Posts Tagged ‘reading’

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.



June 21, 2014

Today’s weather was just about perfect. It was sunny with a light breeze, not too humid, and about 28ºC. It was wonderful to be out and about and able to enjoy it!

Yesterday we had visited a bookstore, and seen that they have a summer reading reward programme (or program, I guess). Schoolchildren take a “reading journal” form from the store, fill in the details of 8 books they have read with a recommendation – whom they would recommend the book to as well as why – and then they can claim a free book when they return the form to the store.

So we took three forms, read them carefully and found there was no residency requirement, and gave them to the kids.

This morning blissful peace descended after breakfast as they all worked on listing and recommending books.  They’re such bookworms we had no trouble at all remembering 8 books they had each read recently – a mix of library books, e-books, their own books and borrowed books while travelling. By late morning they were done, so we took them to get their free books.  There was a short list of available books for each age group, but everyone found one they liked. I found it noteworthy that one book in each list was in Spanish – it is very commonly spoken here and elsewhere in the US of course.

Then we took advantage of the lovely weather and spent some time at a local playground. The Dad’s phone pinged a reminder and he laughingly told Fainjin it was time for his Saturday morning music lesson. This sparked a quick discussion of the concept of time zones, which the kids are already fairly familiar with, and suddenly Babess gasped, “It’s already my birthday in New Zealand!”

In recognition of this auspicious occasion (and because it was 28º) we all went and had icecreams before returning home.  And because it was a lovely evening and a Friday, everyone was allowed to stay up a little bit late to watch the fireflies.

© 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.


Reading, one letter at a time

March 30, 2012

Most nights, Babess takes a pile of books to bed with her.   I go in after she has fallen asleep and gently remove them from under her head, arms, legs, or wherever.  She usually looks at the pictures and tells herself stories about them as she is settling in for the night.

Tonight she decided to “read”.  I was sitting on the couch when I heard her call out, “Mum, what’s the letter after the C? Is it H or U?”

Since I couldn’t see the book, and had no idea what word she was looking at, I was at a loss.  I went to her bedroom door and took a peek at the book.   Then I went back to the couch and tried to watch TV.

“It’s an H.”

“Oh, thanks.  H.  E… E… what’s this one after the Es?”

“It’s a K.”

“K.  Ok.  What’s after the K?”


“Because I’m reading!  What’s this letter after the K?”

“It’s a Y.”

“Oooooh.  Y.  K… are these zeroes or Os?”

I had given up on TV now, this was much more entertaining.  “They’re Os.”

“Thanks!  And what’s after that?”

“It’s another K.”

“And is this one a A or a 6?”

“It’s A.”

“A, B, U… what’s after the U?”


“R, R, A, S!” such triumph.

I expected her to demand to know what she had just spelt out, but I think the effort of identifying all the letters had worn her out.  We’ll have to read about the cheeky kookaburras another night.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.


Exploring letters and sounds

March 19, 2012

Fainjin is loving learning to read.  He finds it incredibly exciting and is very proud of himself.  Each week his class has a different “letter of the week” and he loves to practise it.  A couple of weeks ago it was J, and his class made jelly – and ate it.

At odd times he will sound a word out to himself – yesterday he was bouncing around the kitchen and said, “Book… b-, b-, book starts with B!”  For his breakfast, he asks for “Something that starts with J” on his toast.  J-, j-, jam!

Today they had a special day at school and didn’t do their letter of the week.  But when I arrived to pick him up, he still took me over to where it’s written to show me.  “Look Mum, that’s our letter of the week!”

“Cool, Fainjin, what is it this week?”

“H,” said Pearl before I had even finished the question, and “H,” echoed Fainjin – so I don’t know whether he knew it by himself or not.

“What sound does it make?” I asked, curious to see whether he knew.

“Ch-, tr-, …” he frowned in thought… “Train!” he triumphed.

The teacher and I shared a grin.  “Ask him again tomorrow,” she promised.

I did help him out and we decided “H-, h-, horse” was a good word.

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

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