Educational Apps for Under 5’s

Are you looking for some educational apps for your children or the students in your class to use over the summer? I would highly recommend this list compiled by the National Literacy Trust. A really useful list of apps that support literacy (without the kids even realising it!)


Graphic Novels- adapting classic literature for today


I am preparing to teach Shakespeare using a graphic novel. This is my first time using graphic novels (I’m a bit behind the times!) and so far I am really impressed. What a useful tool for making classic literature relevant and comprehensible to today.

There are different types of graphic novels, appealing to different levels of students. For example, a Shakespearean play may be available in original text (full original text, but with graphic representation); plain text (full original text converted into modern-day language, with graphic representation) or quick text (the full events of the original story, in an abridged version with graphic representation). These different types of graphic novels can be so useful for differentiation in the classroom according to language and reading levels.

I would highly recommend the use of graphic novels, especially for teaching students English as an Additional Language and for students who struggle to cope with very dense, text-heavy class readers.

Have you tried graphic novels- either reading them for yourself or teaching them in your classroom? I would be interested to hear your views and experiences, and any recommended reads!

100 Best Books

Are you at a loss for ideas for the summer, for your children or students? The below “100 best books” list from Book Trust offers some top reads for the long holiday ahead. It is divided up into age categories to help you to find favourites for all ages.

Happy reading!


Danny the Champion of the World

I have recently revisited Roald Dahl’s “Danny the Champion of the World” in preparation for teaching it in the new school year. As a parent now myself, I really enjoyed the book anew and appreciated themes that I hadn’t when reading it as a child.

The book contains a personal message to children from Dahl himself (as featured above). The invitation to current and future parents is to be warm, fun and interesting parents! We see this portrayed in the story as Danny enjoys a most full and rewarding childhood, while accompanying his Dad on simple everyday tasks (which feel to Danny like adventures). Danny oozes respect and admiration for his father, simply because his father brings him alongside as he works, cooks, visits friends, and even embarks on illegal pheasant poaching!

In a day and age where the task of parenting can feel never-ending and full of conflicting theories, it is refreshing to read a story through the eyes of young Danny. He teaches us that children long to have their parents present, sharing their lives together. That is what children will remember.

What are some of your favourite Roald Dahl stories, and why? I’d love to hear from you!


Journey to Jo’burg by Beverley Naidoo


A few months ago I wrote a review of Beverley Naidoo’s The Other Side of Truth, focussing on the character Sade Solaja. I have recently read Naidoo’s first book, Journey to Jo’burg.

This is the story of love, commitment and the flowering of the human spirit against the background of South Africa’s apartheid. Frightened that their baby sister Dineo will die, thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother Tiro run away from their grandmother to Johannesburg to find their mother, who works there as a maid. Their journey illustrates at every turn the grim realities of apartheid – the pass laws, bantustans, racism, the breakdown of family life. The opulence of the white “Madam’s” house contrasts starkly with the reality that Naledi and Tiro face – that their baby sister is suffering from starvation, not an incurable disease” (Amazon).

Beverley Naidoo was born in South Africa and grew up under apartheid. After arrest and detention without trial, she came to England. She married another exile and was only able to return freely twenty-six years later, after Nelson Mandela’s release from jail. Their two children were brought up in England where she still lives. She goes back to South Africa to stay in touch, especially with young people. A teacher for many years, she has a doctorate in education and a number of honorary degrees. Journey to Jo’burg was her first children’s book. It was an eye-opener for readers worldwide, winning awards, but it was banned in South Africa until 1991.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffers


If you haven’t come across this story by Oliver Jeffers, please get your hands on it! It is a really wonderful story for children, following letters written from different colour crayons to their owner (Duncan) explaining why they have decided to “quit”!

A really entertaining read, even for you as a parent or teacher. I have even heard of it being read as a bedtime story to teenagers on a summer camp, and it being a big hit! I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Happy reading this weekend ๐Ÿ™‚

Tolerance from Terror


(Image courtesy of Huffington Post)

The state of our world these days can feel deeply disturbing. Terror is all around us, so we grasp at a sense of normality, consistency, security. Yet there is the very real threat of a random act of terror ripping our world apart, or touching someone we love.

My children are still too young to read the headlines; watch the news that plays after their bedtime; or be aware of the hushed, tense whispers shared by adults. But very soon they- like many children in London, Manchester, and cities around the world- will start asking difficult questions about the world we live in and why some people choose to do the terrible things that they do.

Alongside valuable child psychology books on talking to our children about terrorism, there are many important works of fiction to help our children understand our world and its divisions and injustices a little bit better. Most importantly, there are outstanding books that teach tolerance through an understanding of our shared humanity. Books that celebrate unity through our differences, not division and discord.

Below is a list of such books, published by The Guardian in 2015. These are books that should be in our homes, in our school libraries and in the hands of our children. Please share any other resources that you can recommend on this theme-

For younger readers

For Every Child โ€“ UNICEF (with a foreward by Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

Girl with a White Dog by Anne Booth

Warrior with words

Malala Yousafzai: Warrior With Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya

The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman

We are all Born Free โ€“ An Amnesty International picture book of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Dare To Be Different โ€“ A Celebration of Freedom in association with Amnesty International: collection of Stories and poems

For older readers

The Arrival

The Arrival โ€“ Shaun Tan

Lines in the Sand: UNICEF New Writing about War and Peace by Mary Hoffman and Rhiannon Lassiter.

Once by Morris Gleitzman

Free? Stories about Human Rights โ€“ Amnesty International anthology of short stories

Freedom. Short stories celebrating Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International anthology

Hidden by Mariam Halahmy

Somalia with love
Photograph: PR

From Somalia with Love by Naima B Roberts

Malala: The Girl Who Stood up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

Secrets of the Henna Girl

Secrets of the Henna Girl by Sufiyah Ahmed

A little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird

The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird

Quicksilver by Samira Osman

Shadow by Michael Morpurgo

A Beautiful Lie by Irfan Master

Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera


The Craft of Storytelling (teaching it, measuring it and using it everyday)


“The fact that no importance is placed on storytelling makes me very frustrated not only because it puts so little value or emphasis on childrenโ€™s creativity, but also because storytelling is more than simply an art โ€“ it is a crucial skill for life and commerce.”

An excerpt from an excellent article in the Guardian online last week. Do yourself a favour and read it here.

Resources on Bullying


Lately, we have been talking about bullying, and the subsequent rising trend of books that focus on themes around acts of kindness.

I have come across a registered charity based in London, called Kidscape. Besides offering workshops; training; support and advice; Kidscape also has a range of free resources available, related to preventing bullying and protecting children.

Whether you are an educator facing bullying in a classroom context; a parent whose child has been bullied or is a bully; or a child who has faced this kind of trauma, there are outstanding resources available here.


Books on Bullying


Last week I made reference to Scholastic’s prediction of a rising trend in kindness as a theme in children’s literature. With this in mind, I have been doing some reading on bullying, and its destructive effects on children of all ages. It is obviously an incredibly complex issue, about which I hope to grow in my knowledge of interventions and effective anti-bullying strategies.

Is bullying an issue in your classroom or with your own children? Below are two really helpful lists of recommended books, exploring the theme of bullying. Where children and teens may not open up to a parent or teacher, perhaps the characters in these books can relate to them-

As usual, please share any of your own thoughts or reviews of the above-mentioned books.