Monthly Archives: June 2023

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Campaign launched to get the nation reading, as new research reveals that only one in three children are read a story every day by their dads

New research reveals only 29% of children are read to every day or nearly every day by their dads*, despite this being one of the most effective ways of encouraging children’s enjoyment of reading, which is proven to positively impact on life chances. Only one in four children and teens read for pleasure every day or nearly every day*, so there is a huge opportunity for dads to have a positive impact by reading aloud with them more frequently. The research shows that when dads read with their children, the majority find it rewarding (76%) and an enjoyable experience for both them and their children (74%).***

The research also revealed the barriers many dads face in reading aloud with their children. Dads’ own childhood experiences may be a cause, as the research also found that only 36% of dads were read to when they were children themselves and fewer than half of dads grew up with positive ideas about reading.** Dads were also twice as likely as mums to say they lack confidence in their personal reading ability and in choosing books their children would like to read.*** Many dads are also simply unaware of the benefits of reading aloud to their children, with only 36% of dads saying they are well aware that reading aloud to their children encourages them to read more.**

In response, and ahead of Father’s Day this year, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity BookTrust and children’s publishers Farshore and HarperCollins Children’s Books have joined forces and are on a mission to encourage the nation’s dads to pledge to read with their children more regularly for four weeks to reach the goal of a million minutes of storytime shared across the UK. 

Farshore conducted a study in collaboration with parenting community dadsnet to test this approach. The study, involving 33 dads and their 49 children, demonstrated a significant increase in dads’ and children’s enjoyment of reading, sense of togetherness, wellbeing and a positive effect on the child’s learning and behaviour.****

With the backing of children’s book authors and public figures including Michael Morpurgo, Nick Butterworth, Joe Wicks, Alexander Armstrong, Emmanuel Asuquo and David Walliams, the Dads Make Stories Magic campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of reading aloud to children. BookTrust, Farshore and HarperCollins Children’s Books will offer top tips and practical ideas of how to engage even the most reluctant of readers with books and stories. They will also share details of the campaign’s supporters’ magical storytime experiences with their own children and grandchildren to inspire others to get involved. 

Sir Michael Morpurgo OBE, President of BookTrust, author of War Horse and the former Children’s Laureate said:

“My journey to becoming a story-maker began with my mother and grandmother reading to me and my brother in bed. For us, these nightly readings were acts of love. They lived all of it as they read, we lived all of it as we listened – we made the stories together. In sharing their own passion for stories with us, I learned early on how reading can be immersive, transporting, and sheer joy. I’m so pleased to support this campaign, to inspire and motivate anyone with a child in their lives to enjoy the powerful benefits of storytelling. We must all work together to enrich children’s lives through encouraging a love of words and stories.”

Joe Wicks MBE, the ‘Nation’s PE Teacher’, author of The Burpee Bears, and dad of three said“This powerful new research from HarperCollins and BookTrust shows the magic that happens when we read to children – it really sets them up for life. I discovered the joy of books and stories later in life and love sharing it with my own kids. That’s why I’m joining the Dads Make Stories Magic campaign to get us reading more often to our kids, and to reach the goal of a million minutes of storytime shared across the nation!” 

Nick Butterworth, award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books, including the beloved Percy the Park Keeper series said: 

“This illuminating new research highlights that it’s more important than ever to motivate and inspire the nation to read. I didn’t get the hang of reading until I was eight, but thanks to my mum and my grandmother, who read constantly to me, I became hooked. Not on reading, but on stories. As a dad, I wanted to repeat the fun I had as a boy with my own children. I didn’t realise then that as a by-product, I was making a huge investment in their future. As we were simply enjoying magical adventures together, we were unaware of priceless added extras: the unconscious development of vocabulary, the easy learning of language skills, and the infectious desire to read for themselves. 

And here’s another; every minute spent sharing in this way reinforces family relationships and a sense of identity and security. All this for free! Well almost: The small price to pay is a little regular time spent daily with people you love.”

Sharing books and stories has the potential to transform children’s lives, positively affecting their life-chances, emotional wellbeing, creativity and attainment. Yet the number of children reading is in long-term decline, with only 25% of children and teens reading for pleasure daily or nearly every day in 2022, compared to 38% in 2012*.  The Dads Make Stories Magic campaign hopes to show dads just how much fun they and their children can have creating magical storytime experiences together. 

