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Why reading aloud to your kids is important.

To learn why please read on:

Everyone wants to be a good parent and do the right thing to help their kids in life. Parents have to walk that fine balance between work and home life. Juggling all those balls is tough, and especially harder if your work takes you away on business trips, or you have to work night shift, or perhaps you are a single parent. Children are not like clothes that you can assign time-saving devices to, such as using washing machines!

To be a great parent you need to invest time. I recall learning about a family who had twin children, like my own. Both parents worked so that they could give their children “everything”. So the kids had every toy and gadget you can imagine. However, by their teen years the kids were falling behind at school, and totally unruly. One evening, the exasperated mother confronted her children to find out why they were behaving so badly. They declared they did not want the toys and presents that their parents were able to buy. The father worked long days and the mother had an evening job. What the children wanted was for their parents to invest time in them! To spend time to talk, discuss and play with them. This came as a shock to the parents and they realised this was something that did not need funding. The mother quit her job and the huge change in her children was realised within a few months!

Amongst all the tasks demanded of home life, finding time to read to your children may be something you do schedule. However, this task quickly evaporates once your children start school and time pressures build up. However, did you know how important the role of reading actually can be for children – in all grades and classes, including teens?

Sounds unbelievable? After all, once your kid can read, why not leave them to read books alone? There is plenty of evidence and confirmation from experts that listening comprehension assists reading. The more a child hears new vocabulary; their skills in reading improve. Certainly a child has a higher level of understanding of the spoken word, than reading, whilst young. If you expose your five year old to five year old school vocabulary, they will never progress quickly, but will be left behind their classmates.

Consider that the only time your child reads or hears a book being read is whilst at school. They will quickly make the connection that reading is for learning, which for many equates to being boring.

If, however, they are entertained each night by listening to their parents or big brother or sister or perhaps a Grandfather reading aloud a fun book, they will associate that with a “pleasurable moment”. It is this emotional bond between the child and the reader and the connection of applying listening skills that will help your child develop a love of books. At the same time you will be developing their vocabulary.  As your child becomes older you can adapt the style of reading to perhaps perform a play, read poetry or chosen novels you enjoyed as a kid.  You child will be intrigued to learn more.

This notion of reading is even more essential when confronted with children with special needs or learning disabilities such as dyslexia. I have personal experience of this and have found through hard work that ensuring a nightly regime of reading fun books ensures that a love of reading for fun is achievable.

Listening to stories, discussing a story or their illustrations, fuels imagination and creativity. After each story, make time to discuss what your child thought of the book. If reading takes place at bedtime, make certain you build in time with lights out at the same hour.  For older children you could propose that they read in bed for 15 minutes by offering them a fun head lamp, book lamp as a treat.  Also encourage them to write a review once books have been read. Perhaps set up a blog page for them to be their own book critic and award small treats for the best reviews each month. They could set up their own “publishing house” and write their own stories and get young siblings to review! Alternatively for younger children ask them to draw images from stories they have heard, or invent their own “kingdom” based on a recent story shared. These are additional activities, but as a minimum make time to read, or if you can’t always do that, arrange for audio stories to be played.

For more concrete advice and statistics on why reading aloud is so important I would encourage you to read the following book. The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (1983). It’s been around for many years but the message and content still remain true today. It was around the time that Jim Trelease wrote his book that the U.S. Department of Education created a national Commission on Reading in the USA. Their challenge was to examine 10,000+ reading research projects that had been used in the previous 25 years and report on what really worked. The Commission’s most immediate finding was:-
“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

With that in mind, I ask you to consider reviewing my latest book, The Golden Gondola and adding that to your bedtime reading list.

Book title Read aloud Vocabulary builder Fun illustrations and story line Educational content
The Golden Gondola Yes Yes  Yes Yes

To learn more about The Golden Gondola – link here.

This book will also raise funds for the Children’s Home, Nepal.

