Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Children’s and young people’s reading: recent news and views

dog readingLots of serious news and views to come, but I couldn’t resist starting with a story about a dog that’s learnt to read.

New OECD data tells us that young people in England have lowest literacy levels in developed world. As a trainer who specialises in children’s and young people’s reading, I am always keen to explore ways to make reading more accessible, attractive and worthwhile. Digital reading surely has a big part to play.

I felt very privileged to attend this fascinating debate on children’s reading in the digital age. Well worth watching, to find out how good use of technology has the power to bridge the alarming literacy gaps in the UK.

The National Literacy Trust reported in December that e-books make a particular difference to boys’ reading. The report prompted a BBC exploration of the place of e-books in schools.

A new survey by Booktrust found that families prefer printed books and lots of parents have qualms about digital reading. Chief executive Diana Gerald points out its benefits, when used in partnership with printed books.

I would completely agree with this, and we are immensely lucky in this country to have wonderful children’s books at our disposal.

Michael Rosen is fascinating on what children learn from picture books and how.

Here’s the Canadian Paediatric Society on why it’s never too early to start reading with children.

A recent study found that toddlers could be ready to begin reading lessons at 3. Without doubt we should encourage a love of books from babyhood onwards, but let’s make sure that’s what the emphasis is about, not reading lessons. I was very interested to read parent Sally Marks lamenting the focus on phonics drilling at home. ‘Let’s leave phonics to schools and curl up with a good book instead.’

If we want to ensure children feel positively about reading, we must of course read to them, and not just when they are very young. Do check out this inspirational TED talk by teacher Rebecca Bellingham on why it matters.

I also strongly recommend a great series of vlogs by author Phil Earle for Booktrust. I so agree with him that children need to be able to choose books that give them sense of achievement.

Like many others, I have a particular concern about comprehension. Lots of teachers on courses tell me about children who are excellent at decoding, but do not understand what they are reading. In which case, what’s the point? Here’s a useful blog about how to use questioning to support comprehension.

Study after study has proved that children and young people who enjoy reading read more and are better at it. Hardly surprising! It’s instructive to read this teenager’s view that students need to enjoy the books their GCSE books.

And here’s another valuable article from the Guardian children’s book site: Children’s books: a middle class ghetto?

Finally, on a much lighter note, the results of a poll about heroes and villains in children’s literature. I’m delighted to see Pooh and Paddington among the heroes. Cruella de Vil and Mrs Coulter are definitely my favourite villains.