Reluctant readers

The Importance of Reading Aloud.

Royalla Roundup Community Country FairThe one main take home message I gained from having a stall at our community fair the other month came from discussions with parents as they looked at my books. I realised that parents still don't understand the importance of reading aloud to their child no matter the age. This has also been confirmed during my days working in the gift shop at Cullen Bay Darwin and selling my books during the book launch there as well. "What age is this book appropriate for?

"My child is only in kindergarten, she can't read that herself yet."

Time and time again it has become obvious that parents are still not getting the importance of shared reading aloud with their children.

Teachers can only do so much in the classroom when it comes to teaching reading, the fundamental Cullen Bay book aunchbuilding blocks of language have to be established in the family home. Reading together from birth stimulates the brain and enables significant connections to be made that develop the foundations for literacy.

Reading out loud to a child during the early pre-school years not only gives you a wonderful opportunity to snuggle with your children and show them how much you love them, it also allows you time to demonstrate a number of pre-reading language skills.

Picture books like "Emma the Eager Emu" provide a wealth of opportunities. 1. You model reading with great enthusiasm and expression. 2. Reading alliteration helps teach that language is made up of individual sounds not just words and syllables. 3. Repetition increases familiarity and produces opportunities for guessing what might happen next? 4. Vibrant illustrations allow for discussions and further language learning. 5. The more often you read, the more they will make the pre-reading connections such as which way up the book should be, front to back, words flow left to right and top to bottom to tell the story. 6. They will also realise the significance of the pictures in the story telling too. A picture truly can be worth a thousand words. 7. Increases empathy and understanding of the world around them. 8. Extends their vocabulary.

Once children reach that early independent reading level, parents seem to think their child needs to do it all alone. This couldn't be further from the truth.

Books like Gingerbread Aliens and Alien Shenanigans might be early independent chapter books but they are still excellent resources for sharing reading out loud together. Your 6 - 10 year old still needs you! 1. They still need to hear modeled reading out loud for expression. 2. It can be fun to share a humorous chapter book with your child. 3. It opens opportunities for discussion when you read together. 4. It provides opportunities to discuss any words they may have difficulty reading or understanding. 5. You can determine through questions whether they have comprehended what they have read. 6. If you read a book just above their level of ability, you extend their comprehension and vocabulary. 7. It builds wonderful memories of special time spent together reading and sharing no matter their age.

If you enjoyed reading this post and are interested in joining a discussion on helping parents, grandparents and other carers with encouraging children to read, please come and join us in my new group forum Raising Awesome Readers I'd be happy to see you there, I look forward to more people becoming involved in our chats and spreading the word on the importance of reading aloud.

How often do you read aloud with your child? What are you doing to build fond memories with them no matter what their age? What are you reading with them to help expand their vocabulary?

Book Launch!

The time has finally arrived!

It's time to celebrate the release of not one but two new books!

Alien Shenanigans and Emma the Eager Emu

With that comes not one but two fantastic book launches!

As most of my readers know I am living a bit of a nomadic life these days living between two homes in two beautiful cities of our magnificent country. Therefore I am lucky to be able to have a book launch in both cities.

The first will be held in Canberra for those of you down south. It will be held at the same gorgeous book store that supported me so welcomingly by holding my first book launch for Gingerbread Aliens.

Saturday 16th May 2015 11:00 am Paperchain Book store 34 Franklin St Manuka ACT.

The second book launch will be held in Darwin for those of you living in the Top End. This one will be held by the fabulously supportive friends at Shine Gifts Cullen Bay and the Waterfront during their fantastic Friday night champagne shopping.

Friday 22nd May 2015 5-9 pm, Shine Gifts 63 Marina Blvd Cullen Bay NT.

Parents, Grandparents, teachers, Aunts and Uncles come along join in the fun and listen to me read from both these delightful new books.

Emma the Eager Emu is a wonderfully illustrated picture book. I hope to have its illustrator Dianna Budd, join me in Canberra. This book is ideal for pre-school and the early years of school. There is so much that can be discussed from reading this story as children learn all about patience, persistence and never giving up.

Copyright Sandra Bennett and Dianna Budd

Here's what one happy mum had to say about the book -Helen Jones Hazlewood Emma and I read Emma the Eager Emu last night and we loved it! The illustrations are stunning, the story is simple and appealing, with us quickly both saying "one, two, three look at me..." together each time. I loved that it has a great messsge too - it prompted a good discussion about how we all have our talents and things we aren't so great at, and that's OK. Thanks for another wonderful book!

