Thursday, 17 September 2015

Why school reading quotas are bad for kids

I’ve told my son to ignore his school reading quota.

Bad parent.

But I think I have a very good reason to take this action.

To help my child improve his reading.

Waking Up Worried

He woke up one school morning this week seemingly in a state of panic.  In our first full week of a new school year, still misty eyed and groggy, his first words were:

“Oh no, I need to do my school reading quota today.”

After reassuring him, and getting him breakfast and sorted for school, we sat down to talk about his school reading quota.

“I HAVE to read three times a week for 30 minutes.” He explained.

“Well, you must do that comfortably son,” I replied “You’ve been reading your new Marvel Comic for ages this week.”

“Yes, but I haven’t found any new vocabulary.” He pointed out.

Marvel Comics expand the mind but not the vocabulary, apparently

Read This & Then Approach

So, essentially, his school reading quota is not only for a prescribed amount of time, it has to be deemed worthy material.  Reading material must always expand your vocabulary.  Pressure x 2.

What utter nonsense.

My boy has always enjoyed reading, and the key element to that enjoyment, to any non-robot, is that he has always enjoyed what he’s reading.

I’ve not always liked his literacy choices.  We differ enormously on our opinions of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  But it’s almost totally his choice, and as long as it isn’t mind warping or totally age inappropriate.

Reading for Fun Will Yield Better Results

I explained that the most important thing is he isn’t to worry about his school reading quota.  His reading should never become a chore.

If I have to go on a crusade, falsify his reading records or feed him new words for his vocabulary to fool his English teacher, his love of reading is to be preserved.

“Keep reading what and when you want to read, and let me worry about the rest.” I assured him.

Hopefully this is a message he hears, understands, and doesn’t actually add to his worries..

I’m sure his teacher, school and I all share the same wish that my boy continues to progress with his reading and comprehension.

But I’m also convinced my way will have much better long-term impact.

Mind, I always think I’m right.

What do you think of school reading quotas?  Fancy joining a half-baked crusade?


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

How Good Is Ribby Hall Village?

I’m easily amused, yet ridiculously difficult to please at the same time.

When it comes to holidays, particularly those taken within the UK, I have a short but very optimistic wish list.

The first and overriding problem is I’m not very good with people, or more accurately put, at sharing space with other living creatures.

So at the busiest times of the year (school holidays) I yearn for a peaceful place.

Straightforward enough, but conversely I want loads of facilities and attractions to keep my family and I entertained.

Hmmmm, the term inversely proportional comes to mind.

Despite my inability to deal with other human beings we try to include popular  holiday destinations like Blackpool amongst our summer holiday ventures, and this year was no exception.

We’ve stayed in holiday parks and hotels near Blackpool before with varying degrees of success, but none I’ve ever gone back to.

The kids were so impressed with their room they put their own stuff away.

Where Is Ribby Hall Village?

This time we stayed at Ribby Hall Village, a mixture of privately owned caravans, holiday cottages and lodges very near Kirkham and about a 10 minute drive from Blackpool.

And I think I may have found the answer to my annual holiday quandary.

We went with family, and in total there were four adults, two kids and a toddler sharing a three-bedroom cottage.

It had everything we needed, it was peaceful and ideally located on the village.  Only a short walk to all the facilities, and positioned as such to enjoy a virtually private picnic terrace leading on to the parks lovely nature trail.

The only quickly remedied hiccup was a missing grill for the cooker, which was replaced shortly after a call to the park’s reception.  We may also chose accommodation with a dishwasher in the future to reduce the amount of manual labour required on holiday.

Our nephew reluctantly sharing his lunch.

What Can You Get Up To?

There was something for everyone on the park.  The various kids play areas catered for all ages, as did the indoor pool and slides.

We enjoyed a family battle over the miniature golf course, took a bike ride together around the park’s nature trail, and made the most of the bar & grill, excellent café and park shop.  And of course we went and used the indoor pool a couple of times.

Bikes for a family of seven cost less than £20.

And despite it being busy, there was never much of a wait for anything, nothing felt hemmed in or anywhere near unpleasant or anything like over capacity.

Being so close to Kirkham meant we could pop to a supermarket for provisions, as well as taking our pick from a variety of local takeaways.

