Reading Aloud With Mummy Bloggers #2: Winnie & EV & AA from Toddly Mummy

Posted on July 09, 2013 by My Imagination Kingdom | 0 comments




As promised in our last edition of ‘Reading Aloud With Mummy Bloggers’, today, we are extremely pleased to share with you our interview with Toddly Mummy!


Here’s a little self-introduction from our guest, Winnie

I'm a born-again drama-mama and creative extraordinaire. I've never considered myself to have much talent in those areas. However, I've learnt that motherhood makes you discover talents you've never expected yourself to have. I work full time and spend the evenings home learning and reading with my kids.

I blog at Toddly Mummy, where I share my thoughts on parenting, fun learning moments of our home learning sessions and our outdoor adventures. I sometimes share about our favourite food too.

I have a crazy love for red bean and I don't like coffee, chilli, chips or chocolate (??!!??). Coincidentally, all starting with the letter C. I love carrots though, and cucumber, and cake.

1. Tell us more about yourself and what you do. 

I'm a full time working mum who used to be a journalist and public relations specialist. Now I'm an educator with a special interest in early childhood literacy. In the evenings, I'm on my second shift, when I home learn or read with my kids.

2. Tell us more about EV and AA!

EV is a bubbly chatterbox of three years old who loves her books, painting, blowing bubbles and doing crazy pretend play with mummy. 

AA is a cheeky one year old explorer who is developing an early love for books, drawing and playing tricks on grown ups.

3. As a Jolly Phonics practitioner yourself and a mother who actively engages EV in home learning, how important do you think reading aloud to EV is in her development journey? How has it helped her? 

I believe that reading aloud is part of a journey to developing a child’s appreciation of books and makes the stories come alive. Listening to stories being read aloud helps develop a child’s literacy, by increasing the kids' awareness of letter sounds (also known as phonemic awareness), rhythm and the way words sound. It also helps in print awareness, that is, understanding that the printed letters and words are representations of what is being spoken, and that pages are read from top to bottom, left to right.

As a strong believer in the importance of reading aloud in the development of literacy, I do pay attention to the way I read, making sure that I pronounce each word carefully and clearly. For example. I would make sure that I pronounce the 'th' in 'three', and when saying 'cat', I would sound the last sound 't' too, so that it does not end up as 'ca'.

Such strategies not only help a child’s reading skills, but also speaking skills. EV started reading independently ( when she was two, and by three, she was able to speak in full sentences and engage in simple conversations. At one and a half years old, AA has also begun to speak words, such as ‘apple’, ‘clock’ and ‘cat’.

4. When did you first start reading to EV? What was your experience like when you first started?

I personally love books, and i wanted to inculcate that love in my kids too. Since EV was six months old, both daddy and I have been reading aloud to her daily. Generally, daddy tends to focus on English books, while I read both English and Chinese books. It is a special bonding time for us as working parents, and we look forward to it every day. Every night, we would sit back, relax and enjoy a book. It could be a simple English tale about a busy spider, or Chinese nursery rhymes. Till today, EV still looks forward to this nightly story time, which has become a family affair.

Between daddy and mummy, mummy is the more dramatic one, often using different voice levels and tones when reading aloud. I adopt different ‘voices’ when reading the lines of different characters too. Combine that with some puppet play and the kids will be chuckling and giggling. Such acting out brings the stories alive for EV and AA, and I believe helped create a love for books.


5. Did you face any challenges in keeping EV engaged when you’re reading to her? What tips would you give our readers to help them become better at reading aloud to their children?

Thankfully, we have not faced much issues in keeping EV engaged when reading aloud to her, as it has become a must-do every night. Even AA is beginning to expect it every night before he sleeps. However, kids being kids, they do love exploring at this age, and there are times when they would be attracted by other things, or simply become bored with the books. What we do is to read to them in the same area every night, on a cosy mattress on our bedroom floor. It is familiar territory and minimizes the chances of them being distracted.