Alien Shenanigans_cover_FNL_001Alien Shenanigans is the long awaited part two of the Bradberrie brothers adventure with aliens. If you enjoyed all the mayhem and mix-ups in Gingerbread Aliens, you will find more explosions and mischief in this one. There are more science experiments for the classroom as well. Teaching opportunities arise with the simple to read text allowing for easy comprehension activities for early and reluctant readers. Fun and laughter abounds assuring even the most reluctant reader will want to continue all the way to the end.


If you can't make it to either of the book launches, both books are available from this website, as well as both above mentioned bookstores, and Harry Hartog Woden. Emma the Eager Emu is also available from the National Botanic Gardens, Canberra and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney.

Join us at the Fair!

If you live in Canberra and don't mind a short drive into the country why not join some amazing, friendly people this weekend at the Royalla Roundup Country Living Fair on Sunday 29th March, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The weather promises to be perfect for a day outdoors in the sun. Royalla Roundup

Come along, join in the fun, meet the locals, pat some animals,  chat to a neighbour or two, and even  meet this resident author. There are plenty of things to do for all the family. Take a walk among the elm grove, delight in the arts/crafts, learn a thing or two about the native plants, purchase garden supplies, admire the farm machinery and shiny cars and so much more.

It will also be your first opportunity to purchase my two new children's books "Alien Shenanigans" and "Emma the Eager Emu." Along with my original short chapter book for early and reluctant readers, "Gingerbread Aliens." I will be their to sign any copies purchased.

Alien Shenanigans_cover_FNL_001








Bring fun and laughter to your children's Easter this year as you read aloud the Bradberrie Brothers continued adventure. Science and curiosity collide as mix ups, mischief and mayhem explode. Mrs Witherbottoms returns to get in the way. Principal Penwright is on the war path ..... again and the classroom teacher, Mr Haggardy, is not happy! Who is truly behind all the shenanigans this time?

The following is a Pre-release review kindly written by Leonie MacDonald:
Coordinator Relax Kids Canberra
Editor Birth Journeys-Positive Stories to Encourage and Inspire
Emma the Eager Emu is a wonderful story to read aloud to children with vibrant illustrations of the native Australian bird characters.  With plenty of repetition and opportunities for children to predict what is going to

Copyright Sandra Bennett and Dianna Budd

happen next this book is ideal for the classroom and shared reading with the young reader. Emma the Eager Emu’s story provides an opportunity to talk with children about how we are all different and we have different strengths, how we can encourage each other and keep trying when something is important to us, and how sometimes we just have to think a little differently to find the solution to our problems. Emma the eager emu shows children that they don’t have to be like everyone else to be happy and achieve their dreams. There are so many positive messages packed into this story.

 Aiden (age 5): My favourite part was Rosie Rosella because of her rainbow feathers.
“what is the story about?” If you run really fast it can feel like you’re flying.

 Review by Leonie MacDonald
Come join us at the Fair!
I hope to see you there! :)


Gingerbread and Aliens a Brilliant Combination.

This week I was given the wonderful opportunity to be the caretaker of a gorgeous little gift shop here in Cullen Bay, Darwin for a couple of days. This lead me to meeting some amazing people not only from our own beautiful huge backyard called Australia but tourists from all over our magnificent world. I met a couple that had embarked on a cruise from Melbourne, but the cruise ship had broken down in Perth. Unperturbed they flew on up to Broome then finally to Darwin. A family that had flown to Alice Springs then driven around the Northern Territory visiting all the National Parks, including Katherine Gorge, Kakadu, and Litchfield and were finally in Darwin for a well earned rest.

Then there was the fabulous Irish couple that brought much laughter when they came into the shop. We were instant friends when they learnt my maiden name was "Branigan." The fellow had a friend back home he was trying to buy a special gift for, the request seemed rather unusual. "Did I have by chance or know where he could purchase a small wooden model casket?" His friend, he offered by way of an explanation, was an undertaker and had seen one when he was over here on holidays. I wasn't able to help my Irish friends, I was however able to help an American lady that was now residing here in Darwin.

She took one look at my book and exclaimed, "Gingerbread and Aliens! How brilliant! What a perfect combination to interest boys in reading." She continued to inform me that I had hit the mark precisely for young boys choosing two subjects that they adore reading about. I couldn't go wrong! Since living in Darwin she had resisted making gingerbread at Christmas because it was too difficult to roll out in our humidity but she had already agreed with her six year old that this year she would turn on the air conditioning and make some. She agreed both her boys would be so excited about the prospect of turning their gingerbread men into Gingerbread Aliens. I told her that if they did make some gingerbread aliens and took a photo or two I would be happy to add them to my website. This would also encourage her boys to read the story. She bought a copy of my book and asked me to sign it for her boys as it would be perfect not only for her six year old son but also for her eleven year old reluctant reader.

