Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Reading in the early years – links to useful websites, reports and books

you choose 1##I’m giving lots of courses on creating a love of books and reading in the early years at the moment. It’s one of my favourite training topics, and a crucial one. I will blog soon about why it is so important. Meanwhile, I thought it might be useful to share links to websites, research and books that I find particularly valuable. Many of these are relevant across the board, while some are particularly applicable to early years practitioners and teachers, some to librarians, some to parents and carers.

And what better way to illustrate the list than this fabulous photo of a 20 month-old, sent to me by a course participant last week.

Book Finder
Bookbug
Books for Keeps
Bookstart
Core Books Online
Developing Early Literacy 0-8: From Theory to Practice, ed Virginia Bower, Sage, 2014, ISBN 9781446255339
Digital Technology and the Early Years, National Literacy Trust, 2017
Early Literacy Practices at Home, National Literacy Trust, 2016
Federation of Children’s Books Groups
Foundations of Literacy, by Sue Palmer, Featherstone Education, 2013, ISBN 9781408193846
Healthy Books
Library Services from Birth to Five: Delivering the Best Start, ed Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock, Facet Publishing, 2015, ISBN 9781783300082
Love My Books
Love Reading 4 Kids
Preparing for Literacy, Education Endowment Foundation, 2018
Read On Get On
Reading Zone
Rhyme Time and Seven Quality Principles Toolkit
Road to Reading, by Jillian Harker, Early Education, 2011
Universally Speaking – Ages and Stages of Children’s Communication Development for Children Aged Birth to 5, The Communication Trust, 2013
Words for Life

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Equal Play: What does gender equality look like in childhood?

Equal Play 1The Mayor of London’s Equal Play conference was fascinating and important. (And how lovely to see children’s toys in the Council Chamber of City Hall!) These were some of the most significant take-aways for me:

  • children’s brains are not gendered by nature, and are malleable
  • gender stereotypes are pervasive and set in even before birth: expectant parents speak differently to babies in the womb according to gender
  • children are treated differently at home, in settings and in schools according to gender, both in terms of language used and what they are praised for
  • children are surrounded by messages about how they should be and these are overwhelmingly gendered
  • gender stereotypes are more pervasive now than they were a generation ago
  • ads targeted at girls use words like magic, princess, beautiful; those aimed at boys use words like power, battle, adventure
  • the collective impact of gendered marketing, language, attitudes, clothing, books, toys etc limits girls’ aspirations, confidence, self-image, career choices, earning potential
  • gender stereotypes limit boys too and fuel toxic masculinity
  • the UK is one of the worst countries in Europe in terms of the numbers of women in STEM careers
  • society needs both boys and girls to become tomorrow’s problem-solvers
  • encouraging girls into STEM subjects is critical for our future
  • play is a vital first part of this
  • inclusive toys, books and clothing enable children to see and explore a range of options
  • gender-neutral attitudes, language, and marketing can reduce the negative impact of stereotypes
  • manufacturers and advertisers need to adopt gender-neutral approaches
  • the Advertising Standards Agency is changing its rules to limit gender-stereotyped advertisements
  • campaigning by Let Toys Be Toys, Let Books be Books and others is making a difference
  • increasing numbers of manufacturers, publishers and retailers, including big names such as Boots and John Lewis are adopting less gendered approaches
  • London has a new Gender Action Award to encourage schools and pre-schools to put gender equality at the heart of all aspects of school life
  • there is a very long way to go
  • we all need to foreground gender equality in our professional lives

We heard from inspiring speakers throughout the day, not least Sam Smethers, CEO of the Fawcett Society, Gina Rippon, Professor of Cognitive Imaging, Rosie Rios, the 43rd Treasurer of the US, Olivia Dickinson of Let Toys Be Toys, Shaddai Tembo, founder of Critical Early Years. Who had the most galvanising impact? Without doubt the Science Leadership Team from Gillespie Primary School. These children made their resentment of gender-stereotyped products and marketing very clear. Why do all girl dolls have long hair? Why when they go into bookshops are the boys directed to science books and the girls to fairy stories? Why should they feel judged when they go into toyshops? Yes indeed. Why?

Thursday, 4 October 2018

IBBY UK Honour List celebration

IBBY Honour awardLast’s week celebration of IBBY UK’s Honour List was very special. The IBBY Honour List is a biennial selection of outstanding, recently published books, honouring writers, illustrators and translators from IBBY member countries. It is one of the many ways through which IBBY encourages international understanding through children’s literature. Each national section of IBBY nominates three books, one for writing, one for illustration and one for translation. I was extremely privileged to be a member of the selection team for the 2018 UK list. The books toasted last week are all outstanding: for writing, Tender Earth by Sita Brahmachari (on the right in the photo); for illustration, I Am Henry Finch, illustrated by Viviane Schwarz (on the left), written by Alexis Deacon; for translation, Wildwitch Wildfire, translated by Charlotte Barslund (in the middle) from Danish, written by Lene Kaaberbol.

