Monday, 27 January 2020

Children’s and young people’s reading – recent reports and research

IMG_3461The latest PISA report was published last month. These are some key national and international findings relating to reading:

  • The UK is now 13th in OECD in terms of 15 year-olds’ reading scores.
  • However pupils in all countries of the UK have more negative attitudes towards reading than the OECD average.
  • Less than 1 in 10 students in OECD countries is able to differentiate facts and opinions.
  • Girls significantly outperform boys in reading on average across OECD countries. The gender gap in the UK is less than the OECD average.

The World Bank and UN report that 90% of children in the world’s poorest countries cannot read a basic book by the age of 10 (whereas in rich countries only 9% cannot do so by the same age).

According to the International Literacy Association’s latest ‘What’s Hot in Literacy’ report the top five most critical issues in literacy education, as selected by respondents, are

  1. Building early literacy skills through a balanced approach that combines both foundational and language comprehension instruction
  2. Determining effective instructional strategies for struggling readers
  3. Increasing equity and opportunity for all learners
  4. Increasing professional learning and development opportunities for
    practicing educators
  5. Providing access to high-quality, diverse books and content

National Literacy Trust research shows that more than 380,000 children in the UK do not own a single book. It matters, because children who own books are six times more likely to read above the level expected for their age and nearly three times more likely to enjoy reading.

Children’s publisher Egmont has produced a paper on trends and challenges in reading for pleasure, based on extensive research. It identifies three key things that create an environment that discourages reading for pleasure:

  • School: the curriculum makes reading a subject to learn, not something to do for fun
  • Screens: increasing time on screen means less time for reading and other activities
  • Parents: lack of awareness that they need to read to their children beyond the point at which the child can read independently

The benefits of parents reading to children are of course well known. New research proves that children have sharper vocabulary skills by age 3 when parents read with them early on.

A recent study concludes that there is little or no evidence that teaching phonics improves reading.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Bedtime reading


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


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