Growing Bookworms: Handwriting skills for children, Part 2

Last month, I discussed the reasons why handwriting is still important for both children and adults. You can read that post here:

Today, I am going to focus on strategies to improve handwriting.

The age of the child determines the best strategies for improving handwriting.

For a beginner writer in the early grades, the following strategies are useful to help children practice their handwriting and gain confidence with writing:

Make handwriting fun

There are a few ways you can make practicing handwriting more fun. You can give your child a fun or special pencil to use to practice writing. A stripped one or a pencil covered in flowers or cars. You can also play simple games that involve writing like hangman, word puzzles and anagrams.

I started writing the Sir Chocolate series of books with Michael to help him improve his handwriting. He used to write out the stories as we made them up. He tried very hard to write nicely in these little books we created.

Develop fine motor skills

Developing your child’s fine motor skills by drawing and painting, playing with play dough, cutting, threading, sand play, lego and building blocks are all great ways of encouraging children to manipulate small objects.

Correct pencil grip

Make sure your child is holding the pencil in a pincer grip and also using both hands to control the paper.

Here is a fun video song to help children with the correct pencil grip:

The correct equipment

Some children struggle to hold a regular pencil and do better with a shorter, smaller, or kid-sized pencil. Give your child an eraser so that s/he is confident and not afraid of making mistakes.

Use writing everywhere

You can practice handwriting in lots of fun places. You can write in the sand on the beach or on a foggy window or mirror. You can write in chalk on the driveway and you can even write on fondant with an edible ink pen.

About Robbie Cheadle


Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with 9 children’s books and 1 poetry book.

The 7 Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie has also published 2 books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has 2 adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories in the horror and paranormal genre and poems included in several anthologies.

Robbie writes a monthly series for called Growing Bookworms. This series discusses different topics relating to the benefits of reading to children.

Robbie has a blog, where she shares book reviews, recipes, author interviews, and poetry.

Find Robbie Cheadle



Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books


Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.

Growing Bookworms – Does speed reading matter for kids

When I was ten years old, I was one of a handful of kids in my grade who were selected to attend a speed reading programme. We attended a separate class where we were given a machine with a screen that displayed a page of text. There was a solid covering which moved down the page, covering the text as it descended. I remember having to read quite quickly to finish reading a sentence before it disappeared. The speed with which the covering moved could be increased or decreased by twisting a knob on the side of the reading machine. This was under the control of the reading teacher.

Speed reading suited me and with practice I became a very quick reader. Some of the kids never took to the exercises and gave up quite quickly. I was keen to learn to read faster. Faster meant more books in a day or week. By the following year I was reading 14 children’s books a week and making two trips a week to the local library on my bicycle. I bribed my younger sister into giving me her three library cards. I had four of my own.

I am still a fast reader and can read an average book in a week. I only read for leisure for approximately one hour a day. I rarely read one book at a time and usually have at least two physical books on the go and one audio book. If I get a little tired of one book, I switch over to the other which makes it harder to measure the speed with which I read. Of course, the most important thing with reading is comprehension, there is no point in reading fast if you don’t comprehend the story.

I like to believe I do understand and remember everything I read (unless it is testing my oldest son on his chemistry – that is so deadly boring for me I never remember a single word afterwards). Has my ability to read quicker helped me in my working life. I think it has, I can read and summarise contracts and documents a lot faster than many other people.

This brings me to the benefits of teaching children to speed read.

The way I understand the learning to read process is that young children first learn to recognise and assign sounds to specific letters. Those letters become words that the young reader must decode in order to read. Practice enables the child to recognise words and their reading becomes more accurate and automatic. Once the brain no longer has to focus entirely on decoding words, it is able to focus on comprehension. This is why reading teachers concentrate on reading fluency which is a combination of rate, accuracy and expression. It is, therefore, obvious that rate is not the only factor, but it is important. The quicker a child develops reading fluency, the faster they will achieve good comprehension of the reading material.

Neither of my sons have had the opportunity to learn speed reading. I assume this is because this type of learner extension is no longer provided by schools. It could be because speed reading is not considered to be particularly necessary as one contributor out of three to effective reading. My oldest son reads very quickly and with excellent comprehension. He reads his complex school set works in a short period. His comprehension is good and he scores high marks on language comprehension tests. He would probably be a good candidate for speed reading as he would enjoy the challenge and not lose out on comprehension by reading faster.

Michael, on the other hand, is a slow reader, but he is now quite fluent and accurate. I always start Michael reading his school set works at the beginning of the holidays or school term so that he has lots of time to read the book at his own comfortable pace. I often buy him the audio book too, so that he can listen to the story again after he has read it. Michael also usually scores well on comprehension tests. Michael is motivated by interest and often finds his school set works boring. Trying to get him to read quicker would certainly backfire as he would have to sacrifice comprehension for speed. Slow and steady works well for him.

Possibly the answer is the same as always, you need to understand your child and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses when accessing the best approach for teaching them to read.

