Mr Men School: Encouraging a Love of Reading

I am currently teaching a six year old and a three year old to read.  You may or may not know that I have a daughter who struggles with her reading.  I say this not because I necessarily believe she should be further along or a better reader than she is, but because she is not where she would like to be.  She has wanted to learn to read since she taught herself all her letter sounds when she was three.  I truly thought she would be a doddle to teach.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Her three older siblings took to reading like a duck to water, and to this day read every spare moment.  A6, not so much.  In fact, she was beginning to lose the interest in reading at all, so hard did she find it.  Not being an expert in these things it has taken me time to work out a strategy which allowed her to enjoy books whilst at the same time learning bit by bit to read.

As you know we have used the very lovely Mr Men books to base her school on.  It is with these books, along with All About Reading, that she is learning to read.  Progress is slow.  And that’s alright.  I think Mr Men as a theme has worked well to keep her school light-hearted and pressure free.  I thought I would share some ways I have used these books to help my little girl retain her love of books and hopefully encourage in her a love of reading, even though she is finding it a hard skill to learn.

Read Aloud

Reading aloud is a wonderful, completely stress free way to enjoy books.  We put aside lots of little pockets of time, such as during her Mr Men school, during our morning meeting, bedtime etc.  After Christmas I will be enlisted the help of my mum and Gary to also read aloud.  We make reading together a specific and special time, with snuggles on laps and hopefully no interruptions.

The older children also love to read aloud to their younger siblings and this is something we encourage.  Hopefully the little ones can then see their big sisters or brother in action and want to emulate them:

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Mr Men are great books for this because they are genuinely interesting enough for the older ones and yet simple enough for the younger set.

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Quiet Time

All my children have quiet time for up to an hour each day.  The younger ones choose books from their quiet time basket, which I make sure include some Mr Men books and magazines for them to thumb through:

the basket and it's contents

This is hopefully supporting the idea that books are a fun, relaxing thing to have and that free reading time can be a form of escapism, to be transported to whatever world the child is reading about:

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Modeling Reading

The old adage of more is caught than taught is true for both good and bad behaviours.  This is one area that the children can benefit from you being a good book-reading role model.  I have always been convinced we are a book loving family thanks to my Dad’s influence growing up.  He took us to the library every week and modeled reading himself, every spare moment he had.  I am mildly obsessed with books and am always happy to hear my older children tell their Granny that one can never have enough books.  I couldn’t agree more!

Encouraging Attention Span

Having a very small attention span has been somewhat of a disability to A6 when it comes to learning to read.  However, this year it has improved a great deal.  She has had focused time from me, from her siblings and the aforementioned quiet time.  We have also limited her screen time and have used a reward system for staying on task.  We use gummy worms and make up a pack and call them her ‘Book Worms’ based on the worm character from the Mr Men books.  She gets a book worm every time she completes her work for the day.  We also keep Mr Men sweeties which we will use in the same way.  The children, in general, don’t get sweets at any other time and so this is a huge treat for her:

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Book Marks

Just recently we made some lovely Mr Men book marks to encourage A6 to use in her own quiet time reading books and also in her All About Reading.  I hoped that might remove the fear that she had to read the whole book in one sitting.  When she gets tired she simply pops in the book mark so we can return to it at a later time:

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Utilise Different Reading Materials

Our home is naturally a print rich environment with magazines, comics, books, maps, ebooks, online access to blogs and ezine articles.  A6 has access not only to the basic Mr Men books but also special editions, puzzle books, Mr Men magazine, the Mr Men website, Mr Men ebooks and lots of Mr Men toys and computer games which require some reading.  The Little Miss Sunshine learning CD Rom is a favourite of hers and helps teach her to read:

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We make sure she has access to all these by creating storage areas which are at her height and easy to get to.

Carry A Book

We have always encouraged the children to take a book with them everywhere they go.  This back-fired on us somewhat with the older girls who are now incapable of going on even a short car journey without taking enough books to stack a library with them.  However it really has been worth it with A6 because the first time she read a book all the way through was in the car.  There was no pressure and nothing else to take her attention away, and she read beautifully.  If only it was that easy every day!

Mr Men books are perfect for easy carriage being smaller than an average book and easily fitting in the little girls bags.  Having them means they can take it out whenever they have a spare moment and are looking for something to do- waiting to see the doctor or dentist for example:

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Magazine Subscriptions

I use some of their school money to pay for a Mr Men subscription.  These bi-monthly magazines come complete with Mr Men toys, lots of activities which require reading to do them, and comic type short stories with pictures:

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These have been a huge hit.  They love everything, from the toys to the stories to the activities and the 100’s of stickers which come with each edition.  More than that, they are sent one each and ownership is very exciting when you are three and six!

