Being an author

Untitled1How do you help your newly-reading child choose a book that they both want to read and that they are able to read? Possibly the best tip on this I have ever been taught is the five-finger rule.

When you are in the library or bookshop, head off to the younger reader section and ask your child to pick a book they like the look of. Kids, like all of us, choose books by their covers; the little billboards publishers make to tell you what sort of read awaits you. Whoever said you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover had no idea about the time publishers put into the design of book covers! Watch which sort of books he goes for. Of course, feel free to look yourself and suggest ones you think might appeal. You might find one you read and loved as a child.

When your child thinks they have a book they like the look of, you need to check it’s the right reading level. Enter the five-finger rule. Here’s how it works.

Ask your child to read the first page to himself or, ideally, to you.

If he gets stuck on a word, ask him to put one finger up.

Every time he gets stuck (if they get stuck), he puts another finger up.

That’s it. It’s that simple

If he has five fingers up on one page, it means that that book is too challenging for him at the moment. By needing to stopping and starting over that number of words on the one page, the momentum of reading the story is lost. He is not really reading for sense or story anymore but rather identifying the individual words. Its too hard, it’s no fun, the book is not right for now. Not every, just not yet.

Note the book for later and try again with another book that he selects and now, that you have seen both which book he liked the look of and which was a little tricky, you are better to help suggest options.

I love this tip for so many reasons. It’s easy, you can do it anywhere, it empowers the child to check for himself – and heads off the frustration and disappointment of taking a book home that then proves too hard.

Give it a try with your new reader – and I’d love to hear how it goes and of any more tips that help us get our kids reading.


shutterstock_3125011Not all kids love reading, some are actively against it (I have one of each) but we all need to read to be able to do other stuff (like learn, fill out forms) as well as disappear into the wonderful world of a story. While there are girls out there who would also rather not read, it is a much bigger problem for our boys and we need to be inventive, even sneaky about how to entice them into reading.

For most of my publishing (and mothering) career, I’ve been looking at ways to engage boys in books and one of my biggest lessons has been to just start them reading anything. Comics, the backs of cereal boxes, footy cards – they’re all putting one word next to another. Just as the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, so too might the road to War and Peace start with a less ‘booky’, or what I’m calling ‘black ops’ book.  What makes a ‘black ops’ book? Lots of cool pictures, quick grabs rather than long paragraphs and, ideally funny, weird, technical or gross stuff, ideally a combination of all. Above all, it’s a book they don’ t think is a ‘real’ book.

Here are some to start a list – help me add to it!

  • Guinness World Records – filled with stats, facts and more gross-outs than is probably a good idea, this gets boys reading without them know it, motivated by the understandable need to know just how heavy the world’s largest meatball is (530.71 Kg), the fastest time to sort 30 jelly babies with chopsticks (40 seconds) and the most slam dunks by aparrot in one minute (22). And there’s a new one every year!

  • The Encyclopedia of Immaturity – Subtitled ‘How to Never Grow Up’ and including such invaluable topics such as ‘How to Stick a Pencil in Your Ear’ and the companion piece, ‘How to take it back out of your nose’, this book is laugh-out loud funny and informative.  How to skip stones, how to fake sneeze, how to look like you are carrying your head in your hands and another 295 equally essential and illustrated topics will get kids turning the pages.

  • The Lego Book – The only time I don’t like LEGO is when I am stepping on a brick. The rest of the time I love their cleverness – and the cleverness it inspire in kids. Who doesn’t have photo of their child standing, beaming with pride, with their LEGO creation? And if your boy would rather be building than reading, here’s the ultimate compromise. Jam-packed with photos of amazing models, facts and trivia, this book has everything anyone ever wanted to know about LEGO and then some.
  • And if you want the ultimate boys’ favourites mash-up book, there’s LEGO Star Wars Visual Dictionary!





books-homesI was thrilled to be asked to be a Books in Homes role model.

Books in Homes Australia ‘provides books-of-choice to families and children living in remote and low-socioeconomic circumstances, ensuring crucial early literacy engagement and the development of reading skills needed for lifelong success.

Their ‘vision is to re-awaken a sense of wonder in children and excitement in parents, by creating an Australia where every child and family has access to books of choice at home.’ And what does that look like? Since 2001 it has distributed more than 1.200,000 new books to more than 110,000 needy children from 300 schools and communities around Australia.

The books are often distributed at Book Giving Assemblies, often attended by story-tellers, illustrators and authors as Role Models and I am excited to be going to a school in a few weeks to be part of their Assembly.

I think many of us take the gift of books and our ability to read them for granted. Books in Homes Australia reminds us that is indeed a gift but not one everyone receives – but they should.

You can find out more on their website and make a donation on the GiveNow website.