Thursday, 23 November 2017

Literacy and language news and articles

Carrickmacross Library This is the children’s area in Carrickmacross Library in Monaghan County, the lovely venue for a course on reading for pleasure that I gave this week – a fitting illustration for my latest round-up of language and literacy news.

A call has been made for early language development to be prioritised as a well-being indicator to try to bridge the big gap in early language development between children in low-income and better-off households, which gets worse with age, and has major consequences.

A new study indicates that babies as young as six months old may realise certain words are related, and that interaction with adults boosts understanding.

Watching television or playing with smart phone apps does not have any effect on children’s language development, providing they still spend time reading, researchers have found.

Justine Greening has unveiled a new network to boost early literacy.

The gap in reading and writing scores between poorer children and their more advantaged classmates has widened slightly at age 7.

Oral language is key to reading, says literacy expert Dr Jessie Ricketts, but the subject is sorely neglected in schools, and pupils could be missing out on progression as a result.

The Department for Education’s promotion of synthetic phonics can be damaging to early readers and is seriously flawed, according to Dr Andrew Davis of the University of Durham’s school of education.

Research by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies shows that reading improves teenagers’ vocabulary, whatever their background. The lead author says: “The link between reading for pleasure and better vocabularies suggests that if young people are encouraged to discover a love for books, it could alter the course of their lives, regardless of their background.”

The new HMCI, Amanda Spielman, has expressed concerns about the curriculum narrowing both at primary and secondary level. Here is some of what she says in relation to KS2 SATs preparation and reading: “Testing in school clearly has value. This kind of test is intended to measure the child’s ability to comprehend. However, the regular taking of test papers does little to increase a child’s ability to comprehend. A much better use of time is to teach and help children to read and read more. Additionally, the books that teachers read to children need to be more challenging than those the children are picking up themselves.”

Sarah Hubbard, Her Majesty’s Inspector, and National Lead for English, has written about the English curriculum.

‘Ideas for encouraging peer recommendations in the classroom’ by primary teacher Jon Biddle has lots of great strategies for creating a buzz about reading.

A scheme in Blackpool is helping more fathers read with their children every day. This video makes lovely viewing.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Reading for information – inspiring quotes for National Non-Fiction November on fostering children’s curiosity

NFI’m delighted that one of the courses I’m giving this week is on reading for information, perfect in National Non-Fiction November. These are some of the great books we’ll be looking at, all brilliant for developing curiosity.

I love all the quotes here. They demonstrate the value and importance of nurturing enquiring minds, and give some useful pointers into how to do it – not least harnessing the power of libraries and librarians.

  • ‘I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.’ Eleanor Roosevelt
  • ‘Curiosity is the engine of achievement.’ Ken Robinson
  • ‘The most reliable predictor of achievement is a hungry mind.’ Sophie von Stumm
  • ‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited.’ Plutarch
  • ‘Reading for information is about thinking, wondering, and sometimes understanding, with the ever-present possibility of being unsettled.’ Margaret Meek
  • ‘If we are to motivate children to go through the research process, then we must ensure that their curiosity is stimulated, by exposing them to new information or ideas that cause them to want to know more.’ Jeni Riley and David Reedy
  • ‘It is not the answer that enlightens but the question.’ Eugène Ionescu
  • ‘The essential move in learning is to transform information to understanding.’ Margaret Meek
  • ‘Libraries offer the arsenal in the war of understanding.’ Mal Peet
  • ‘Librarians open up the world. Knowledge is useless if you don’t even know where to begin to look. How much more can you discover when someone can point you in the right direction, when someone can maybe even give you a treasure map, to places you may not have even thought you were allowed to go? This is what librarians do.’ Patrick Ness
  • ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’ Dr Seuss

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Reading dogs

Fifteen or more years ago my late brother-in-law, an inspirational primary school headteacher and adviser, told me about the amazing impact his dog was having on pupils’ reading. Children who struggled with reading, and for whom reading aloud was a humiliating ordeal, happily read to Buddy. Nick saw their confidence, behaviour and skills surge. The key, of course, was that Buddy was friendly and cuddly and non-judgemental (also deaf, though the children didn’t know that).