Extract from The Golden Gondola

“One day after breakfast, she was trapped by a rat.
It was chased to the basement, by Carlo the cat.
Maria was frightened, she had no-where to run.
She climbed on the toilet, this was not fun.

As the rat drew closer, she slipped down the wall.
But a hidden stone lever dampened her fall.”
 ©Sandra S C Arthur 2012


Make Reading Fun!!!     Ideas to develop literacy

Children who develop a love of reading at an early age get a head start with language skills that are invaluable for their future.


It was pancake day here in France, and it gave me a great idea.  If you have reluctant reader in your class or home, why not introduce a cooking lesson.


The children will not necessarily consider reading a recipe as a difficult task.  Even if they do, with encouragement you can make the exercise seem easy.


Before you start cooking, you can pick out difficult words to learn to read and write.  Have a plate of rice or sugar in front of each child, and get them to write the words out by writing in the dish of grains. 


If you child is too young to read, then read out the instructions out loud.


You can develop the child’s confidence by asking them to read the ingredient list and gather all the items required for the recipe.  Once you have the ingredients, work through the recipe, step by step.  If you have more than one child, you can allow each one to take turns to read out loud the instructions, or allow each child to work alone and work at the same speed.


Measuring out the ingredients by weighing the flour etc, will also use other skills.


Making pancakes is easy and lots of fun.  With adult supervision you can assist with the cooking but allow the child to decorate the final crepes or pancakes.  Using honey and a variety of other items such as fruit pieces, chocolate chips encourage each child to write a word on their pancake.  Take photographs of their creations and decorate your kitchen.  You can then change your notice board pictures on a regular basis, as they share new creations developed.  This will make them feel very proud.

The ability to read and communicate is the fundamental key to what opportunities may be offered during their lifetime.


As Dr. Seuss in “I can read with my Eyes Shut!” stated:

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go."

To discover and learn about things in life, be it on the computer, online or in books, children need to read.  It is one of the most important skills you can have.


Kick start their love of reading by making it fun!



The Road to Literacy: Strategies for Parents and the Pre Reader

Sandra Arthur Books warmly welcomes this viewpoint from teacher, Angela Jackson.

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray,

Go throw your TV set away,

And in its place you can install

A lovely bookshelf on the wall. 

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl

Learning to read is the most important skill any child will acquire during primary education; if a child can’t read, he can’t do anything. He can’t read text books; he can’t read the instructions in a maths exercise: he can’t read a book for pleasure. His or her progress is compromised from the very beginning of his school life. As parents there are many, many strategies we can adopt in our daily lives that will ease the transformation from a non reader to a competent reader. Think caterpillars and butterflies!

1.    The first tip is a no-brainer really. Talk to the baby; talk to the small child. I used to feel an idiot chattering away to my baby as we tackled the weekly shop but naming objects helps the baby and later the small child to acquire a large and rich vocabulary. Being familiar with lots of words on starting school, will give the child a great advantage.

2.    From the age of 6 months, look at books with the baby. Point out objects; talk about what’s happening in the pictures. Babies enjoy bright colours and simple drawings and the warm, cosy parent-child moment will create the right associations in the child’s mind.

3.    Think about singing songs and rhymes to increase a child’s vocabulary. Remember that children need to hear language from people. To a baby, television is just noise.

4.    Point out written signs. Stress the importance of the written word

5.    Another no brainer: show your child that you value reading, that books are important to you. Have books and magazines around the house. Let your child see you reading books, newspapers and magazines.

6.    Treat books respectfully, reverently. Don’t allow the child to draw on reading books. Teach him to turn the pages carefully. Encourage him/her to keep the books and, later, drawing materials in a special place.

7.    If there’s a library near you then it’s a good idea to join it. Many libraries and some book shops hold regular story hours and staff are often trained to advise readers on ways to use books creatively.

8.    Find time to read a bedtime story every night. Apart from encouraging a love of books, it also sets the scene for a calm bedtime.