6. How would you advise our readers to go about using reading to improve their child’s literacy skills? Give us 3 things they can do.

Literacy is more than just reading. Being able to read does not mean that the child has the capability to understand the story. Having phonological awareness does not mean that the child can understand the word or even use it. To gain literacy skills, the child needs to be able to understand the word, be able to comprehend the plot and therefore the story, know that the story has a narrative structure from beginning to end, have print awareness and know that text goes from left to right, understand that different fonts on the cover indicate the title and author of the book, and be able to relate stories to their personal lives.

Visual literacy, or the ability to understand how visuals and images relate to the story, is equally important. More than just the text, the child needs to learn to ‘read’ the visual cues he sees in a book and understand them. For example, when we read the book Jonathan & Martha by Petr Horacek, the cover showed two worms eating from both sides of a pear. We did a short discussion of what we thought of that image, with questions like ‘whose names are Jonathan and Martha’ and ‘why are the worms on both sides of the pear’ and so on. This helps develop an understanding how visuals are related to a story.

Here are some fun ways to build literacy skills (


- tell the story by describing the pictures, rather than read word for word. In this way, the child can see that a story can be told in many ways. Ask questions like ‘what do you think happens next’ to prompt the child’s thoughts and develop visual literacy.

- create crafts related to the story. Some crafts we did include a duck paper craft inspired by Eric Carle's The Ten Ducklings (

- make it relevant to the real world. For example, stand in front of a tree and describe the different parts of it. We did that after reading The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. We also went in search of shapes in nature, after reading The Perfect Square by Michael Hall.

Having reading skills is important, but even more precious is understanding the story and loving it, loving books. Most importantly though, is that parents have to demonstrate a love for books too with a reading habit that kids can model after.



7. How do you go about picking books for EV? Are there any resources or places you go to on the web for recommendations or reviews?

I generally choose beautifully illustrated books with simple storylines, rhymes and vocabulary. Some of the authors we like include Eric Carle, Julia Donaldson and Leo Lionni. Where possible, we also read the Chinese versions of these pleasurable tales. The National Library is a great source for such books.


8. Since you do home learning for EV, do you try to pick books for EV that fit into your teaching curriculum for her? If so, can you list some examples of how you have done that?

I like to pick books that fit into our home learning curriculum where possible. For example, in November last year, we read books that started with the letters P, Q, R, S and T (, as we went through the alphabets. When we headed to Hong Kong in December, we also did a tot book about the Chinese city.


9. What inspired you to start the “My Favourite Children’s Author” series on your blog?

I started this series because I believe that parents have their favourite authors that they love to share with their children. At the same time, they can also share related fun activities that they have done as an extension of the authors’ books.


10. Finally, despite all the efforts and time that is needed to make reading to EV and AA a regular activity, we know it must be a rewarding experience for you nevertheless. What do you enjoy most about reading to EV and AA?

I am very happy that EV, as well as AA, enjoy our reading and home learning sessions. The bonding that we have during these times is simply heartwarming and beautiful, and it is really wonderful to watch EV learn. Often times, things may not go according to what I planned. However, I look forward to seeing the bright spark in her eyes when she has that ‘aha!’ moment, or her delightful laughter as she engages in the stories, everyday, not to mention all the hugs and kisses.


Thanks Winnie for sharing with us your wonderful journey in reading to EV and AA! Check out Winnie's blog here: and stay tuned for future editions of Reading Aloud With Mummy Bloggers!

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Where can I get customised recommendations for children's books?

Posted on April 21, 2013 by My Imagination Kingdom | 0 comments


Finding the right books for a child can sometimes be a challenge. And not just because we're trying to find books suitable for him or her at their age. But also because we want to make sure that the book would be something that he or she enjoys. Maybe there's a particular theme or type of books they're fascinated with (Disney princesses anyone?) or there's a specific kind of storyline or plot that really engages them. Whichever the case, with the selection of books available in bookstores, libraries and online, it can be mind-boggling for a parent.