reading dog - Townhill Community School & Swansea Library ServiceIn those days the concept of a reading dog was pretty revolutionary. Happily that has changed. The value of reading dogs is now widely attested. I was reminded of Nick and Buddy when Carole Billingham, Swansea Children and Youth Librarian, shared this great picture at a course of mine on special educational needs that she attended. Her dog Stella lives up to her starry name when she helps struggling readers in the library and local schools. I loved hearing about Stella’s transformative effect on children’s language and literacy skills, and on their motivation and well-being. The children here are from Townhill Community School.

Please, Sir – sit! The tale of a learning support dog’ quotes research that children who read to listening dogs show an increase in reading levels, word recognition, a higher desire to read and write, and an increase in intra and interpersonal skills.

In ‘How these adorable dogs are helping children love reading’ Jaki Brien, a volunteer for Therapy Dogs, describes what happens in reading sessions with her dog, and how and why they change children’s attitudes and aptitudes.

‘Children urged to read to dogs, perfect listeners’ highlights the therapeutic as well as literacy benefits of reading dogs. ‘Meet the dogs who help children learn to read’ reports children’s emotional intelligence growing alongside their vocabulary.

Wonderful!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Inspiring quotes for National Libraries Week

IMG_0930I am a passionate advocate of libraries. I know first hand their transformative power. I can’t let National Libraries Week go by without sharing a few of my favourite library quotes. And as illustration, here’s the wonderful Stockholm Central Library, which I was lucky enough to visit a few years ago.

‘Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.’ Sidney Sheldon

‘A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination.’ Caitlin Moran

‘A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late reading them.’ Lemony Snicket

‘I see libraries and librarians as frontline soldiers in the war against illiteracy and the lack of imagination.’ Neil Gaiman

‘Libraries create readers. It’s that simple.’ Nicola Morgan

‘The way to get children reading is to leave the library door open and let them read anything and everything they want.’ Terry Pratchett

‘Get yourself down to the library and read a book.’ Alex Ferguson

‘You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books are the greatest weapons. This room’s the best arsenal we could have!’ Doctor Who

‘Reading is the centre of learning and libraries are at the heart of this.’ Gervase Phinn

‘For all those children out there who, like me, loved books and couldn’t afford to buy them, all I can say is thank God for our libraries …… Reading should and must be the right of all, not just a privilege for the few.’ Malorie Blackman

‘Shout for libraries. Shout for the young readers who use them.’ Patrick Ness

‘A library is a place where you can lose your innocence without losing your virginity.’ Germaine Greer

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Children’s and young people’s reading – latest news and articles

Wilstead booksSome of the wonderful books we explored on an inset I gave on Monday on reading for pleasure. (Perfect topic for the start of the academic year.)

Lots of news and articles about children’s reading came out over the summer. Do hope this round-up is useful.

An American study shows that the benefits of reading to babies last for years.

New research shows the importance of oral vocabulary for reading: children find it easier to read words they have heard before, even if they’ve never seen them written down.

I was very interested to read Kate Nation’s views on the necessity for good comprehension strategies to complement phonics teaching in early years.

Primary teachers, do also look at this helpful, nuanced review of the relative merits of whole class reading teaching and guided reading. (My last news round-up has links to a couple of other valuable articles on this topic.)

Lots of good ideas in ‘Six steps to create a reading culture in your school’. Great to see school libraries and librarians (appropriately) valued.

‘What works for getting kids to enjoy reading’ has some interesting data and ideas, particularly about rewards for reading and easy access to books.

This useful blog on reading interventions argues that all interventions must be appropriate to the individual, for instance that a phonics-based approach will not help a successful decoder who struggles with comprehension.

Finally, an intriguing discovery: only human protagonists in children’s books impact on children’s social behaviour, not animal ones.