Every story Tommy (my 7 year old son) has written lately begins with the sentence, ‘Hi my name is Tommy…’. You can imagine my frustration as a creative writer myself and teacher of children’s writing.
However, you won’t be surprised by the books he has been reading bordering on obsessed with.
Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton have been responsible for the middle of the night reading – yes, The Treehouse Series. Every book starts with, ‘Hi my name is Andy and this is my friend Terry.’
Therefore, it makes sense that Tommy’s stories begin with, ‘Hi my name is…’
Mentor texts is the latest buzz word from the new Australian Curriculum. A mentor text is basically a book which you use to help children’s reading or writing develop. You don’t have to use all of the book, you may just read beginnings to help students write engaging starts or a specific descriptive scene which may help students understand adjectives.
Students/children should be reading a variety of texts for the exact reason above, to give them variety in their writing and to widen their vocabulary.
If children only read one series of books they are continually learning only one voice, one style of writing, usually one topic/setting/characters. Even if the series is AMAZING like the Treehouse Series (and all of Terry Denton and Andy Griffith’s books).
If you give a child a blank piece of paper and ask them to write, they will use their imagination which most of the time is filled with their own reading or life experiences. They will model on books they have read.
My top 5 tips to help your child have variety in their reading:
- Help them see that reading is a life skill. The famous Dr Seuss quote is perfect, ‘ The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’
Show them how they can use their skills to read; signs, menus, letters, emails, text message, road signs, lyrics, subtitles on their favourite shows and the list could go on.
2. Help them see books as a way to broaden their knowledge on topics which they can not have due to different reasons. If you don’t live near the snow, yet want a child to understand winter and the snow season, then find a book which depicts scenes to help your child learn the language of snowman, snowflakes, freezing and tobogganing/skiing. Books can be either fiction or non-fiction
This new vocabulary may then be included in their own writing, and will help them visualise if they read about snow in future books.
Books can be read about different cultures, different environments, different social settings – the list could go on.
3. At home, students should regularly visit libraries or op shops and have a chance to fall in love with reading and discover new authors, illustrators, or topics.
I loved when my older son (who had begun to find reading difficult) read the first book in the Weirdo series and said on completion, ‘Mum, can we get Weirdo 2 I need to read whether he goes to Bella’s party?’
4. Sit with your child and read with them a new book. Never underestimate the time you spend reading with your child, regardless of their age. Whether you listen to them read, read to them, or shared reading (a chapter/page/paragraph/sentence each). Every reading experience is beneficial in numerous ways.
For a change you could both read on your own next to each other and share what you have learnt or enjoyed in your text. It could be a newspaper, school newsletter, or a novel.
At school, students should be encouraged to take home readers which are:
- easy – to help them practice reading fluently
- non-fiction – to help them understand the different language, text structure and features
- books they want to read for enjoyment
- books to help them become better writers
Enjoy watching your child’s reading develop and sharing your reading experiences. I must admit I certainly feel as if I have read every page of The Treehouse Series with the amount of times Tommy has come to share his latest, new favourite page.