Firstly, my confession.
Many years ago I was forever daydreaming of playing for my favourite soccer club.
When I put on my school strip, including the garters with the the silk ribbons to hold up my striped socks, I imagined I was turning out for Manchester City.
I was momentarily transported to a fantasy world as I stood reflecting in the mirror, imagining running down the tunnel and onto the pitch, alongside my heroes. On the pitch I would collect a pass from my favourite winger, deftly control the ball and calmly slot it past the opposition’s goalkeeper into the corner of the net. This fantasising lifted my game later on that damp and foggy January morning in south Lancashire.
Imogen Russell Williams, who writes an interesting and informative column in the Guardian on the subject of children’s literature, shared her thoughts on personalised books.
There’s evidence beyond the anecdotal to show that personalising books can be a straightforward, sure-fire way to engage young children deeply and show them the potential rewards of reading, especially at a time when literacy levels are at a worrying low, with many, especially disadvantaged children, leaving primary school unable to read fluently. One study found that vocabulary development was enhanced when children read a story personalised with details of their own lives.
She goes on:-
Seeing your name spelled out on the page ……………..gives the youngest child a sense of words as a delightful mystery. One that belongs to them – which can be unlocked by them, too.
I’ve been won over by the sheer specialness of seeing your own name on a page in a well-loved and familiar context, realising that for children, at least, it broadens, rather than narrows the book’s focus; it makes explicit the idea that they are welcome here, in the world of the written word.
My self-written and published series of personalised soccer books are my attempt to convey to today’s youngsters that same exciting feeling I had. My books will not only help them to read and visualise but also to dream the dream.
Any soccer team in the world can be the object of their ambition.
Encourage them to read.
Allow them to wish.
Watch them grow in confidence.