Sunday, 6 September 2015

Children’s reading news, research and articles, and the Ladybird Books approach

Ladybird books 2This summer has been unusually full of reading news, so the start of term seems a good time for a catch-up. To illustrate it, my purchases from the wonderful Ladybird Books exhibition at the House of Illustration (on for three more weeks). Teaching Reading is fascinating. Too much emphasis on the ‘phonic method’, it says, can ‘slow down progress and harm the attitude towards reading’. It also suggests that for most children starting to learn to read before the age of six is counter-productive. How attitudes have changed – and not all for the better.

Nicola Morgan and David Walliams have launched a programme to boost child literacy in the UK. Plans include creating at least 200 new book clubs in primary schools across the country and ensuring every eight-year-old is enrolled at their local library. The programme has not been greeted with universal acclaim. The library membership idea has gone down very badly in many quarters, as many children no longer have access to a library, due to savage cuts to provision.

New studies have found that reading aloud to children, more than talking, builds literacy and that reading to children can transform their brains because it stimulates the creation of synapses.

The Guardian has published a very considered article assessing whether tablet computers are harming children’s ability to read, setting out all the research and presenting a variety of viewpoints.

A new Literacy Trust report explores the role of literacy in public health, and shows that improving families’ literacy can make them healthier.

The Reading Agency has produced a useful literature review on the impact of reading for pleasure. These are the findings that I found particularly interesting:
a) reading for pleasure improves well-being, empathy and social literacy
b) children need to feel that reading brings its own reward, and this should to be considered when trying to promote reading, as many approaches focus on extrinsic rewards
c) social reading and reading peers are very valuable

Jennifer Lagarde has written an inspiring blog on why students need reading champions.

David Didau blogged about how to get students to read for pleasure back in July. His views sparked considerable controversy. It’s well worth looking at the comment stream and at this response from school librarian Barbara Band.

Primary teachers will find this piece on using guided reading to develop comprehension skills useful.

For a lovely, funny take on the power of reading and books, do read this piece by Keith Gray. He extols the delights of Adrian Mole. And for a demonstration of why it’s important for children to choose what they want to read, have a look at Dav Pilkey’s fabulous animation Reading Gives You Superpowers.

Two heart-warming stories to end: A Romanian city offers free rides to people reading on the bus and an Iowa barber gives haircuts to children in exchange for them reading stories to him.