Fear not! As with all things today, technology often has a solution for us. Goodreads, is a social reading site that has just the answer you'll need. The site's core purpose is to help book lovers recommend and share their favourite reads with others like themselves. Not only are you bound to find a review for any book you're interested in, you'll also be able to receive customised recommendations for books that you might enjoy based on your ratings of other books you have read. 


Now, you must be wondering to yourself, how does that help me? I don't want recommendations for the paranormal romance novels that I'm into at the moment (although we're sure you'll be happy to know that you could find recommendations for the paranormal romance novels you're into at the moment on the site as well). I'm looking for recommendations for my 5-year-old Sarah or my 3-year-old Aaron. 


The answer is simple. Instead of setting up an account for yourself, create an account for each of your children. Then select a specific genre, in this case "Children's" for them. The first thing you'll be prompted to do, is to start by rating the books that Sarah or Aaron have already read. The key is of course, to rate the books that they like. The more ratings you provide, the easier it would be for goodreads to provide you with a list of recommendations that might fit their tastes. 




And to help goodreads refine their recommendations further, you can choose to remove recommended books from the list by simply clicking "Not Interested". The overall logic is simple, the more information you can provide to goodreads based on the books that Sarah or Aaron have already read, the better goodreads will become in predicting what other books they might also enjoy


To top it all off, since goodreads is a social reading site to begin with, you can get your friends and family to join in the fun as well! Once you're connected to them on goodreads, you'll also be able to find the books that they (or their children) have rated or recommended. So what are you waiting for? Go knock yourselves out!

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What kind of books is your child reading?

Posted on January 06, 2013 by My Imagination Kingdom | 0 comments

Recently, we have seen a significant rise in the popularity of character books for children. Books from the Disney Princesses, Thomas The Train, Dora The Explorer, Barbie...You name a well-known children's TV show/movie or toy series and you're likely to find its equivalent in a book format. Whether it's activity books, sticker books, story books or even music/sound books. 


At My Imagination Kingdom, we're huge fans of Walt Disney. He has, after all built a legacy by creating well-loved stories that draw on people's imagination. But yet, we wonder what he might say if he realises that the home libraries of children today are filled with "book adaptations" (from Disney no less) like the examples we have listed above. 


"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island. And best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life." - Walt Disney


Walt Disney said this, at a time when "book adaptations" were not even invented. As a book lover, he believed that the knowledge and inspiration that books can bring, far exceeds the tangible monetary rewards you could ever receive from other sources. But to fully extricate this value from books, we need to remind ourselves that not all books can serve the same purpose.


Character books, while they're easy to consume for children who have already been exposed to them on TV, are unlikely to do much in helping to widen children's horizons. They merely leverage on the content that has already been written for TV or the big screen. From these content providers' point-of-view, the "book adaptations" are to extend the shelf life of the characters that they have developed in order to ensure that they can continue to reap profits from the original format (e.g. the TV series or toy merchandise). They were not written with the foremost objective of helping children gain literacy, stretch their imagination or be inspired to read more. 


So while it's great to stimulate children who may be uninterested in books or reading with these character books at the beginning, it's important that we slowly wean children off these "book adaptations" as time passes. If not, children may never learn to appreciate books in their simplest and purest form. Books that were not based on anything else except the author's passion to tell a story. 

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Where can I find credible children's book reviews?

Posted on December 29, 2012 by My Imagination Kingdom | 0 comments

Many of us (including us at My Imagination Kingdom!) are so used to doing a book search on Amazon and reading the reviews by buyers there that when we chance upon a really new book which has yet to be reviewed, we're at a loss. 


Today, we're going to talk a little about Kirkus Book Reviews, an extremely well-regarded review specialist that has been churning out book reviews, twice a month, for over 70 years. 


