Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Why Books are the Perfect Christmas Present

The holidays are coming up fast, and schools will soon be on their Christmas breaks. Even though many students have holiday work to complete – especially those with revision to do for spring exams - education can often take a back seat to make way for celebrations, friends and family. And those things are, of course, very important. But so is keeping young brains active and learning during the holidays. The best way to do this is to encourage them to read at every opportunity.

Reading is one of the simplest pleasures. 21st Century children are surrounded by technology – games consoles, television, tablets, mobile phones. Whilst the latest tech is sure to take pride of place at the top of your children’s Christmas wish list, don’t forget to wrap a few books up under the tree this year.

The benefits of reading in extending your child’s knowledge and understanding of literacy and vocabulary are certainly proven.  Not just for enjoyment, starting a life-long relationship with books is crucial for stretching the imagination, developing new interests and expanding knowledge. Instilling a wide vocabulary, comprehension and accurate spelling skills are essential benefits of reading, putting in place the foundations for success in education in the future. Not to mention reading brings hours of entertainment – it’s learning, without your children even noticing they’re doing it. It keeps their minds active and their imaginations running riot; engross them in a good book and you’ll find them desperate to sit quietly and get lost in those wonderful fictional worlds. Talk to them about what they’re reading and you’ll be amazed at how they can chat away like scholars about an amazing story.

Why not challenge your child to real a certain number of books over Christmas too? Perhaps they can tackle a novel longer than any they’ve read before, or try to read five or six short stories from a collection whilst you’re preparing Christmas dinner.

During family time, ask your child to read aloud to you. Share the reading with them – not just for the wonderful experience of reading with your child, but also to teach listening and public speaking skills. Discuss the meaning of words and their comprehension as you go along. You may find they’re ready to read above the level you’ve been pitching their book choices at.

Above all, it is important to make reading fun and accessible. Books should be displayed all around your home – the kitchen, bedrooms, living room, even the bathroom. Recent research has actually linked the number of books in your home directly to academic achievement (more on that here: so there are no excuses for not providing your children with as many books as you can.

Give them something fun this Christmas that also helps them learn. Books are a perfect Christmas present, because you’re helping your children grow academically, as well as emotionally, whilst also providing them long term entertainment to stimulate their minds in a way no technology could.

Looking for ideas on what to give them to read? We’ve got some recommendations below for children of all ages:

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
The Bear, The Snowman, both by Raymond Briggs
End of Term by Antonia Forest
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Mog’s Christmas Calamity by Judith Kerr
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston
Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
Skellig, The Fire Eaters, both by David Almond
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Happy Hanukkah, Corduroy by Don Freeman
The Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman
The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively
Shadow by Michael Morpurgo
Percy Jackson by Rick Riodan
The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jan and Mike Berenstain
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne-Jones
Blitz Boys by Linda Newberry
Rubies in the Snow by Date Hubbard
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Twas the Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora
Young Bond by Charlie Higson
Cat Royal by Julia Golding
Dream Snow by Eric Carle
Lionboy by Zizou Corder
Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O’Connor
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington
The Alchemist by H. P. Lovecraft
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Forbidden Game by Malorie Blackman
Angel Pig and the Hidden Christmas by Jan L. Waldron
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
My True Love Game to Me by Stephanie Perkins
Olivia Helps With Christmas by Ian Falconer

Need childcare for the holidays and unsure about the options?

Our online store has guides on all areas of UK Education including financial aid, interview preparation and questions to ask on a school visit.


We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education.
Email or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.
For more information visit

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Some top tips for interviewing successfully for schools, universities and graduate jobs

It's an important time of year - young people all across the UK are preparing for interviews at senior schools, sixth forms, universities and graduate jobs. Below are a few of our top interview tips, whatever level you're studying at.

First impressions are important. That means your appearance, your greeting and your body language. Dress appropriately - if the interview is for a school place, dress smartly (students and accompanying parents) or in school uniform if needs be. If it is for university, be sure to show some individual flair, but keep it somewhat formal. For graduate jobs, dress formally - office wear or smart fashionable clothing depending on where you are interviewing. Keep good posture, a strong and positive handshake (but not bone crunching), make eye contact and remember to smile. 

Research the institution or company you wish to join. Appearing well-informed about what it offers and why that appeals to you will give a positive impression, but reading ahead will also help you to understand why it does appeal to you. What is it you like about that school, university or company? Give some thought to what skills and capabilities you are able to offer within the environment of each individual institution. What would you personally bring to the table that would impress? Have some examples at the ready which demonstrate contributions you have made in these areas in the past to back up your claims and be confident about your skills and achievements.

Who will be interviewing you? If you are notified in advance who will be conducting the interview, research their role and what their specific areas of interest might be. It is easier to engage with a person if you have identified some common ground. But remember to be truthful at all times too. You could get into a sticky area if you make a claim that you can’t back-up during discussion via in-depth knowledge or examples.

Back up every answer with a why, how or because. Just answering the question without stating why you have that opinion or giving examples of how you have previously used a skill or attribute within a relevant situation, is only half an answer. Having a full argument or explanation shows your knowledge, experience, but also that you have come well prepared for the day.

If you need time to think, ask the interviewer to repeat the question or perhaps ask a question of your own to clarify. This will buy a bit of time, putting the ball back into their court, giving you time to consider your answer. Always be prepared with a few questions to ask at the end in any case, as this is your best opportunity to find out more about the institution or company, and demonstrate your eagerness to be part of it. Good Luck!

If you are looking for help with senior school interviews or interviews for scholarships or bursaries, why not look at our digital guide on Interview Preparation? Available on our online store via the link below.

Our online store has guides on all areas of UK Education including financial aid, interview preparation and questions to ask on a school visit.


We offer a wide range of services and expert advice on your child's education. If you would like interview advice for sixth form, university or jobs, to book in a practice interview session with one of our experts or help with any other education questions you may have, email or contact Claire on 01865 522066 for an informal discussion on how we can help.
For more information visit