Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Family learning – sources of information, ideas and inspiration

De Bohun 10 - 3#

New research shows that pupils whose parents take little interest in their learning are far more likely to drop out of school than their peers – one further piece of evidence of the value of supporting family learning. I was a family literacy tutor for many years and saw first hand the massive impact a family learning approach can have not just on skills, but also on attitudes and well-being. The photo is of a session I was involved in. With several courses on family learning coming up (some of them open to all interested practitioners) I’ve been looking again at the benefits and at successful strategies for engaging parents, carers and the wider family. I have found these valuable sources of information and good practice:

Bookstart
Booktrust
Campaign for Learning
DfE Review of Best Practice in Parental Engagement
Discovering New Worlds: Linking Family Activities and Events to Further Learning
Early Literacy Practices at Home
Family Learning
Family Learning Works: The Inquiry into Family Learning in England and Wales
Family Maths Toolkit
Family Matters: The Importance of Family Support for Young People’s Reading
Getting Children to Love Reading
Kids and Family Reading Report
Kids in Museums
Learning and Work Institute
National Family Learning Network
National Literacy Trust
Quick Reads
Reading for Pleasure
Springboard Parent’s Little Guide to Helping Children Read
Talking Point
Teacher Network Top Tips for Engaging Parents in Learning
Top Marks Reading Tips
Top Tips for Engaging Dads
Words for Life

Monday, 9 January 2017

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

Time for one of my regular round-ups of reading news. But first a wonderful quote from out-going US President Barack Obama: ‘Reading is important. If you know how to read, then the whole world opens up to you.’

reading-breakfast-summer-lane-primary-school-2

The Education Endowment Foundation has found that primary school breakfast clubs boost reading, writing and maths. Thank you to Summer Lane Primary School for the photo of one of their very successful family reading breakfasts.

Read On Get On has published an important strategy, aimed at improving literacy through focusing on reading enjoyment.

Booktrust Chief Executive Diana Gerald believes passionately in reading for pleasure and and in an article about its value argues strongly for children reading what they like. Joy Ballard makes a similar case in ‘Let the teens read Mills and Boon!’ Katie Ashford of Michaela School takes a very different view in ‘Easy books aren’t the route to a lifelong love of reading’. Do read the comment stream beneath this controversial piece.

New research shows that there are lots of girls struggling with reading. The big concern is comprehension.

Secondary school teachers, librarians, students and parents will find lots of ideas for inspiring reading an innovative booklist created by the librarians at Elmgreen School.

Teacher Jesse Buetow’s piece on using technology to inspire independent readers explores the value of student-created book ‘commercials’.

A recent study found interesting differences between reading paper books and screen reading with young children.

It’s well worth listening to this Radio 4 piece on children and ebooks, particularly Julia Eccelshare’s input.

To end, another great quote from Obama: ‘Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible.’

Monday, 12 December 2016

Children’s and young people’s reading – some inspiring quotes

2016-booksI’m an inveterate collector of quotes about books and reading. Here are some that I’ve recently added to my quotes haul, illustrated with a few of the books for children and young people that have stood out for me in 2016.

If you can’t read, you can’t do anything when you get older — you can’t fill in forms, you can’t do jobs, you can’t run your life. If you can’t read, it’s gonna be your downfall. 10 year-old boy quoted in the Evening Standard

I believe good readers make better engineers, and bakers, and surgeons, and parents and partners and are just a lot happier. Frank Cottrell Boyce

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark. Victor Hugo

People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does ….. Simply put, it’s a free oral vaccine for literacy. Jim Trelease

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore. It should be offered as a precious gift. Kate DiCamillo

Parents should leave books lying around marked ‘forbidden’ if they want their children to read. Doris Lessing

Books allow you to see the world through the eyes of others. Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while. Malorie Blackman

Books are human relationship builders. Michael Levine

I love the idea that children’s books can be bridges connecting people, showing them that however different someone else might be, the things which unite us are greater than those which divide us. And that difference can be a source of richness: something to be celebrated, not feared. SF Said

I don’t want to write for adults. I want to write for readers who can perform miracles. Only children perform miracles when they read. Astrid Lindgren

 

Friday, 18 November 2016

School libraries and their importance – recent news, views and articles

research-1Many thanks to Notre Dame School in Cobham for this lovely picture.

School libraries aren’t often in the media spotlight, but this week they have been. Brilliant that they are getting the attention they deserve. Too many heads and governing bodies see library cuts as an easy route to making savings, failing to realise that for short term gain they will sacrifice vital support for literacy, learning and well-being. Closures of school library services are also having a devastating impact. Few people can have failed to see the headlines about an illustrated letter Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell, with the backing of all eight former laureates, sent to Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, demanding action on school libraries and school library services.

Shirley Hughes was one of many children’s book creators to add their views: ‘It is vital that children should grow up, have the confidence to choose and share the books they like, access knowledge, scrutinise the illustrations at their own pace and become engrossed in a story, all with the help and encouragement of a school librarian. Government should be increasing funding to school libraries, not cutting it. No civilised country would do otherwise.’ This is SF Said: ‘If we care about literacy, EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL should have a library and a librarian.’