While committed, conscientious parents do all this on a regular basis, it’s also worth mentioning not to push too hard and to enjoy the voyage of discovery.


Venice Escape reaches top 100 best selling kids books

For the month of July 2011, Venice Escape was ranked in position 15th, on kids book category.  Thank you to everyone for your support.  Please help to nudge this title to position one!!  Thanking you in advance for your confidence, help to spread to the word, and purchases.
See rankings on link below​ks/ragazzi/7/LULU00162/top_100​?o=0&p=month

Venice Escapes receives top marks for originality

Independent kids book review site, Ahgoo Review has posted a very positive review on Venice Escape.  The editor of the site found it very technologically savvy - a tall order for a printed book.  In addition, she created a new category for her book review site - one calling for originality.  Venice Escape scored top marks in both.  The full review can be found on the link below.
Guest article on New Reading approach for
2.0 Generation.

With so much of our lives now being shared online, it is no surprise that the young children of today need to be technically savvy and adapt at using the web. We are all being bombarded with more information, in one week, let alone one year, than our forefathers would have perhaps been exposed to in their LIFETIME. For an average person on an ordinary day, it amounts to 34 gigabytes of data or 100,500 words.

Input comes from a variety of sources unrelated to work/school, including movies, mobile phones, television, the Internet, video games, newspapers, magazines, books and music.

Read full article on Australian based, Kids Book Review website - link below:
KBR warmly welcomes Sandra Arthur, author and literacy advocate, with this fascinating guest post on reading for an online generation.


Do as I say, and not as I do!? 

“Do as I say, not what I do” does not work when it comes to encouraging kids to read.    If you NEVER read anything, how do you expect your own children to become avid book lovers??  Trying to get your kids to read from an early age should be something that not only you encourage, but also lead by example.


As a young girl, I can never remember my father without at least a book or newspaper – often both – in his hands.  He encouraged my brother and I to visit the library each week, and we were given a free reign to choose any book to take home to read.  He allowed us to select our favourite comics at the newsagent, and set up a regular home delivery each week, so that we did not miss out on our favourite stories or pop-world gossip.

From those early days, I recall my primary school headmaster also taking special interest in each child in our class.  He would come into our classroom and chat with each child, to learn more about their interests in life.  He would then disappear to the library and return with a selection of books, that he would encourage different children to read.  I have him to thank for introducing me to The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis.   From that moment I was hooked on reading and couldn’t find enough adventure, travel fantasy stories and later enjoyed all the detective stories by Agatha Christie.

By the time I reached high school I was required to read the books defined by the school education board: To Kill a Mocking Bird, To Sir with Love, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Wuthering Heights and so on.    I loved them all.  I do recall being asked to read “Shane” and it was the first time I actually hated to read a book.  Hard to recall why, but I remember my English teacher reflecting “perhaps it is a book for boys…” 


By now, I was reading a wider scope of books from historical fiction, to love stories, adventure and spy and crime thrillers.  The books I loved the most were the one’s that created many twists and turns and also offered adventure away from England!

What made them magical was the ability to close your eyes and imagine the face of the heroine.  I found that if a book I had read was turned into a movie or television show, it ruined the experience if one re-read the book – all the magic was taken away as you could then draw on film images and ignore your own imagination.

That’s why I believe the experience to allow people to develop and come up with their own ideas when reading is so important.  For those reluctant readers in our high school class, I recall one year we had a student teacher visit who arrived with some new ideas.  This may amuse those younger readers, but I recall this student teacher bringing in a stack of 45 rpm records and playing David Bowie and other current music of the mid 1970’s to the class.  We had to listen to the song, study the lyrics and then write an essay on what we thought the singer or songwriter was trying to say!  It was a lot of fun and a new approach to getting kids to read, listen and provide review and feedback.    That interaction was so important as it helped turn around some kids who had turned their back on reading.


