In the last post I identified some key priorities for this season of home educating, with reading being top of the list. Today I’m looking at what Freya is currently choosing to read.
I’m not sure where Freya’s recent interest in fairies came from, but a few weeks ago, when I picked her up from my parents’ house she excitedly showed me a Rainbow Magic book that she had found in the charity shop. I have to say a had a little internal moment of panic – because when I worked in our local library, years ago, I developed a deep mistrust of that series! The series, about two girls and their fairy friends, is produced by a company, ghostwritten by several authors under one pseudonym, Daisy Meadows, which I felt to be quite a cynical, money-making approach to creating children’s fiction: churning out book after near-identical book. If they were brilliant, it might not matter so much, but the writing is not exactly inspiring (repeated use of the same adjectives for example) and I worried they might contain unhelpful messages for girls about what they should like or want to be like.
I didn’t want to communicate those feeling of mine to Freya, and risk making her feel her interests or preferences were wrong, so I’ve kept quiet and let her get on with it while having a read myself and bit of think about what I really think!
Since that first encounter she must have read about 12 of the things. I mean really read – I was astounded when we picked up a few at the library (of our 30 books, 15 on each child ticket, I was going to allow one to be a Rainbow Magic book, but expanded it to three on Freya’s insistence), and she’d already finished one by the time we’d driven home from the library. It had 77 pages! I assume she’s properly reading them, since she talks about what happens in the stories. But flip, how did that happen?
It has become her first genuine obsession. She has strong interests in princesses and outer space and ballet and specific tv shows, but the excitement she feels about these books is at another level. She says “I can’t WAIT to go to Babcia’s tomorrow, because I can read the book about Ruby the Red Fairy I started last week!” “I DON’T WANT to get out of the car yet, I have to keep reading this book!” She reads them over breakfast and over dinner and basically at every opportunity.
In my thinking and reading I came across a blog post entitled “Why I don’t hate the Rainbow Fairies” and I found myself agreeing. Do read the post yourself (https://rarestkindofbest.com/2012/01/14/why-i-dont-hate-the-rainbow-fairies/) if you’re interested, but the main points include that all the stories are age-appropriate, the main characters are all kind towards each other, and there’s little conflict/peril. All of this is just right for Freya at this stage. She doesn’t enjoy reading about things going wrong, people getting hurt, unkindness or danger, and I’m glad that she is absorbing examples of friends solving problems together and helping each other.
The author also notes that despite the huge success of these books (wikipedia tells me they were the most borrowed children’s books from libraries in 2010) there doesn’t seem to be a hard-sell on merchandise – I certainly haven’t come across any, and I really appreciate that.
The daftest thing is that I still haven’t read many of them myself. I’ve read one all the way through and a few bits in some others, and I wasn’t so offended that I had to pursue it much more. I actually looked for Freya’s stash today before I started writing this blog post, to write from a more informed position, but she’s obviously taken them all out with her for the day.
So for now, I’m happy to borrow a huge stack of them to keep Freya busy on our long journey to the Lake District next week!
In other reading news…
We finally started The Enchanted Wood. I’d been wanting to read the Faraway Tree series to Freya for ages, but couldn’t find the first one. The peril-level is just too much for Freya to want to read on her own but she asks for me to read it to her. Hannah doesn’t really tolerate it yet (too many words, too few pictures) so we normally only manage a chapter at a time before littl’un kicks up too much of a fuss. Enid Blyton is another one that I’m having to have a good think about, in terms of the gender roles and other attitudes. I need to reread a few myself and ponder.
At Christmas Freya was given a beautiful large book with excepts from famous stories like The Borrowers and Tom’s Midnight Garden. Overall these are a bit too old for her still, and she has found it hard coming into a story without its beginning to contextualise the characters and places, but the other day we read the excerpt from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory together and it left it on a real cliff hanger! Charlie had just found the golden ticket! So she’s keen to continue with that, and I think it’ll one for me to read to her, to mediate any scary bits!
Freya’s confidence with reading is helping with her independence in every day life. She weighs the fruit and veg at Tesco and presses the right buttons to get the barcode stickers. She can take my shopping list or to do list and feel more involved in errands (handwriting is obviously more tricky than printed text but it’s good practice right?). At museums, as well as engaging with the knowledge content on display, she enjoys using maps and signs to navigate and make decisions.
Hannah is starting to recognise letters, “Huh for Hannaaaaaah!” obviously being the favourite. She sometimes “reads” a word based on a letter she recognises, e.g. every word beginning with H is Hannah to her, but also words that have a H or an A and N in them at any position in the word, they are all “Hannah” to her. In the car, where she has the most stamina for reading – at home she doesn’t spend long with any one book – she’ll tell us about what’s going on on each page, with a particular focus on emotions at the moment “Peppa happy there! George not happy.”
I love this photo. While Hannah is receiving cards and gifts at her family birthday gathering, Freya is getting stuck in to a book that was just given to her by Uncle Tom and Aunty Jess. It’s about Degas’ (“I thought it was Deggass!”) ballerina sculpture 🙂
Are there any books you would recommend for us at this stage? What are your children enjoying reading?