Sunday, 11 November 2012

Make Reading a Bedtime Ritual

Tropical Treasure
The Secret in the Bottle.

I hit something!’ my brother cried out with excitement.
‘What?’ I asked, not really paying much attention.
‘Something really hard!’ he shouted back as he began to dig frantically, making sand fly furiously in all directions.
‘Hey, slow down and let me see,’ I demanded as I tried to push him out of my way. He refused to let me get a look and tried to push me back out of the hole. We began to wrestle in the sand. Arms and legs went thrashing in all directions.
‘What are you guys fighting for? It’s only a hole.’ My other brother, Luke, announced as he jumped into the hole and pulled us apart. ‘Cool! Look what ’ve found!’ Luke reached down and began to dust off an old green bottle.
‘Give that back! It’s mine!’ demanded Max.
‘Finders keepers,’ Luke replied as he turned away from us to look inside. ‘Wow! There’s a secret message in the bottle!’
Max yanked the bottle from Luke’s hands screaming, ‘It’s mine, I found it, I’ll see what’s in it!’
He ran away from us as fast as he could. The chase was on. The three of us raced up the beach, darting in and out between sunbaking holidaymakers, foodcarts and a swamp of beachwear sellers. Everyone yelled at us to watch where we were going. With a great leap worthy of a last minute try saving tackle at the rugby grand final, Max, Luke, and I came crashing to the ground, spitting out the taste of Bali sand.
‘O.K. O.K.!’ I began breathlessly. ‘Let’s all have a look.’
Max pulled out the cork and tipped the bottle upside down. The paper inside slid into Luke’s eagerly waiting hands. Slowly and carefully he unrolled the paper. It was faded, brown and burnt around the edges.
‘Look! It’s a map!’
Max and I leaned closer over his shoulder and stared in amazement.
‘Do you think it could be a treasure map?’ Luke whispered, still clutching it tightly. ‘Maybe some pirates stole a wonderful treasure from some rich King or someone. Maybe they buried the treasure somewhere here on this tropical island that they thought was uninhabited long, long ago. Then, before they could return to collect it, they were chased by a Spanish Armada and a big battle took place.’
Luke stood up and begun to pretend to wield a sword. ‘Guns and cannons were firing in all directions. There was a sword fight to the death, but the pirate captain kept a secret map and threw it overboard in this bottle, just in time, before he was captured or killed.’
‘No, couldn’t be…’ I started.
‘But what if it is!’ Luke’s eyes were wide with excitement.
‘How can we find out?’ asked Max.
‘Let’s go on a treasure hunt!’ Luke beamed.
‘Will there be a treasure chest?’ said Max.
‘Just imagine if there was and it was filled with gold and jewels. We could be rich!’
‘Yeah great! Think of all the things we could buy.’
‘A new Play Station,’ said Max.
‘A computer,’ said Luke. ‘And games and robots.’
‘My own science lab with heaps of test tubes, chemicals and room for my rock collection and experiments,’ I added.
‘What about the cubby house I always wanted to build. With ropes, ladders, slides, castle turrets, the lot,’ Luke continued.
‘And don’t forget a bike track,’ Max included.
‘Or even our own pirate ship to sail the seven seas and go on fantastic adventures.’ I could see Luke was letting his imagination run wild now.
‘Shshsh…not so loud.’ I suddenly had a feeling that someone was listening to us. The beach was fairly crowded in the heat of the late afternoon Bali sun. We were on Kuta Beach after all. It’s a pretty popular tourist destination. Heaps of Balinese were bartering with many of the tourists. They weren’t a problem, couldn’t speak much English, but then there were other people just quietly sunbaking, now they could easily overhear and understand us.
Like the girl having her hair beaded or the group having their fingers and toenails painted. Then there was the guy not far from us having an oil massage. He looked really relaxed, but he could be listening to everything we were saying.
‘I’m going on a treasure hunt!’ said Luke, suddenly jumping to his feet. ‘Are you guys with me or not?’
‘Quiet!’ I insisted, but he wasn’t listening.
‘We’ve got a great chance here for a fantastic adventure and maybe find a secret treasure too. I’m going, even if I have to do it alone.’ Max and I jumped to our feet too. I wiped the sweat from my face as I glared at Luke. Who knows what sort of trouble he could be getting himself and us into?

This is the beginning of a novel I wrote for 8-12 year olds many years ago but sadly never published, (perhaps one day). The inspiration came from our family holiday in Bali way back in the mid 1990's. At the end of each long, hot, humid and incense fun filled yet adventurous day our three sons snuggled down into our king sized comfortable bed with the two of us, eager to listen to the next exciting chapter of "Indian in the Cupboard" beautifully written by Lynne Reid Banks.
Our sons were 2, 5 and 8 years at the time, ideal to demonstrate that it is never to early to start a life long habbit of a love of reading. Amongst all the wonderous discoveries we made during that holiday in Bali, our boys still remember the joy of being read to each evening at bedtime.

It is important no matter how busy our lives seem to get, to stop and take the time to read to our kids. Whether it is one on one or whether the entire family become involved, it is a marvelous experience they will thank you for one day.
 You can read out loud, dad can read, each of the kids can take a turn to read, but it is important to share and do it together. That is the key, if they see you enjoy reading, they will learn to love it too! Good role models are essential and who better a role model than mum and dad? A good role model goes a long way in establishing individual habbits later. 

Select a variety of genres. Books you love and books you know your kids will love.They could be classics you loved growing up or recently released books. Browse your local bookshops,  library, fetes, garage sales etc, you never know what treasures you might find! Look for books with great catchy chapter headings that sparkle and entice you and the kids to read more. Headings for example like "Muddled Mixtures and Explosion in the Bread Maker" from my book "Gingerbread Aliens" build intrigue and suspence. Kids want to know what is going to happen next? It also always helps if the chapters have great hooks at the end so that everyone cann't wait to read on tomorrow night. As Helen says in her kind review of Gingerbread Aliens -

 “I loved reading Gingerbread Aliens to my kids! It was very entertaining and I particularly enjoyed all the different characters and exciting plot. I had planned to read it over a few nights but found myself so engrossed in the story that I finished the whole book in one reading!” Helen, mother of 2.

Of cause the kids might only want one or two chapters a night, but hey, fantastic if they want more!!

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