Reading to Six Year Olds

As Felix has approached six years old, I’ve been looking for ways to introduce longer bedtime stories. When I was in York in October last year, I spent several hours browsing the bookshelves of a large bookshop, and came home with Pippi Longstocking, Flat Stanley, and The Magic Faraway Tree. We haven’t got onto Pippi yet, partly because Felix was annoyed that the illustrations were different from the abridged version Mum bought the kids in Stockholm last year. He adored Flat Stanley. I remember my very first teacher in primary school reading this aloud to us. She was fabulous. He’s very intrigued by the Magic Faraway Tree but finds it a bit scary, so we are only about five chapters in…

Michael has a collection of five minute Batman stories, which Felix practically knows by heart.

In Australia we picked up Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which he has loved. I managed to find the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, in my library, and he gulped that down too. Michael and Felix have also got through Fantastic Mr Fox, but I think Danny the Champion of the World is a bit heavy for now. For Christmas I gave him all four Bad Guys books by Aaron Blabey, which he thought were hilarious (and a bit scary), but he was devastated when they ended on a cliff-hanger. These are written in a comic book format, and I’m sure he’ll revisit them when he learns to read.

My Grandma gave him this absolutely gorgeous picture book for older kids, Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon, by Torben Kuhlmann. We’ve read it several times, and I’m sure there will be many more.

I recently asked my friends on Facebook what else they would recommend, and they came up with quite a list!

Some were books which I remember fondly from my own childhood:

The Little House on the Prairie

Tom’s Midnight Garden

Now We are Six, and Winnie-the-Pooh

Wind in the Willows

Beatrix Potter books

More Roald Dahl, especially James and the Giant Peach and George’s Marvellous Medicine

The Narnia books

The Famous Five

Every Arthur quest book ever written (I remember my fist King Arthur book, which was half about King Arthur and half about Robin Hood, picked up at a second hand book sale at school. I thought it was the most amazing thing ever.)

Midnite by Randolph Stow (I didn’t read this as a child but it’s one of my favourite books. Laugh out loud funny (for adults, at least). I recently finished writing a chapter about it. Felix is probably about the right age to start getting into it…)

The Secret Garden

And some were new to me:

The Tashi books (lots of votes for these and they look gorgeous)

Andy Griffiths books (13 Story Treehouse and sequels – they look very popular with kids at the moment)

Moomin books, especially Moomin Papa and the Sea

Anything by David Walliams (one of my friends had personal reservations about them, but admitted that the kids loved them. I saw today that my libray has a lot of these)

The Children of Cherry Tree Farm

The Boxcar Children

The Magic Treehouse

Milly Molly Mandy (several votes for this)

Astrid Lindgren’s Lotta books

Emily Rodda’s Fairy Realm books

How to Train your Dragon (these are in my library)

My Father’s Dragon

Swallows and Amazons

Graphic novels like Hilda and the Midnight Giant

Asterix (ok this one isn’t new to me exactly but I never read much of it myself)

The Tale of Desperaux

Treasures in the Snow

And, according to Penni: As read-alones, the Billie B Brown and the Hey Jack books by Sally Rippin are perfect. They are really great everyday social stories too, good for gently rehearsing every day problems like losing something or mean friends or whatever.

And from another friend, who has a boy Felix’s age: As for reading himself, he is reading a series of books about a pig called Mercy that are fun and easy to read.

Anyway, one of my friends asked that I collate the suggestions into a blog post, so they would be easy to find later. So here they are. I’m very aware that he won’t be accessing these books at school (apart from the Scandinavian ones, I guess), so I want to make sure he gets a solid grounding at home. I also think I’ll try to get hold of Bill Bryson’s A Really Short History of Nearly Everything, as Felix wants to know it all. Let me know if you have any more suggestions!

 

 

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Birthday 

My darling Felix turns six tomorrow. We had a party yesterday. He’d been dreaming of this dragon cake from the Women’s Weekly cookbook for nearly a year, and I’m so pleased we managed to pull it off. Michael took Antonia out swimming on Saturday morning and Felix stayed home to help me decorate the cakes and the house. ‘This is the first time we’ve decorated this house!’ he declared, solemnly, joyfully, as we sticky-taped his Jurassic World banners to the windows. Themed party decorations were also high on his wish-list, after he had wistfully observed them at his friends’ parties. It was so gratifying to be able to oblige.

I was a bit nervous about the party, as it was a lot of work to prepare, and he would have a mix of his old and new friends there, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. In the end it was fine. The parents of his new friends didn’t stay, so I didn’t need to worry about engaging with adults who weren’t comfortable speaking English (we lived in a bit of a bubble at the kids’ old kindergarten, which was bilingual). I did, however, have to communicate with a handful of 5-6 year olds in my creaky Norwegian, but I got by ok. The new friends monopolised Felix but the old friends played with each other, and there were no disasters apart from one kid tumbling down the stairs (oops) and another one getting nervous and hiding and not wanting to eat lunch. Felix beautifully calmed this one down, and enticed him to rejoin the celebrations – I was so proud of him.

Felix loved the party, and even relished the singing of Happy Birthday (in both Norwegian and English). When he was younger – maybe even last year, I’m not sure – we could never sing it to him, he was far too self-conscious. Today he’s been cheerfully putting together the lego sets his friends gave him. We went for a little walk in the afternoon to the frozen fjord. I have pictures – I’ll try to put them up tomorrow. But it was funny, Felix’s comment about decorating the house, because I have been musing a bit on the house over the past couple of days. How our lives and daily routines have changed, expanded, to fit this space. How our move here in May last year coincided with a big change for Felix in terms of what he wanted to play with – he’s hardly touched his trains since he’s been here, and they were such an obsession for years. There’s more to say about this, but it’s bedtime, and oh so nearly his birthday.

 

Play

One of Antonia’s favourite things is a rectangular duplo plate and a stack of square little duplo blocks. She systematically fills the plate with blocks, takes them off, and does it again. She tries various strategies. ‘Look! All around the edge!’, she tells me, when she has covered the edge of the rectangle like a frame. As she’s sticking them on she sometimes assigns them to people: ‘this one’s for Daddy, this one’s for Felix’. Sometimes I am allowed to help. ‘You can choose the brown one, Mummy, and I’ll do the white.’ Yesterday as she took them all off she lined them up carefully on the sofa. ‘They’re going to sing a song,’ she told me. Later in the hallway, she arranged them into two piles. ‘The boys can sit here, and the girls can sit here.’ There is something enchanting and oddly familiar to me about all this.

In the bath she invents games and instructs me to join in. We have to pretend that we’re sleeping, complete with fake snores, and then we take it in turns to be the ‘wake up master’, and wake each other up. Usually this involves: ‘wake up, it’s morning!’ Sometimes it’s even more elaborate: ‘wake up, it’s Christmas day!’ We then have to pretend to give each other presents and unwrap them. Usually they are teddy bears.