Children love sharing books and stories with anyone – whether that’s mums, dads, carers, grandparents, siblings or friends. By having more reading role models (from different people reading with them or seeing other people reading around them), the more likely children are to become readers themselves. So, it is not just dads who can join the pledge to reach a million of minutes of storytime, everyone is invited. 

Diana Gerald, Chief Executive of BookTrust said: “Reading is something that can be done anywhere and brings children life-changing benefits that can give them the best start in life. There’s no right or wrong way to read a book. You can look at the pictures, use silly voices or make up your own story. Children will love the closeness and bonding moments that come from sharing a book together so there’s nothing to stop you from giving it a go. Join the Dads Make Stories Magic campaign and you’ll be sharing magical storytime experiences and creating memories together with your children.” 

Alison David, reading for pleasure expert, author of Help Your Child Love Reading and Consumer Insight Director at Farshore said: “Our recent research with dads found they experienced great joy when they read to their children. It gave them the opportunity to cuddle up and create some precious bonding time. Of course the children loved it too. This deep enjoyment is the reason reading aloud to children is so effective: they associate reading with pleasure and, when read to often, they develop the enthusiasm to read themselves. Children who choose to read for pleasure simply do better in life, enjoying a host of benefits including performing better at school and having enhanced wellbeing. Something as simple as reading aloud to children has truly far-reaching and life-long benefits.”

Cally Poplak, Executive Publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books and Farshore, said: “Our mission is to make every child a proud reader. One effective way to do this is to read aloud to children and we’d love more dads to have this wonderfully rewarding experience through our Dads Make Stories Magic campaign.”

You can find out more about the campaign and pledge a contribution to the Million Minutes goal at www.dadsmakestoriesmagic.co.uk 

The Witches of Hogsback by Sally Partridge

Zelda is a self-proclaimed do-gooder and cannot stay quiet if she sees something wrong. Unfortunately, this doesn’t win her any popularity contests – and now not even her ex-boyfriend, Dylan, wants to put up with her anymore. Desperate to escape from everything for a while, Zelda signs up for the school’s hiking trip to Hogsback. Her illusion of having a nice, relaxing time shatters when she stumbles upon a mystery nobody else wants to solve: the death of local teen Stephan Dale. Quickly, she is neck-deep in trouble: from having her room vandalised to nearly being killed. Someone clearly doesn’t want her solving Stephan’s death. Her prime suspects are the group of teenagers known as the ‘witches of Hogsback’, but are they really witches?

There is more to this case than meets the eye.

Sally Partridge is a phenomenal author! I have a fan of her work since I picked up a copy of Dark Poppy’s Demise at Kalk Bay Books back in 2012. She imbues her work with such a sense of place that for me it is like visiting South Africa each time I start reading her work. If you have never had the privilege to visit Hogsback then this novel will take you there.

In an era of epic 300+ page young adult novels and multi book series it is an absolute delight to pick up a self-contained novel that rattles along at a fairly fast pace and takes you with it. Initially I found Zelda to be a vaguely annoying protagonist (possibly because I was similar to her when I was in my teens) but as the story progressed I found myself warming to her and as the sense of mystery and danger deepened as the story continued I found myself becoming more and more concerned for her safety (and that of her hiking club buddies) and saying things like “Why are you making such poor decisions?” in my head.

If I may take a short digression for a moment: mystery books are bad for people with teens and kids in their lives because we worry about the protagonists and get stressed out when they make poor decisions that are necessary to progress the plot along

Anyway back to the review:

The story had just the right amount of holiday rebound romance, mystery and uncertainty; the aura of menace hooked me and kept me reading through the night. For me the real star of the story was the landscape (I can’t help it – I miss South Africa, and this novel took me home for a few hours).

Overall I found The Witches of Hogsback to be an incredibly satisfying read, the ending felt like a beginning for Zelda and he new-found friends rich with hope and excitement.

The Witches of Hogsback is published by LAPA Publishers in South Africa and is available digitally via most online retailers.