Kirkus Reviews was launched in 1933, by Virginia Kirkus, once the head of the children's-book department of Harper & Bros. What is special about Kirkus Reviews, is that it focuses on pre-publication reviews. That means, they review the book even before it goes into publication, sometimes up to two to three months before. And you must wonder, why in the world would they want to do that? Well, Kirkus Reviews used to do that because it was a bi-monthly publication targeted at booksellers primarily and librarians to a certain extent. 

While the publication ceased to exist in 2009, the digital version of it is still very much alive and kicking. 24 times a year, on the 1st and 15th of every month, the website continues to publish close to 200 articles every month. A wide range of fiction books (and some nonfiction) are covered and within this, includes reviews on both children's and young adult books. 

What we really like about the children's and young adult book review section, is that the reviews are categorised by age! Just like how we have built this website as well. This makes it a lot easier and quicker to find the age-appropriate books suitable for your child. While the section highlights some of the critics' picks, you can also do a search for any book you're interested in using the search tool at the top right hand corner. 



The other great reason to use Kirkus Reviews is the fact that for many of us who may not be industry experts or experienced publishers in the children's book field, Kirkus Reviews is a great way to discover new authors and their titles. While stocking up on every title of Eric Carle and Julia Donaldson is all right, sometimes it's also great to fall in love with an entirely different style of writing or illustration. 


So what are you waiting for? Go click away at Kirkus Reviews! 


This is not a paid-for article. Everything written here was researched, typed and edited by My Imagination Kingdom solely. 

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Are e-books the same as print books?

Posted on September 06, 2012 by My Imagination Kingdom | 0 comments

Kate Garland, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Leicester in England, is one of the few scientists who has studied this question and reviewed the data. In one study involving psychology students, the medium did seem to matter. Two differences emerged. First, more repetition was required with computer reading to impart the same information. Second, the book readers seemed to digest the material more fully. “What we found was that people on paper started to ‘know’ the material more quickly over the passage of time,” says Garland. “It took longer and [required] more repeated testing to get into that knowing state [with the computer reading, but] eventually the people who did it on the computer caught up with the people who [were reading] on paper.”

Credit: TIME, March 14, 2012,

While there's no question that digital reading is going to co-exist with print reading in the years ahead, research between the two platforms is proving that there is at least a need for us to think about this a little more. Studies on this issue, while limited at this stage, do show that eventhough student performance remains the same for both e-reading and print reading, print readers actually retain the information better in the long run


As a parent, this is an interesting point to note. There is an increasing proliferation of children's books available on devices like the iPad, Kindle and even the iPhone. With the interactivity of these devices, it is tempting to convert a child's library to a wholly digital one. And yet, similar research done for children reflects the same results between e-reading and print reading. 


Researchers at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center in New York worked with 32 pairs of parents and their three to six-year-old children for the small study, Print Books vs Ebooks, which gave each family a print book and either a basic ebook or an enhanced ebook version of the same title. Enhanced ebooks were found to distract children from the story, and their bells and whistles prevented children from remembering as many narrative details. Enhanced ebooks should still be valued, however, "for their ability to prompt less motivated young readers toward engagement when they might otherwise avoid text altogether".

Credit: The Guardian, June 7, 2012,

Before we jump at this information and cut out e-books entirely from a child's reading habits, we should note that this is not a debate about whether to read e-books OR print books. Parents should provide a good variety of both as they fulfil different roles in a child's reading experience. To engage a child and get him/her to enjoy reading, e-books are great. However, to ensure that a child's literacy skills genuinely benefit from reading, print books might be a better option. Ultimately, it is about selecting the right books and the right medium to achieve different objectives. 

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How can I help improve my child's language skills?

Posted on August 30, 2012 by My Imagination Kingdom | 0 comments
"Education researchers have shown that adding Q-and-As to reading time can significantly improve children's language skills. And the more detailed the questions, the better. 

Dr Paatsch, who is conducting the research with University of Melbourne colleagues, said asking "open" questions was particularly important. 