Have you done a speed reading programme? Did they offer this at your school or your children’s schools? Do you think it helps to practice reading faster? Let me know in the comments.

If your interested in teaching yourself to speed read, you can learn more about it by watching this YouTube video:

About Robbie Cheadle


Robbie Cheadle has published nine books for children and one poetry book. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate children’s picture books are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision. Her books for older children also incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s supernatural stories combine fabulous paranormal elements with fascinating historical facts.

Children’s picture books – available as a square book and an A5 book (co-authored with Michael Cheadle):
Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the baby cookie monster story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the sugar dough bees story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Crystal Caves story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Fondant Five story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Ice Cream Rainbow Fairies story and cookbook

Middle school books:
Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town (includes five fun party cake ideas)
While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with Elsie Hancy Eaton)

Poetry book:
Open a new door (co-authored with Kim Blades)

Supernatural fantasy YA novel:
Through the Nethergate

Horror Anthologies (edited by Dan Alatorre):
Dark Visions

Paranormal Anthologies (edited by Kaye Lynne Booth):
Spirits of the West
Whispers of the Past

Murder mystery Anthology (edited by Stephen Bentley)
Death Among Us

Find Robbie Cheadle



Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.

The future of education

In March 2020 the world went mad. A new virus called Covid-19 started spreading rapidly among humans and by the end of that month most countries were engaged in a horrible new way of life called lock down. As with many other countries, lock-down in South Africa started with the closure of our schools.

The schools were given a minimum period of four business days to prepare for lock down and, in the case of my sons’ school, a home school programme. Fortunately, their school had seen the way the wind was blowing and had started preparing for a potential closure period earlier in the month. Even so, the teaching staff were not afforded much time to get themselves ready to go completely on-line with teaching.

On Thursday, the 18th of March my sons started on-line learning. It wasn’t badly implemented, despite the short timeline, and they had had Google classroom meetings hosted by their teachers, on-line assignments, YouTube video sessions and a lot of other help with all of their subjects.

At the end of March their school closed for the holiday and the teachers worked diligently to make improvements to the on-line programme. School reopened on the 6th of May and my boys continued with their on-line learning until the closure of the second term on Friday, 31 July. They even wrote examinations for two weeks under lock down conditions.

A few weeks ago, a good blogging friend of mine, Jim Borden, a university lecturer wrote this post One of the questions he asks in this post is the replacement of teachers by Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and on-line learning likely. A most interesting question, especially in light of the current scenario where millions of children have all been testing out this theory. So what do I think after my 11 week baptism of hell with home schooling? Does it make sense to replace teachers with AI?

My answer is a resounding NO! There are some advantages to an on-line learning programme. It would be much cheaper. There would be no need of large buildings to accommodate students and all the related furniture. There would be no need for cleaners, caterers and caretakers.

It would also be easier, I wouldn’t need to sit in traffic every day taking them to and from school.

It would also be far less time consuming as there would be no distractions in the form of socialising, team sports, individual sports, debating, chess, clubs and the numerous other things that fill up a child’s school day. It has also been proven statistically that children retain more information that they learn through on-line learning than in a classroom [personally, I’m not completely convinced about the correctness of this particular statistic].

So why then don’t I believe teaching works as well on-line as in the classroom?

I believe that all children, from the youngest to the oldest in our school system, need the human interaction with a teacher and their peers in order to stay emotionally balanced and motivated. People are social animals and they find isolation very difficult. My younger son has told me repeatedly that he misses his friends and the routine of the school day.

Even my older son, who is highly motivated and diligent has found it difficult to stay focused and disciplined during the lockdown period. The lack of routines and contact with other learners and teachers makes it feel a bit purposeless, even if it isn’t.

I also believe the children learn a lot from socialising. Working and life isn’t all about output and sitting at a computer on your own all day. It is about learning to work in teams and motivate others to deliver to deadlines. It is also about brain storming and working together to problem solve. These are all life skills that you cannot learn alone in front of your computer.

I am not going to go into the benefits of sport and extra curricular activities here, but they are numerous and the lack of these past times over the past five months has been has been very trying for children, and adults too.

Of course, there are also the other more basic issues that make on-line learning difficult. Many children lack access to the technology required for on-line learning, including a reliable internet and a computer. No everyone has these, but even if they did, it would not change my view on the relevance of teachers and teaching in a physical situation.

What do you think? Do you think teachers could be replaced by AI and on-line learning programmes? Has your view on this changed over the past few months? Let me know in the comments.

I made a Covid-19 memories cake recently which caricatured the nursery rhyme, The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. I created a young mother with a washing basket full of clothing outside her shoe home. Her many children are all sitting, socially distanced, home schooling. They all have laptops and headsets.

Old woman and her home schooling children
Here is a close up of the home schooling children

About Robbie Cheadle


Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with seven published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

  1. Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
  2. Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
  3. Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
  4. Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle




Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.