That’s why I was so keen that I would follow my father’s example and ensure my kids took up his love – to read books.  As soon as they could hold anything, I thrust black and white board books into their hands.  I followed this up with the full range of wonderful look and feel books that exist, and ensured that they were read to each night.  Now to my delight, they love books as much as my husband and I and of course, their Grandad.

A love of reading is one of the greatest gifts you can give to any child – take a moment to determine how you can pass on this wonderful gift to children in your life.


Schools Out for Summer !
How to get kids to read?

Now that summer is here, the children have started their school holida
ys, and two long months loom ahead; how to entertain the kids?

Aside from seaside activities, playing in the garden/park as well as popular electronic games, encouraging your young children to read is a great way for them to improve their reading skills as well as developing their imagination.

Unless your child is a keen reader, it can be a huge challenge to get the reluctant reader to pick up a book, especially if they have to struggle to read.  These children do not find it a fun activity and will naturally resist any efforts you may make.


Here are some ideas on how to potentially encourage those children who may be challenged to read:-


+ Reading to younger kids.  Get them to choose ANY book/comic and arrange for them to read it to a younger child.  This will give them the confidence they lack, as the younger children will be impressed to hear the bigger child read.  If you do not have a younger child, then agree to let the child read to you (or a neighbour/grandparent).  Give them huge encouragement and an incentive to do this each day of the holiday.  One example could be to create a chart and give them a sticker each day they read.   Once the child has collected  seven stickers, they receive a small gift (or it could be a certificate you create on your computer).

+Summer Diary or Journal.  Get your child to write a journal each day. They need only write a couple of lines to summarise what they have been doing each day.  At the end of each week, ask them to read their journal to you.  If there is reluctance on the side of the child, you could offer a small prize or outing at the end of several weeks to reward them for their efforts.

+Find books they provide a multi-media aspect.  Mixing up activities that allow the child to read, observe content on the pc, and then move back to the book for more content is a good way to demonstrate that reading is fun.  My new junior fiction book, Venice Escape provides such an opportunity.  In each chapter the child can link to my music link tracks to watch and hear music described in the story.  For the younger reader, I have a couple of early learning stories on YouTube that help the child follow the story. 


+Games/Magazines – don’t dismiss children comic books that can serve as an easier way to get your child to read.  The same applies to electronic games, but limit the time spent playing!


+Bedtime reading.  Choose one time per day when YOU read to your child – or you can listen to an audio book together.    Generally bedtime is a good opportunity for you to get cosy on the sofa or bedroom and read a more advance story, than your child can read.   Ensure you save some time to discuss the storyline together.  Ask them to use their imagination to guess what may happen next or invent their own story.  As you invest time to do this, the notion of reading will hopefully appeal.



 Boys falling behind in reading?

Thirty eight percent of 4th graders (in USA) cannot read a simple poem – according to a US Dept of Education, National Center for Educational Statistic.

Furthermore, one comment I had received online during the year, from a Canadian teacher, was the point that generally it is boys who are falling behind in reading skills.  She believed this could be in part due to the fact there are not a lot of good stories for boys. She backed up her argument by advising that many educational experts confirm the reason why boys do not read as well as girls, in childhood, is due to the current content that is available seems more appealing more to girls.  I wonder how many other agree?

Motivated to research this issue, I had to generally concur with this teacher’s findings.  Currently boys face an unprecedented literary crisis that limits their future opportunities.  Recent educational studies do show that the gap between the sexes - dating back to the 19th Century -  “has increased markedly”. What is known is that boys generally take longer to learn to read than girls; they read less and are less enthusiastic about it; and they have more trouble understanding narrative texts yet are better at absorbing informational texts.   As reading is the key ingredient in all learning, if a child is weak in reading, then this sadly will be reflected throughout all their education.  When a child is struggling with reading then he or she will struggle with all subjects.   