The magazine also encourages its readers to send in pictures of drawing the child has done:

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For me the magazines are a means of making reading more accessible and A6 often doesn’t even realise she is doing it.  This brings me to my next point…

Reading Without Knowing It

I attempt to make reading as fun as fun as possible for A6.  I never needed to do this before.  For my older children books were enough.  It was love at first sight and it is a love that has never dwindled.  A6 finds reading so hard that I have needed to be far more creative with her than my others.  I have to find ways to encourage reading without her really knowing she was.  The magazine is one method, Mr Men ebooks, partnered reading (post to come) and computer games based on the Mr Men characters, board games, acting out the books with puppets…I do everything I can.

I have also utilised the fact she loves to cook by using simple Mr Men recipes, which she needs to read in order to cook.  This has been a huge hit:

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Rewarding Efforts and Progress

This year I have rewarded for effort rather than progress and I have done this using ‘book worms’ and Mr Men chocolate rewards.  I give one for each extra book she reads or extra lesson she does. In general I don’t tend to reward for school work, only for skill based learning such as reading (for A6) and maths (for the girls).  I find it helps them want to do extra work and the more they do the easier they find it.  Both maths and reading are skills they can take into adult hood and so I am happy to use as many carrots (so to speak) as it takes!

Next year I will use a star chart which I will design around the Dr Seuss books.  She will receive a sticker for each Dr Seuss book she is able to read fluently.  When she has read ten she will be rewarded by an outing out on her own with either Gary or I.

After Christmas we will continue to focus on A6’s reading, finding extra special ways to make reading pleasurable for her.  We will continue with Mr Men on Fridays, which is usually what we do when the children aren’t quite ready to give up a theme.  However our main them will be Dr Seuss and I am sure this change will lend itself to a whole new set of fun ways to learn to read.

What do you guys do to try to encourage reading in both your older and younger children?

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19 comments

  1. I like your rewarding tricks, sometimes it´s necessary… to build a stock of matchbox words to read added pictures for control (you read as you open slowly, sound by sound); …to write/print texts about what the children are interested in; …buy more and more books and stickers; craft a reading ruler (with a hole to look through and read); and never give up!

  2. You really do make things fun, Claire! It’s interesting how they all develop at different rates, isn’t it? My C(11) was a very early reader, too, whereas J(9) came to it much later. You’re so right, Mr Man books are good for all ages (including 44 year olds). I hope you’re making a good recovery after the op.

    1. I am, thank you, Lucinda.
      I’m missing your posts though. Are you in Spain at the moment? (I can’t keep up with whatever country you are adventuring in at any given time!)

      1. LOL, we’re home right now, though we just got back from a week at CenterParcs. I’m at that point where I’m rather overwhelmed by the number of things I want to blog about, it’s been so long! I just need to jump in somewhere, I think. I miss being out here in blogland! I’m glad you’re recovering well.

  3. My eight year old struggles with reading. We know that she has specific areas which are problematic in terms of process but not being able to read well can be challenging when she would love to be able to read a book but just can’t.
    Like you, we read aloud, loads, usually at breakfast time, early afternoon and bed time. The RSPB children’s magazine has helped although I tend to read most if it aloud. Sticker books are also a big hit although require very little reading! Using all these techniques has meant that whilst I have a child who finds reading difficult, she still loves books and will choose books as a reward for effort with reading.

    1. They are great ideas Sarah. I think it is particularly hard when it is the child who wants to read but actually can’t. A6 would just love to be able to read and yet had begun dreading her reading lessons because she finds them so hard. It’s better now because my goal changed from progress to process.

  4. We started last year an hour of reading in the morning, and we do our “Book and a movie” which the kids all love because of the snacks we have while we watch the movie.

    BOTH of my boys were like your little one, and were so slow to take off in reading, I was struggling with it, I knew it was going to be fine, but I had one of the boy’s Sunday School teachers pull me aside with her concerns….

  5. So sweet to see your older kids reading to the young ones – what wonderful bonding. Pea took quite some time to get comfortable with reading, (and even to this day has a bit of difficulty with it) – being a genuine bookworm myself, I was truly worried for a few years that she wouldn’t find the love of reading that got me through many years – but she did get there, and now absolutely loves reading.

    1. Thank you, that’s good to know. I keep thinking all she would miss out on if she didn’t read lots as she got older. Like you, I want to share my love of reading.

  6. Loved Little Miss books growing up. I didn’t know they had a magazine though. That is so neat. Can you share the link where you ordered your subscription? I can’t find it through google searches anywhere. Just info that says, “now in stores…” Thanks!

  7. This is so encouraging!
    I have 5 sons, four of whom are voracious readers. My youngest has caught me by surprise. He is nine and is barely reading. I wasn’t prepared for it to be such a chore for him. While he LOVES to be read to, he doesn’t enjoy trying to read himself. I am daily fighting the urge to make him read, and instead sit and read to him. Sure, I have him read daily while we are schooling, but it is not coming easy. It is tricky to instill a love for reading when the act of reading itself is so challenging. I am confident it will come. We keep modeling reading and read aloud daily and leave him “hanging” in great stories.
    Thanks for the encouragement!

    1. Thank you so much for commenting. It’s good to know we’re not the only ones who are struggling. Here’s to a future of great readers and a life full of books!!

  8. This is a very helpful post! My kids love these books!
    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

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