Charlotte translates from several Scandinavian languages, children’s, YA and adult books. She explained that she only takes a book on if she can hear it in English in her head at her first reading, and only if she ‘gets’ it in her heart, as each book takes several months to translate. It matters to her to have a good working relationship with her authors, and this was the case with Lene, a hugely popular author in Denmark. They have had many rich discussions about this first Wildwitch title and the subsequent ones in the series. Vocabulary is always a huge issue in translation. Danish, along with many other languages, has far fewer words than English. There are also cultural issues to consider: how to convey things that need no explanation to a native audience but may seem very strange to an English-speaking one. Her advice to new translators: always read as much and as widely as you possibly can in the language you are translating into, to improve your vocabulary and use of language.

Viviane was in celebratory mood, as her British citizenship had come through that day. She always drew from childhood, and had a comic published at thirteen. In her teens she was told she didn’t have a sense of humour (ironic, since humour is immensely important to her in her work, as she told us later), and she took to writing science fiction. Luckily someone advised her to be an illustrator. She trained in the UK as her native Germany had no suitable courses and was quickly published. She and Alexis Deacon have worked together on a number of books, in particular ‘books about small animals that explore big ideas’. It was she who suggested a finch as the protagonist for I Am Henry Finch. She loved depicting Henry’s development into a self-aware and philosophical little bird. The book remains one of her favourites, along with her Tiny Cat books. She gains a huge amount of ideas and inspiration from her creative workshops with children. She never aspired to be best at drawing, caring much more that children see that they too can be artists.

Sita told us that she hadn’t intended to write a third book about the artichoke charm that first appeared in Artichoke Hearts and was given away to a poor child in India at the end of Jasmine Skies, although children told her they didn’t like the story ending there. Several books later though, she returned to the theme. The first draft of all her books is very abstract and fairly incomprehensible. She and her editor then work together, something that suits Sita, with her collaborative theatre background. All her books draw on real world issues such as poverty and hunger. ‘We writers taste the news’ she said. Authenticity, integrity and respect are crucial to her and she does a great deal of research, for instance about bat-mizvahs for Tender Earth. It was a very emotional book to write because Simon, one of the characters, was based on a friend of hers who died. She is passionate about children having access to inclusive books, and appalled by the decline in school and public library provision.

tender earth bannerMany thanks to Chitra Soundar for this photo of Sita with one of Laila’s banners from Tender Earth.

A fascinating evening. And good news at the end that the IBBY UK nominations for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen award for 2019 are John Agard for writing and Helen Oxenbury for illustration. Two giants in the children’s book world!

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Children need libraries – quotes on their importance

DSCF1083#The current downgrading and closures of both school and public libraries will have terrible consequences. Here are some potent quotes on the crucial role of libraries and librarians in creating readers and learners.

At the moment we persuade a child, any child, to cross that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better. Barack Obama

Research provides compelling evidence that library usage is linked to reading levels among children and young people, and that library usage and reading, in turn, are important factors in literacy skill levels and general educational attainment. Evidence Review of the Economic Contribution of Libraries

The education that mattered most to me began when my mother first took me to the public library and I registered for my own hallowed ticket. Will Self 

Once a child learns to use a library, the doors to learning are always open. Laura Bush

Libraries are browsing places, dreaming places, finding out places. So much education takes place when children are making choices of their own. Michael Morpurgo

The child who knows his/her way round the library is the one most likely to become an avid reader. Wendy Cooling

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

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

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

Librarians open up the world ……. 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

Librarians are the custodians of literacy – they lay the stepping stones that start the journey from one book to another, widening horizons and the reading experience. Chris Riddell

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

Even the most misfitting child
Who’s chanced upon the library’s worth
Sits with the genius of the Earth
And turns the key to the whole world.
from ‘Hear it Again’ Ted Hughes

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Children’s reading: research, tips and articles

adult & girl in FoylesA new term, and there’s lots of children’s reading news and views to catch up on, illustrated with a lovely scene in a bookshop yesterday.

‘Digital text is changing how kids read, just not in the way that you think’ looks at the differences between online and print reading, and their relative merits.

‘Yes, teens are texting and using social media instead of reading books’ explores the impact and the prevalence of online reading in relation to teenagers.

In ‘Skim reading is the new normal’ reading expert Maryanne Wolf (author of Proust and the Squid) discusses the effect of digital reading on the brain.

A new study shows for the first time that heavy use of social media by children has been linked to lower levels of literacy.

‘Can you really teach children to love reading’ has lots of very useful tips. Libraries are rightly given a high profile.

There are loads of great ideas in children’s author Andy Seed’s Reading for Pleasure Manifesto. Highly recommended.

Have a look too at Elizabeth Hutchinson’s valuable blog on reading initiatives.

I found ‘How drama helps primary children understand books and stories’ interesting and useful.

‘Make sure your class book is age-appropriate’ examines the potential harm of teaching books that are beyond children’s age range.

‘Don’t bloody bore them: a guide to picking books for your class’ is well worth a read.

Finally, an inspiring story courtesy of the Guardian: ‘No turban, no sermon, just books for kids: meet Iran’s travelling cleric’.