I had not written the Radio Ron’ Rainforest Adventure series strictly fo
r boys – although, I do have two sons which I used to test the storyline, and yes, they both love the story!   I'm hoping my early learning e-book video will appeal to all as it presents reading in a fun manner. Kids can listen to the narration, mute the sound and try and read and repeat.  Moving away from the classroom teaching of simple looking at books – these simple ebooks videos take that experience one more step to engage more of a child’s senses.  Children have the opportunity to be stimulated visually by the delightfully, child-like illustrations created by 6 year kids.  At the same time they can hear the narrative – read by two adults who have injected clarity of reading with humour via the dialogue and delivery.  There is also the addition of background music and sound effects to add additional stimulation, reality and interest.

Children love new things, and boys in particular are stimulated by adventure, animals and learning “how things works”.  Furthermore, the parent or teacher can use the story as a basis to trigger other activities using the storyline as a theme.  An example could be creating a Rain forest animal (or objects such as canoes) (creating puppets, models, drawings) or physically acting out their own rain forest play.
 Learning about geography – finding out where Borneo is located in the world.
Understanding the role of the rain forest and discovering what trees and animals live there.
Likewise, getting the children to sing “rowing songs” or play instruments and “making forest noises “could be another way to engage children’s imaginations.  Or reading in outdoor locations - get out of the classroom and encourage children to read in gardens, under trees, by a river.  

As most classroom teaching is a visual and hearing based system- boys in particular tend to enjoy movement/touch, especially at young ages.  I’m hopeful that parents and teachers will use my Radio Ron ebook videos on YouTube to trigger a series of additional activities that includes learning through movement (read the story and then move like an orang utan, for example).
I hope that when kids read my short ebook video stories they will ignite their interest to learn more about the unique island of Borneo.   Not only are regions like Borneo impacting global climate change but their people, animals and plants are battling with a multitude of issues, not least extinction.

 I know my boys had dozens of questions the first few times they heard the story.   I've developed some educator notes that provide suggestions and ideas and these can be supplied – see attachment below.

By offering a fun approach to early reading practice, I hope my work may encourage a life long love affair with reading and books (whether on an electronic screen or paper).    And, at the same time, also trigger an interest in environmental issues.

Phonics Versus whole word

As the arguments and debate rages on between educators on what is the best approach to teaching reading English to children, here’s some food for thought.

About 50% of the English language cannot be read by applying phonetics.  There are simply too many exceptions due to the history of our rich language.  Ultimately certain words have to learned.   Certainly the latest phonic-based teaching has attracted much merit with the ease that children can develop reading.  It has also been reported that this style of teaching also helps children who are dyslectic.  However, in reality, almost all children learn to read by a combination of the whole word and phonics-based approaches – especially it they have had mum or dad (who were taught that way – as in my case!).   Whole word reading is easier, so most children learn their first words by this method, before they know the sounds that the letters make. Many kindergarten teachers teach some words by sight before starting on phonics.

No matter what reading system you use, at the end of the day it is essential that learning to read is made fun in the early years of learning.  Whether this be via the material that is used or the information obtained from the reading material.  As today’s generation will be a truly pc literate group, I hope that my Radio Ron eBook video demonstrates the fun that children can derive for engaging in early multi-media experience.

Radio Ron’s adventures also good for bilingual children!

As a mother of bilingual children, I was happy to receive an email from one happy YouTube viewer in Norway, who confirmed that the multi-media ebook functioned well and served as an easy reading book for his son, non-native English speaker in their 4th class primary school.  

Other feedback I received included Denise Gilby, teacher at an International school called Victoria School, in Tequisquiapan, Mexico added “This is a very good presentation – the narration and voices bring the story to life well.   I enjoyed it and will forward it to our yr 2 teacher who will be doing a rain forest topic later in the year”.

Other groups and schools from around the world (including Australia, France, and US) have pledged their interest in this project and support to use this material.  Some classes in France have already used early versions of this work in their 6-7 year old classes.   In the last few years, many schools around the world have added rain forest projects to their curricula (heavily supported by various environmental charities and the Prince's Trust in the UK) and I’m happy to report some are using Radio Ron’s Adventures (both the early learning ebook and the longer story for over 8 years old) as part of their school projects.

