Young readers find literary treasure in the hunt for great books
Muswell Hill mum Anne Joseph, a freelance book editor from Muswell Road, was inspired by a friend to set up a children s book club. She describes below how it has become a highlight of her and son Noah s week FOR years I have fought off offers to join a
Muswell Hill mum Anne Joseph, a freelance book editor from Muswell Road, was inspired by a friend to set up a children's book club. She describes below how it has become a highlight of her and son Noah's week
FOR years I have fought off offers to join a book group because I thought it would stop me reading books of my choice.
However, when I became aware of a children's book group in Jerusalem that a friend of mine attends with her daughter, my resistance was overcome.
The refreshingly unique aim of this particular group is to encourage bilingual children (English/Hebrew) to read novels in English. So I decided to set up a book group here in London, with my youngest child Noah, an avid reader at eight years old.
Bilingual needs were not a factor. Handpicking the participants was. I wanted a mixed group of half a dozen children with parents who were going to be supportive. Not all the children knew each other, but they all knew Noah. I hoped the group would be something we parents could share as well.
Amid the never-ending self-improving activities, there is little that both adults and children participate in together.
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Dropping off and collecting later undoubtedly has its merits, but the book group was designed to be different. It had to be a fun way of enhancing and encouraging reading - not a group of children analysing Dickens vs Dostoevsky.
Each meeting is held at someone's home and the hosts decide the book title and carry out activities relating to the book. To date we've had an assault course (Fergus Crane); charades based on the book's characters; making ghosts and bats (Araminta Spook:My Haunted House); a variety of quizzes and questionnaires; making scones/drinking hot chocolate and eating Florentines (The Amazing Tale Of Adolphus Tips/Fergus Crane) and making a 'spy' notebook (Harriet the Spy).
We've deliberately chosen titles that contrast in style, content and genre. We also have to ensure that our choices appeal to both boys and girls; a sometimes tricky balance.
Discussions were slightly awkward at the beginning as the children were unfamiliar with the format and shy with each other.
Seven months on, they freely give their opinions while munching their way through the array of food available. By not engineering a formal discussion it's beginning to happen naturally, through the relaxed dynamic we've created.
Observing one's child in such a setting makes for interesting viewing. I hiss for Noah to sit and listen to other people without him yelling out. Because of his incessant chatting, it seems impossible that he is listening. But afterwards, when we give each other our book group debrief, he shows me that he's heard it all and loves it. He's just what's known as enthusiastic - very. Apparently none of the other parents seem to notice or perhaps they're just being polite.
Working in the publishing business as a freelance editor I have access to publications that can give ideas for future titles and I have primed a friend, a highly experienced children's picture book editor, to talk to the kids about how a book is produced.
The first book we read was James King Of England by local author Jonny Zucker who came to talk to the children. Although at school there are sessions with visiting authors, this was different. Being in an informal setting, with a writer who spoke in such an enigmatic and entertaining manner, was a fantastic way to kick-start the group. As was the vast quantities of fruit, pizza and brownies consumed throughout.
Other titles read: Scribbleboy by Philip Ridley, Fergus Crane by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, Araminta Spook:My Haunted House by Angie Sage, The Amazing Story Of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo. The next book is Emil And The Detectives by Erich Kastner where I think there might be a challenging treasure hunt planned.