Dougie's Diary - a series of books chronicling the day to day life of a super cute pre-school dinosaur - is the creation of Mandy Khaira, director of Little Me Day Nurseries. They currently have three locations in England, with the kind of central ethos that everyone should get behind:
It's what I aspire to, at least, even if home schooling has been a challenge on just about every front. The email asking if I'd like to review the series arrived after a particularly trying day of tantrums, tears, and the crushing sense of inadequacy only a belligerent five year old can bestow. Going back to basics to learn about 'kindness, diversity and thankfulness' had never seemed so appealing!
When the books arrived they totally surpassed my expectations. They're bright, colourful, have the blessing of wipe clean pages, and even managed to win a sulky Marianna over.
Right now there are five books in the series:
☆ Hello, I'm Dougie!
☆ Daisy Comes Home
☆ Dougie Starts Pre-school
☆ We Are All Special
☆ Thank You Day
Each story begins in diary format with Dougie giving an introduction. The text is then presented as a mix of narrative and speech bubbles, with gorgeous full page illustrations by Salamandra and ongoing activities to engage with as you read. On each page children might need to spot a particular toy, for example, or count how many of an item they can see in the picture. There is also a letter hidden in each illustration - when collected together they spell a special word at the end of the story.
I found this really useful because, yeah, asking how many of this or what colour is that as you go along is a simple thing. But. It's something I struggle with. I notice it most when my mum (who was a nursery nurse herself once upon a time) reads with Marianna because it really highlights how, despite my best intentions, I have not been asking those questions again.
So, unsurprisingly, I loved that each book had a page of questions and prompts at the end of the story too. It encourages children to use the collected illustrations to retell the story in their own words, and gives you guided suggestions on issues your child might want to discuss further.
The thing I have found hardest about home schooling is how little I think like a five year old. What I mean by that is that it often just does not occur to me to go back over what we're learning in the way Marianna needs. I want to make progress. Marianna wants to revisit and consolidate. The addition of these pages made me slow down and engage much more effectively.
The books are aimed at 3 to 5 year olds, putting Marianna in the upper range. Marianna really enjoyed them, all the same, and to make it a little more challenging I got her to read Dougie's speech bubbles to me. Overall she did pretty well and, importantly, Dougie's speech came in short enough bursts that she didn't get too frustrated with the attempt.
The stories deal with things children face each day - anxiety at going to a new place, questions about why other people look different to them, why it's important to be kind, etc. The bread and butter of being a decent human being, basically! Marianna found the characters easy to relate to, and especially loved that Dougie had a collection of waistcoats and bow ties. (Just like Daddy.)
Her favourite was Thank You Day because, and I quote, 'we all need to learn how to be kind'. Indeed.
For more information check out the Dougie's Diary page, complete with online editions of the books and downloadable colouring sheets. If you prefer physical books they are available on Amazon for £4.99 each. Or, you can fill out the Gleam widget below for a chance to win a full set. :)
*We were sent these books to review, but all thoughts and opinions are our own!*