Before this I had found myself wandering around Mindil Markets, last Sunday evening, where I spotted a sign that reminded everyone that it was only 14 more Sundays til Christmas. How timely to notice that sign? This wonderful mum had also just reminded me it was time to begin to make plans for this Christmas. If you and your family are also into baking gingerbread men at Christmas, why not consider Gingerbread Aliens instead? Buy and read the book with the kids, have a great laugh, then have some fun in the kitchen as well. The recipe is available on both my sites, the links are below.

If you happen to be in Darwin, come on down to the gift shop, Shine Gifts, Cullen Bay & the Waterfront, Darwin, or for those further south or overseas you can purchase a copy here on my website, I'm happy to post anywhere in the world, there is still plenty of time before Christmas. Just click on the link below, my home page or the Gingerbread Aliens page.

If you prefer ebooks it is also available on Amazon where you will now see the special reduced price.

If you and your family enjoy reading Gingerbread Aliens and baking a few over Christmas, please take the time to not only send me a few photos to share, but to write a review on Amazon, GoodReads etc. It is a great educational experience for your children to see that their writing, along with yours, are valued.

From Reading Challenge to Reading Success.

I caught my son reading the other day. He and his wife were sitting together quietly reading their own novels and he appeared to be totally engrossed in the story too!What's so unusual about that? You may well ask. He has almost reached his mid twenties and has resisted reading books all throughout his school life. My eldest son, on the other hand, has always had his nose in a book, (just like me), from as young as I can remember. So when I produced a son who vehemently refused to read, it was time to delve into all the strategies I was taught to use as an early Primary classroom teacher and more. At first I couldn't understand why he struggled so much to read or why he insisted he didn't like doing it? Books are everywhere in our house, everyone reads! It was expected that all our boys would love books, so when he didn't, I felt like I had failed him. We read together as a family every night and had plenty of books to choose from, so I couldn't understand the problem. What I hadn't realised was that I was not giving him two things. 1. The chance to choose the book for the family to read. 2. Special one on one time reading together, just us! Both of these things had to change. I had to find books that he would like to read, not me, his father or his brothers. If I couldn't find suitable books of his choice, then it was up to me to write the sort of stories he would like to read, for him. Stories to entice boys, funny, quirky humour with a little bit of realism as well as a whole lot of imagination. Stories with great page turning hooks and climaxes that stop a boy from putting a book down to find something better to do. As he grew I also realised many other boys in my classes could benefit from my ideas and stories, so I began to share them and write specifically for them. I wrote Gingerbread Aliens initially many years ago as a funny story to encourage my son to read. It has developed over the years, the plot has thickened and the story is now long enough to make into a five part series of short chapter books. Now many struggling and reluctant readers, (boys and girls) can share in the fun and enjoy the story as much as my son did when he was growing up. It's so wonderful to see my efforts have all worked out in the end. My heart is overwhelmed with joy when I see my son reading for pleasure and I know I have done something right after all. Gingerbread Aliens is available for purchase right here on my website. Click on the link in the box below. The first in the Bradberrie Brothers Alien Adventure. Short chapter book for 5-10 yr olds, early and reluctant readers.

How Do I Turn the Pages on my Reluctant Reader?

We all know a reluctant reader. Many of us have one in our family.

Yes, even I had a reluctant reader as a son.

So what can you do to help him (or her) overcome their fear or frustration of reading?

First of all before we begin, it is important to remember to check for signs of causes that may be hindering the learning process. Is your child having problems seeing the text? Do they need glasses? Are they perhaps jumbling up the letters? Are they dyslexic?

Whatever the issue, remember that help from teachers is always at hand and above all, don't panic! All children develop and learn at their own pace. Childhood is not a race to adulthood. It is a journey to be savoured and enjoyed, a time when memories are made while growing and exploring and this includes venturing into the world of books and discovering the particular types of genres that best suit each individual personality.

Below are my tips on the best strategies  to help motivate the reluctant reader to not only start turning the pages but continue into becoming a life-long lover of reading.

