by Sandra Bennett
I remember when my middle son was seven and squirmed on the lounge beside me. He fiddled with the T,V, remote control. He punched a cushion. He scratched his head and twisted and turned. I desperately tried to turn his attention back to the home reader in my hands but he had barely managed to read the first page! As usual this felt like it was going to be a long drawn out affair, a battle of wills. There had to be a better way!
Sound familiar? This is happening so often with reluctant readers that parents often give up on home reading rather than continue the struggle.
The problem is they are little kids that can’t keep still and that is exactly what we are expecting of them all day everyday. Once home, they are exhausted from trying so hard and need time to express themselves. They need freedom to move, play and explore. There is a solution. We can hook them into reading through channeling their imagination by motivating them with procedures, recipes and experiments.
Kids enjoy learning by doing. They are naturally inquisitive, tactile creatures and enjoy “hands on” activities. Being able to make something and say “I did that,” creates memories that will last forever. If you incorporate a craft or cooking activity that links with a book they will want to make the connection, and read the story,
Christmas is just around the corner and along with that comes a fantastic baking for kids opportunity. Everyone loves making gingerbread houses and gingerbread men. Why not put a twist on an old tale and bake a gingerbread alien, baby, or girl instead. The recipe for an alien is below as are a number of suggested books.
Baking for Kids – Gingerbread Aliens
125g softened butter or margarine
1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) golden syrup
3 cups self-raising flour (gluten free flour also works)
1 tbls ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
snakes, jubes, sultanas, honey to decorate (may also use gluten free jellies)
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C.
Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.
Use an electric mixer to beat sugar and golden syrup together in a large bowl until creamy.
Add the egg and beat until combined.
Add the flour, ginger, cinnamon and cloves, stir with a wooden spoon until combined.
Use your hand to knead until smooth.
Cover and rest in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 2 portions.
Roll one portion out on a lightly floured surface to about 4-5mm thickness.
Use a 12cm gingerbread man pastry cutter to cut out shapes.
Reshape the head by pushing in the sides to elongate and make more triangular.
Alternatively for those more creative, do not use a cutter, use a blunt kitchen knife to shape by cutting freehand.
Use a skewer to poke two holes for nostrils and draw a thin line for a mouth.
Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes.
As soon as gingerbread aliens come out of oven, decorate with sultanas and honey together for brains, snakes for intestines and lollies for eyes. Aliens need to be hot for lollies to stick while cooling.
Repeat with remaining dough, rolling and re-rolling gingerbread.
Here’s a different twist on how to make a gingerbread man and what happens to this little fellow will have your reluctant reader in stitches. Mix-ups and mayhem in the kitchen cause chaos and confusion in the school and neighbourhood. A short chapter book that entices readers with loads of laughter, science, imagination, twists and turns.
Rhyming picture book with a twist on the old story. When the class bake a gingerbread man then leave him to go to recess, he doesn’t like being left behind so then chases them around the school. instead. Great for the start of school year and learning all about a new school.
Another story with a twist on the original tale. This time the oven door is opened a little too soon and the gingerbread that jumps out is still a baby. A cast of people and animals are in the chase as usual but the ending is unique. It provides the opportunity to build your own gingerbread house!
The second book in the series about the gingerbread girl. This time she must help rescue the animal crackers from the sly fox. Can she save the day once again?
About the Author:
Sandra Bennett has been passionate about helping parents with early literacy for over thirty years. First as a primary school teacher and now as a children’s author. She has currently published two books in her early/reluctant reader series, Gingerbread Aliens and Alien Shenanigans. The third book in the series is almost complete. Sandra has also begun a series of picture books based on her love for her native Australian wildlife. Emma the Eager Emu was recently released and Frazzled Freya is almost ready. Sandra lives and writes as she travels between her home base in Canberra and work in Darwin.
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