My name is Mrs. D. and I am an author of children's books. Currently, I’m juggling many projects including several new books. I love to write. I love this beautiful language. I write because I have something to share. I write because maybe someday, someone in this world may need my experience. I write for one simple reason. I love how it makes me feel: free.
Q My eight-year-old grandson is a competent reader and is always reading. However, I have discovered that he never reads a book chapter by chapter and from beginning to end by himself. When supervised and reading aloud it is not a problem, but left to his own devices it is another story. I have tried everything I can think of to encourage him to read a whole book – short stories, short chapters, picture books and so on, but to no avail. Can you help?
Angela, via email
A My advice would be similar to what you suggest yourself – to leave lots of different kinds of books lying around so your grandson can pick up whatever takes his fancy. Above all, you should try and appeal to his interests. If he loves football, then give something football-related. If he likes watching Horrible Histories, then try the books – or better still straight history aimed at his age group.
The other thing I’d say is that you should pick an author who writes well; someone who crafts proper sentences. It amazes me that so many eight-year-olds are willing to plough through JK Rowling’s prose. Though she is one of the best plotters around, the Harry Potter books are some of the most laborious books to read.
Finally, as long as your grandson is reading, I wouldn’t worry about the way in which he does it. It’s fine for him to dip in and out of books. The fact that he is enthusiastic about it is all that matters, and as long as this continues, I’m sure the pull of the narrative will overtake his slightly faltering reading habits.
With all that in mind, I’m going to suggest a range of newish books for him to dip into.
Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell’s Barnaby Grimes series, billed as Dickensian horror, is pacy, dramatic and well written. Less confident readers might struggle with the descriptive passages, but the dialogue and illustrations should be enough to keep most going. You could start with the first of four, Curse of the Night Wolf (Corgi).
For something funnier, why not try Caroline Lawrence’s new spoof Western series, The PK Pinkerton Mysteries, about a 12-year-old who can’t read other people’s emotions, fending for himself in a lawless town.The Case of the Deadly Desperados (Orion) is the first of two.
The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond (Walker, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, published next month) is a more homely though equally zany tale about a young boy who, after his home is turned into a fish-canning factory, runs off to join a circus.
And if you haven’t yet encountered Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powderseries by Jo Nesbø (Simon & Schuster, translated by Tara Chace, illustrated by Mike Lowery, three books), now might be the moment. Starring a dwarf boy, Nilly, and his friend, Lisa, who befriend an eccentric doctor whose creations include a fart powder, these books are a naughtier Scandinavian version of Roald Dahl.
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