Thursday, 5 December 2019

Bedtime reading

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I felt very privileged to give training for the Children’s Sleep Charity recently. We explored the links between wellbeing, reading and bedtime stories and shared ideas for making reading a positive part of the bedtime routine and using books to promote relaxation and a good night’s sleep. The children and families the charity supports face huge issues as a result of the impact of lack of sleep. Preparing and delivering the training highlighted for me the amazing benefits that bedtime reading offers, and not just for families coping with sleeplessness.

So why is it valuable? Bedtime reading confers consistency, stability, reassurance, comfort. It strengthens family bonds. Books and reading aid children (and parents and carers) to unwind. Through bedtime reading children associate books and reading with calm, security, sleepiness. They develop positive feelings about reading, feelings that translate into wanting to read for themselves, before sleep and at other times, so bestowing all the advantages in terms of wellbeing and attainment that we know reading for pleasure affords. Books and reading can provide emotional support, reduce anxiety, develop self-esteem, build resilience, help children realise they are not alone and enhance empathy. Bedtime reading equips children to deal with emotional problems and provides a safe environment for discussing difficult things in their lives.

Yet it is happening less and less. I know how hard it is to fit it into busy lives, but even five or ten minutes is very special and beneficial. Many years ago a father sheepishly asked if I thought it was alright that his only opportunity to read with his daughter was when she was in the bath. I said then, and I think it still, that it was great that she and he had this lovely time together. But if bedtime reading happens, as it usually does, in the bedroom, it’s worth thinking about creating a cosy atmosphere: curtains down or blinds drawn, lights dimmed, soft toys to cuddle up to, a book or books chosen by the child or children. Not homework books – bedtime isn’t the time for homework reading. And printed books rather than electronic ones, as they’re more calming and better for sharing. With these things in place bedtime reading is the perfect way to end the day.

This is J.K. Rowling: “I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp.” Me too.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Recent research and articles about children’s reading

book boat - St Andrews CE Primary Kettering

Many thanks to St Andrews CE Primary Kettering for permission to use this photo of their lovely book boats. Such a great idea, and perfect to illustrate my latest round-up of children’s reading news and articles.

Dawn Finch has written a valuable piece on the meaning and importance of reading for pleasure and ways to nurture it in libraries and schools.

Teacher Heather Wright suggest five ways to instil a love of reading in primary schools.

In another article she posits that reading for pleasure should be at the heart of the curriculum, and that quality books are a must, not a luxury.

‘Reading Corners: Effective?’ explores the value of reading corners in the context of creating a culture of reading.

A new study finds that a home environment that supports language development in early childhood predicts children’s readiness to learn in pre-school, which in turn predicts academic skills at 10-11.

Research suggests that language development in infancy is influenced differently by well-educated mothers and fathers, even though they read to their young toddlers in broadly similar ways.

‘Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers’, an article from the USA, suggests that much depends on how parents present the activity of reading to their children.

Recent research shows that targeted reading interventions in small groups can help to close the disadvantage gap for primary pupils, while whole-class approaches had little impact.

‘Children’s Reading With Digital Books: Past Moving Quickly to the Future’ is a useful survey of research on the topic, with suggestions for good practice.

An Australian article explores ways to get the most out of silent reading in schools.

The latest ‘Reflecting Realities’ survey into ethnic representation in UK children’s literature has been released, and it paints a depressing picture.

Jennifer Holder of Liverpool Learning Partnership has put together a useful padlet to support educators in exploring issues of diversity and inclusion in children’s and YA books.

Mat Tobin has produced some great tips on building a diverse and multicultural bookshelf and on becoming a ‘culturally responsive teacher’.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Children’s books – sources of information

books

I am often asked how to find out about good children’s books. I thought it might be helpful to list the sources of information I use most.

* I must declare an interest: I am one of very many reviewers for Armadillo Magazine and School Librarian.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Inspiring reading quotes

boy in Foyles

Apologies for the poor photo quality, but this shot illustrates my latest collection of reading quotes perfectly. This boy was oblivious of everything but his book.

  • Books and reading are magic and this magic must be available to absolutely everyone. Cressida Cowell
  • Reading gives you knowledge, it gives you power. Andy McNabb
  • Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible. Barack Obama
  • Reading is a way for me to expand my mind, open my eyes, and fill up my heart. Oprah Winfrey
  • Reading enables children to grow emotionally. In all sorts of ways – imaginatively, in terms of self-confidence, it helps them to explore the world beyond the one they live in. Michael Morpurgo
  • If we want children to learn, to grow by understanding and having empathy for others, to thrive, then we must encourage them to read for pleasure. Malorie Blackman
  • What makes a child become a lifelong reader? Not the ability to get good marks on a test. Not the desire to get a good job. It’s PLEASURE. Kids who read for pleasure grow up to be adults who read for themselves – and think for themselves. SF Said
  • Reading empowers children …… when you make a reader, you give them the world. Amanda Spielman
  • Reading is not walking on the words: it’s grasping the soul of them. Paulo Freire

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Summer 2019 children’s reading news update

Cowell's listCressida Cowell was pronounced Children’s Laureate this week. This is her very impressive and important charter – the perfect illustration for my latest children’s reading news update. (You may also like to see the ideas and tips of all her Laureate predecessors about how to children into bookworms.)

The latest National Literacy Trust report on children’s reading shows that reading enjoyment, reading engagement and levels of daily reading are all slightly down.

Recent research tells us that many parents are often too busy or tired to read their children a bedtime story and rely on technology instead, including Alexa.

Hungry Little Minds, which provides guidance on supporting babies’ and young children’s’ learning, including language and literacy, was launched this month

A recent speech to early years practitioners about Ofsted’s approach to the early years contained lots about supporting spoken language and reading.

It’s worth reading ‘Developing pupils’ vocabulary is about more than words’.

‘4 steps to ensure pupils read for pleasure’ has good ideas on helping primary children fall in love with books and reading. I would add using the library.

Teacher and reading champion Jon Biddle’s reading questions will be great for stimulating discussion in classrooms and libraries.

According to a study into what works best for struggling readers in elementary schools, whole class and whole school approaches and one-to-one tutoring are highly effective; technology-supported adaptive instruction is not.

New research suggests that reading aloud is one of the best things secondary English teachers can do to support comprehension and close the advantage gap.

The Education Endowment Federation has published new guidance to help secondary schools improve literacy in all subject areas.

‘Inference: why comprehension is not just about vocabulary and knowledge’ explores ways to teach comprehension skills such as inference.

For inspiration, look at Andy McNab’s recollections about his journey into reading. He was 16 and fresh out of juvenile detention when he read his first book.

Finally, ‘If kids can’t read what they want in the summer, when can they?’ makes a passionate and well-informed case for children to read what they like.