is that amazing handwriting from a not-yet-four-year-old?  (Not the “love from”, that’s clearly a teacher’s hand, but the rest of it would have been copied by Babess).

Then there was a beautifully-wrapped parcel:

Bespoke wrapping paper

and inside was a book!

The book cover. I love the pictures of "Dad" and "me".

with more lovely writing:

I love you

and more pictures:


What a lucky Dad!

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

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