THE LOOK OF COMPLETE ASTONISHMENT on the child’s face I gave my first ever personalised book to was enough to convince me that personalised books are 100% the way forward when encouraging children to read. If we can grab their interest at an early age, we can steer them onto a rewarding literacy journey for life.

'Name & the Skinny Monkey’ series, by Mike Molloy

'Name & the Skinny Monkey’ series, by Mike Molloy

When it comes to personalising books, there are so many positives that it’s difficult to drill down on seven, but here goes:

Giving a child a personalised book will inspire them to read, it’s as simple as that. Seeing themselves referred to by name and also visually in the illustrations will make them want to go back to that book time and time again.

Personalised books fast become favourites and when a child rereads a favourite book, it helps to grow their vocabulary. A book referencing their own experiences relating to school or family, or a holiday such as Christmas or Easter, offers a safer ground for encountering new language. The repetition of rereading that favourite book helps them retain new words.

A personalised book is also a safe and stimulating setting in which to develop speech. It’s incredibly exciting for a little person to find themselves starring in their own adventure and they are much more likely to volunteer speech as a result: ‘Is that me, Mummy?’ or ‘There I am on Daddy’s shoulders!’ Finding themselves at the heart of the narrative invites both questions and recognition from children. This presents a greater opportunity for whomever is reading to the child to extend their speech with questions and prompts such as, ‘Do you remember when we went to the park last weekend?’ creating a much more interactive reading experience.

Although my main motivation for personalising books is to get kids into reading, my books don’t just deal with literacy. They also explore topical issues and potential worries, such as having an injection or going to the dentist for the first time. It can be scary, when you’re little, to go through what may seem like a minor thing to grown-ups, so having a story that deals with these issues is a huge help to any child. They help to show, by way of a happy outcome, that most fears are unfounded. They also tackle potentially difficult situations head on, like how to deal with the class bully, that it’s ok to be different and it’s ok to not conform to stupid gender stereotypes. They enable both grown-up and child to sit together to read about and ultimately talk about something that will seem a lot less troubling, once discussed out loud.

MORE: Win a personalised book from the 'Skinny Monkey’ series by Mike Molloy

Personalised books bridge a gap. A child’s learning during shared reading can be dependent on the parent’s ability to enter the child’s world or imagination and the world of the book. Any book can impart a moral or a message but a personalised book can do this especially well because the child is that much closer to the narrative – they are the narrative!

My books are truly personalised, down to the hair colour, eye colour and nationality of the child. The option of reflecting gender, ethnicity and cultural background in personalised books gives children the opportunity to see a person just like them represented in a published book. We may think we’ve made huge advances in terms of gender and racial stereotypes but children’s publishing is far from representative of the variety of ethnicities in most societies.

Personalisation has also been shown to improve older children’s reading comprehension. One study found that when personalised elements were added to school reading books, reading comprehension scores improved, in some instances by more than 40%. As with many things in life, personal relevance is key to empathy and understanding.

The National Literacy Trust produced a report in 2017 which stated quite clearly that a child that struggles to read, either because of a reading problem, some sort of impairment or just lack of interest, should be given personalised books in order to grab their attention and pique their interest. That interest can then be nurtured in order to help them.

As a person who struggled with books until the age of 13, I find I understand completely children who struggle to read or who are simply not interested in reading, and I truly believe that giving a child a helping start with literacy is the best gift anyone can give you.

Mike’s ‘Name & the Skinny Monkey’ personalised books cost £24.99 each and are available from www.personalisedbooks.shop

About Mike Molloy

Mike Molloy was born to Irish and Welsh parents, in France, and spent the first nine years of his life growing up in Fontainebleau, famous for its beautiful forest. At the age of 9 or 10, his dad packed him off to boarding school in the UK to get a ‘proper education’, an experience Mike describes as like being ‘in the coldest, most damp awful Dickens novel setting… a nightmare.’ His time at school was made worse by the fact he couldn’t read or write until the age of 12 or 13. His headmaster at the time, Mr Grenfell, used to send letters home telling his dad he was ‘simple and would never amount to anything’. It was a teacher called Mrs Edwards, one of four people to make it onto his list of heroes – Mohammed Ali, Jonah Lomu and his mum, being the other three, who saw his potential and taught him to read and write.

In addition to his ‘Name & the Skinny Monkey’ series of personalised books, Mike has also written ‘The Nana Troll’ and ‘The Nana Troll 2’, ‘The Saxons’ Socks’ and the adorable ‘Tale of Two Foxes’.

MORE: Six things author Mike Molloy wants you to know about him

I had always told my 6 children stories about my mum as they were growing up and they always found them entertaining so I saw no reason why other children wouldn't find them funny and actually other kids love them... to read more click HERE 


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