1. Start by being a good role-model. It helps if both parents enjoying reading. Some might say in fact that my husband was not a good role-model to our sons as in nearly 30 years of marriage I could count on one hand the amount of fiction books he has read. However, he is always reading.  The laptop or ipad is always on and he is forever googling technical information about something of interest. He is reading and learning all the time. I might be the one seen reading all the fiction novels, but he is observed reading  a plethora of non-fiction.

2. Ignore parents that brag about their children's amazing reading abilities. Worrying yourself  that your child is not "keeping up with the Joneses" is pointless. Every child will reach their own potential at their own pace. By the time they all finish high school and move on to University, things will have evened out to the point that when they began to read confidently will not seem so important or significant. You may even find that the bragging parent was in fact doing the actual reading aloud all along while the child was enjoying listening and comprehending. (Both parent and child enjoying the shared experience anyway.)

3.With that said, remember your reluctant reader will also comprehend books at a higher level than he/she can read. This may be a reason which may have turned them off reading in the first place. Therefore find books that interest him/her and spend time reading aloud to them. The benefits are great. See my post from two weeks ago, Introduce as many forms of reading as possible, magazines, newspapers, internet sites, blogs (under supervision of course) whatever may be of interest. Most of all make it fun and entertaining so that you build confidence as well as comprehension.

4. Make the reading relevent.  One of the reasons they become reluctant is because they are bored and then refuse to read as they can't see the point of reading the required text. That is why it is essential to find topics of interest. Don't expect a ten year old struggling reader to want to read something written for a six year old, even if that is his reading level. Give him something that will entice him to want to pick it up.

5. E-readers are great for reluctant readers that prefer to play on their computers or console games. E-readers are familair tools, so why not take advantage of them. The reader can play with the text, change the font size, shape or colour and even look up unknown words they discover, all in one place. No need to go diving for a dictionary anymore.

6. If they have a favourite comic book or joke book, don't stress. Allow them to read it over and over. Repetition is a good thing.  It not only builds confidence and comprehension but allows the reader to express themselves while enjoying a positive experience. These books will also help with the increase in understanding of story sequencing and layout as well as the added benefit of being visually appealing and full of laughs.

7. It helps if there is a quiet place in the house to read. Quiet time in a quiet corner or special place away from the distractions of other busy family life, no computer or TV noise, time to sit and quietly immerse themselves into the story. If this is difficult to find, then bedtime is perhaps the best alternative, bearing in mind that children are often very tired by the end of the day and a reluctant reader will probably prefer you to start the reading. If you find something he is really interested in, he may just want to take over the reading, (and even continue long after you leave the room).

8. Create plenty of opportunities for reading and learning by writing notes to be left and found in hidden secret places. Children get quite a delight when they discover a secret message from mum or dad in a lunch box, under pillows, in pockets, wherever your imagination takes you. Write messages on the fridge by using magnetic letters. The reader may surprise you and write a reply.

9. Play as many word games as you can think of. I Spy, scrabble, boggle to name just a few. If you are interested in more ideas refer to a few of my earlier blogs

10. Select high interest books with plenty of action and humour. Kids want to laugh and have fun while reading. As they get older they expect good cliff-hangers at the end of each chapter. It also helps if the book has familair everyday situations that they can relate to. Circumstances that they can become involved in and are able to suggest how to solve the problem.

A fantastic short chapter book that just so happens to fit the order perfectly is my "Gingerbread Aliens." Filled with action, adventure and intrigue it will keep even the most reluctanct reader laughing and turning the pages all the way to the end. The story begins with a very simple everyday situation that every child can relate to. Three brothers begin fighting in their kitchen  while trying to cook for the school fete. Naturally disaster strikes, there is a huge mix up and a turn of events that send the school and the neighbourhood into turmoil. The story even has great cliff-hangers at the end of every chapter.

Here is one enticing sample.

"David sighed, he had enough of their nonesense. He threw the loaf down at his feet in disgust and gave it one almighty drop kick.

It SOARED through the air longer and faster than David had ever kicked a football before. It flew right over the top of the back timber fence. Hit the light post near the walkway. Bounced off the brick pavers that edged the garden........and........SMASHED through the window of the school Principal's office."

Whenever I read this at school readings, even the most reluctant of readers  have begged me to continue on to the next chapter. I have not met a child yet who doesn't want to know how the school Principal is going to react.

Gingerbread Aliens is available from both my websites. I am happy to sign any copies purchased and mailed.

It is also available as an ebook.

The second book in the Bradberrie Boys Alien Adventure Series "Alien Shenanigans" is coming very soon. Stay tuned for futher updates on this and more in the series.