In a powerful article on the importance of libraries for children’s reading and learning for the Daily Telegraph headteacher Nigel Lashbrook says ‘Quite simply, school libraries, and their librarians, are critical to our children’s future. The level of development of the school library is a highly accurate predictor of academic success.’ Well worth reading.

Meanwhile in the Guardian school librarian Lucy Ivison has explained why cutting school libraries is a disastrous decision. School libraries change lives. They empower and educate children, and help with social mobility. With public libraries also being closed, we need their school counterparts more than ever.

Do also read the latest Talking About Books blog on the vital role school librarians play. ‘A room full of books can’t provide the accessibility to reading without a guiding hand, a guiding voice.’ I am delighted the author highlights librarians’ support for comprehension and inference.

Barbara Band wrote a useful blog at the start of term on the unique position of a school librarian. I was also interested to read an American teacher’s view on the value of school librarians.

Finally, a wonderful story about a school library in a converted tube carriage.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Marvellous Imaginations: Extending Thinking through Picture Books

As ever it was great to be at the NCRCL/IBBY national conference at the weekend. I’m a huge fan of picture books and all they offer, and make sure they feature highly on lots of my training courses training courses, so I loved the fact that the day was all about them.

klausThis is Klaus Flugge, long-standing champion of innovative picture books, with IBBY’s John Dunne and a cake in honour of Andersen Press’s 40th birthday.

Picture book expert Martin Salisbury was the first speaker. He talked compellingly about the importance of visual thinking. He celebrated the increasing blurring of the lines between writing and illustration and championed today’s pioneering breed of picture book makers who help readers see and understand the world in exciting new ways. He showed us some fabulous illustrated texts – I was delighted that one of these was The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head by Daisy Hirst – and threw in some very pertinent quotes. Here’s Saul Steinberg: ‘Drawing is a way of reasoning on paper.’ This is Corbusier: ‘I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster, and leaves less room for lies.’

Lecturer Vivienne Smith told us picture books can and should be play. She drew out the parallels between them. Play in early years education is freely chosen and self-directed, spontaneous, whole-hearted, creative and imaginative, explorative, and a context in which learning happens. Exploration and playfulness are certainly not embraced in current discourse around reading, yet they are how children learn. Practitioners should aim to create playful readers, to combat the impression children can now get all too easily, that reading is just about getting the words right. Children need playful books that playfully challenge their thinking and help them learn they can make a difference. ‘Playful reading animates texts; roots texts in the imagination; allows texts to become significant and useful to the reader. Play gives texts an afterlife.’

We were then privileged to hear an inspiring panel of speakers discuss the power of picture books to develop children’s thinking, understanding and empathy. Miranda McKearney of Empathy Lab, Nicky Parker of Amnesty International, Harriet Goodman from Philosophy for Children and the chair, author Sita Brahmachari extolled picture books for providing a platform for raising questions and helping children to explore abstract ideas and concepts, as well as difficult issues and emotions. Picture books can fuel a sense of social justice and teach children that more unites than divides us. Mirror by Jeannie Baker and There’s a Bear on My Chair by Ross Collins, both of which I love and use a lot, were held up as just two examples. Picture books can create compassionate and critical thinkers who grasp the meaning of fairness and will be better able to stand up against bigotry and violence. Wonderful stuff!

Parallel session followed, and I was inspired again by the one I attended on how an international collection of silent picture books (or books without borders, to use Sita Brahmachari’s excellent phrase for wordless picture books) has been used to enormous effect with migrant children in Lampadusa and has galvanised children in a village in southern France. How moving to see the picture books the French children made for the children in Lampadusa being handed over. The IBBY Silent Books project aims to promote books as a tool for integration. Lovely to hear some of the ways in which that aim is being fulfilled.

Lunch next, and a chance to catch up with friends and colleagues, and to talk to some inspiring publishers. Then we heard lots of very positive NCRCL and IBBY news. The IBBY international congress in New Zealand sounded amazing.

It was good after this to listen to two illustrators talk about their craft. Laura Carlin and Carol Thompson were very interesting on the huge amount of thought and creativity they put into their books, so that they give enjoyment and provoke thinking and understanding.

Next Louise John Shepherd and Charlotte Hacking from CLPE explained the Power of Pictures project. This is helping teachers discover good picture book creators and learn how to read picture books, particularly interpreting the pictures. It is giving them confidence to use them and providing ideas for exploring them with their pupils. I frequently talk about the value of picture books in terms of inference and critical thinking, so was pleased to hear these benefits highlighted. I really liked this quote too, from Perry Nodelman: ‘The words tell us what the pictures don’t show, and the pictures show us what the words don’t tell us.’

I used to be a volunteer with the Reader Organisation, so was very pleased Jane Davies, its founder, was speaking. After telling everyone about the brilliant shared reading approach, and a wonderful project with looked after children, she outlined the latest Reader initiative, a fabulous story barn in Liverpool, ‘a place where reading helps imagination run wild’. I really want to visit it.

The conference drew to an end with a brief speech from Nicholas John Frith, winner of the inaugural Klaus Flugge prize for the most exciting newcomer to picture books illustration, and then that amazing cake. What a day!