This is of course on top of the park’s Bar & Grill, Tapas restaurant, shop, Pappa John’s takeaway and Starbucks.

My wife and I also had a round of pitch and putt on the very well maintained course.

The Ribby Hall Village Pitch & Putt course suits both beginners and experts.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more relaxed, yet entertained, on a holiday park.

There’s also a hotel and spa on site, which the girls enjoyed an evening stint at during one night of our stay.

We didn’t get to see much of Ribby Hall Village’s evening entertainment.

Though we did see some of it on the first night, and all three of our kids enjoyed a little boogie on the dance floor with Cyril the Squirrel (despite me constantly asking Cyril to show us his nuts) we generally spent cosy nights in our cottage.

Who needs Cyril the Squirrel when you've bought your own entertainment.
All this within striking distance of the bright lights and attractions of Blackpool.

We love the Pleasure Beach, but it was also really nice to come ‘home’ to the peace and tranquillity of Ribby Hall Village at the end of a long day.

The serious business of miniature golf, again less than £20 for six players.

Would We Return?

We’ll definitely be considering staying at Ribby Hall Village again, and the reception staff were really helpful on checkout, I enjoyed discussing the best options with them for a possible return to celebrate a significant family birthday sometime next year.

I think a return is highly likely.

My newest mug.

We stayed with Hoseasons in a Ribby Poppy Cottage at Ribby Hall Village, Lancashire. A three-night short break for up to six people in a Ribby Poppy Cottage costs from £370, a week costs from £539. or call 0345 498 6130. A discounted rate was granted for our stay.


Monday, 17 August 2015

Is Blackpool Pleasure Beach Good for Toddlers?

The very short answer is: YES.

We were back at the best UK family theme park this summer, and this time we had our 16 month-old nephew, with us.


If your child is under two, they are granted free entry to the Pleasure Beach.  But won’t be able to get on any rides without tickets or a wristband.

Whether you opt to get a wristband or a few ride tickets will depend on your particular child and circumstance.  A wristband makes it uncomplicated, and means your child can ride as many times as they want, rather than just watch others enjoy them.

However if your child is unlikely to go on lots of rides, or not like them, a wristband would probably work out as an expensive an unnecessary expense.


You might not think it, but there are actually 17 rides without restrictions on, meaning as long as a child can walk unaided, they can take a ride on them.

We were issued with a list of the eligible rides when we collected our passes and wristbands.  The list proved very useful, and was something we referred to a lot as we found ourselves in the different areas of the park.

The rides a toddler can go on vary a lot, from the predicable ones aimed at younger children in Nickelodeon Land, to things like the Ghost Train and Derby Racer in other areas of the park.

Despite there being a vast number of rides to chose from, the Pleasure Beach is very compact and generally flat, so there isn’t much walking for a toddler, or pushing for you if taking a pushchair.

We had a pushchair, which one of us stayed with, or we left outside the rides if we were all riding.  It was easy and not an inconvenience at all.


My nephew’s parents are well organised and took lots of food and snacks with them, but they needn’t have bothered.  There are plenty of food options, not all terribly healthy as you’d expect at a theme park, but my nephew shared a healthy ham salad baguette with his dad.

There are also plenty of toilets dotted around the park, and you can use the ones at some of the fast food outlets like Burger King.


As per my previous Blackpool Pleasure Beach tips I would recommend getting to the park in good time and ‘ticking off’ as many rides as you can in the first 90 minutes or so.

And I wouldn’t necessary say to target the biggest and most popular rides, instead I’d target those with a low rider turn over.

What I mean by that is some rides only take a few passengers at a time, and therefore mean long waits even for modest or small queues.

Many of the Nickelodeon rides are like that, especially as younger riders take a little longer to get on and off the rides.

So I’d target some of them, and then things like Alice in Wonderland, and the Ghost Train.

Then when the park gets busier I’d head for the higher turnover rides like the Derby Racer, the Flying Machines and River Caves.

My other tip would be to eat lunch early, by doing so you’ll encounter shorter queues at wherever you are eating, and also will be on the rides when the masses are sat eating or queuing for food.

All in all we had another fantastic day at the Pleasure Beach.  We were on the park from opening till gone 6pm, and without any major complaint from the kids in our party, including the toddler.

The Pleasure Beach provided some of our party with free ride wristbands. Share/Save/Bookmark