"These can stimulate their imagination and creativity, and can also be used as a way of connecting the story to their own world experiences and developing their vocabulary," she said."

Credit: Article by Evonne Barry, Herald Sun, August 30 2012


Reading time is often a time for satisfying a child's curiosity. He or she takes this opportunity to ask the adult or parent questions about everything and anything related to the book at hand. However, it is also a great moment for parents to engage their child in a conversation by asking questions instead of answering them all the time. By asking questions, you can invite the child to think about the text or pictures from a different point-of-view (from their own) and help them build up their cognitive and language skills. 


At the same time, it is also a great way to fuel their imagination by allowing them to think outside the text or pictures in the book. Find opportunities to relate the text to your family life or the child's experiences. For example, if the book is about learning to share things with a sibling, ask the child if he or she has done something similar. Or why they think the character in the book does not want to share (or wants to share). 


But remember, try to avoid turning the questions into a test or examination. Hold back your desire to correct your child or tell him or her that things are not possible. It's more important for them at this stage, to learn that they are allowed to think of anything without fear of being criticized or chastised by their parents. 

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How does bedtime reading make a difference to your child?

Posted on August 28, 2012 by My Imagination Kingdom | 0 comments

A little something different today. Instead of a blog entry, we thought we'd post a video. In the video, Dorothy Thomas, the editor of, a parenting website in the UK shares some of the research they did about bedtime reading and the importance of it. 


"Reading to little ones actually helps them to learn to concentrate and listen. Those two skills are some of the most valuable ones that they can take to the classroom with them. A child that hasn't been read to when they're tiny, finds it much more difficult to concentrate when they get into reception class, and they start losing out."

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How often should I read to my child?

Posted on August 27, 2012 by My Imagination Kingdom | 0 comments

‘If parents understood the huge educational benefits and intense happiness brought about by reading aloud to their children, and if every parent – and every adult caring for a child – read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.’

Credit: Mem Fox, author of beloved children's books like "Possum Magic" and "Where is the Green Sheep" 

Mem Fox says that when children spend 15 minutes each day reading or being read to, it will help them become excellent readers, writers and thinkers. This reading experience helps them do well at school and beyond.  If you think about it, 15 minutes isn't a long time. That's probably the amount of time (or a fraction of what) you spend on Facebook everyday. 


Having said that, there's no generally recommended guidelines on how often or for how long you should be reading to your child. It does depend on the nature and temperament of each child. Some may get easily distracted so just getting them to stay still for 5 minutes could be a challenge. Others could enjoy the experience of being read to so much that they will ask you for it on their own initiative.


However, as with all habits, it is good to make it an everyday event. Just like brushing your teeth or taking a bath, once you get it into your child's head that this is something your family practises as a daily habit, they are more likely to continue with this habit when they grow older. And, it becomes easier for you, as a parent to work this into your daily routine as well. Once you and your partner have established that reading aloud to your child/children is a habit you would both like to work on, you can then make a conscientious effort to make it happen. Rather than telling yourself, "I'll read to them if I'm not too busy tonight", setting it as a habit becomes a commitment that you would feel responsible for. 


And as we have mentioned in our earlier posts, every little bit helps. Even if it's for just a few minutes every day! 

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When should I start reading to my child?

Posted on August 22, 2012 by My Imagination Kingdom | 0 comments

It's never too early. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud daily to your baby starting at 6 months of age — about the time when he'll really begin to enjoy looking at books with you. But Jim Trelease, longtime read-aloud expert and author of the Read Aloud Handbook, says that you can start when your child's a newborn. No matter what your baby's age, of course, reading provides a great opportunity for cuddling and bonding.
Credit: Baby Center (Click here for the original article)


There's no time that's too early! In fact, when it comes to reading to your child, the earlier it is, the better. Not only does it help stimulate your baby's brain (from as early as 2 months), it is also a great way to help you bond with your new born! 


So whether your kid is 6 months old or a few days old, start reading to him or her now! 

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