Sandra Arthur,
18 Jun 2011 07:38


Sandra Arthur - 24 Apr 2011 01:22

Crocodile Attack - Fantastic story, especially for boys - there isn't a lot of good stories for boys, and experts think that this may be one of the reasons why boys do not read as much as girls in childhood.

Way to go Sandra! I love it.

Sandra Arthur - 24 Apr 2011 07:42

I absolutely loved your book and will definitely be posting it to our Educational website. What a wonderful gesture on your part to donate your time to educate children on the plight of the orangutan. They need everyone’s help. The Australian Orangutan Project has a fabulous education website and there are lots of downloads that can be used in the classroom. There is also a classroom information pack.

Sandra Arthur - 24 Apr 2011 07:44

I want to applaud your efforts. I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you’re reaching out to children to teach them about conservation for the sake of wildlife and the world.

Good luck in your publishing endeavors!
April Overall, Canada

Sandra Arthur - 14 May 2011 03:56

Comment on Venice Escape. I've managed to read Venice Escape and I want to congratulate you on a great job. Wow! I think it's very readable and I love the way you've used it as a vehicle for curricular links, especially history and music. I think it's inspired that you've added the music links and lovely that a lot of it is close to your heart. I just hope that Maria gets to be reunited with her mum!

Elaine, (Teacher), UK.

Sandra Arthur - 18 Jun 2011 07:42

Just receive Venice Escape from On first impressions it looks really good, the kind of story that kids would enjoy but that adults would find interesting also. Well done!

Imogen (Bristol, UK).

Sandra Arthur - 18 Jun 2011 07:47

Have been enjoying reviewing the music links on your site whilst reading Venice Escape. The shamisen clip made my cat jump! Must of struck a cord!
Catherine, Canada.

Sandra Arthur - 18 Jun 2011 07:48

Really interested in the new book, Venice Escape. Often hard to capture attention during history (as it is so far removed from daily experiences)so for me as a teacher they will be really useful in my SEN work. I love the storyline.

Lisa (SEN Teacher) Bath, UK.

Sandra Arthur - 22 Jun 2011 04:09

Wonderful past week: Pre-launch event, Venice Discovery Morning followed by launch day on 21 June 2011. Thanks for all your words of support and to those who purchased the book. I love you all.

Sandra Arthur - 22 Jun 2011 04:10

Via email: The gondola is launched......may she sail far.......



Sandra Arthur - 22 Jun 2011 04:10

Via email:
Fab theme tune Sandra. Hope your book a success. Vic

Sandra Arthur - 22 Jun 2011 04:11

Via email: My 11 year old bought this book 1 week ago and hasn't put it down since!

A highly recommended read.

Great classroom material as well!


Sandra Arthur - 22 Jun 2011 04:12

Via email: I am so looking forward to having my daughter and her friends read your book. I ordered additional copies so she can give them out as presents.

I, too, am looking forward to reading it! Marianne.

Sandra Arthur - 22 Jun 2011 04:53

Via email: I blush.
"Book+Video+Web Site+world music: what a terrific project.
Not just an author - but a multimedia diva."

Sandra Arthur - 22 Jun 2011 08:15

Via email: "Just finished it - excellent! The ending leaves lots of room for a sequel, which I hope you will consider."

Sandra Arthur - 15 Sep 2011 08:42

"This book is a gold mine - first, the story is fantastic and a great read (I read it to my children who are too young to read it themselves; they are 5 and 6). I had to explain some of the term, and sometimes summarize the action for them, but they loved the story.

What makes it a fantastic teaching tool is all the music found on the related website - the author has a website that gives you the chance to hear the music found in the book - a great way to learn about not only Venice and Italy and the history of music, but also to experience the music by hearing it. For older readers, this is a great way to link reading a book with the internet! to have a look at the website. Anne, Ontario, Canada.