Category archives: children’s and young people’s reading

Monday, 2 July 2018

Children’s language and literacy – a round-up of recent news, research and articles

overview - book awardI loved attending last week’s Redbridge Children’s Book Award ceremony. The buzz around books and reading was palpable, so this photo is the ideal illustration for my final language and literacy news round-up of the school year.

A new study shows that language ability at school entry is an important predictor of student outcomes.

‘What’s going on in your child’s brain when you read them a story’ is interesting and useful.

The Education Endowment Foundation has published an important new report ‘Preparing for literacy’, focusing on the teaching of communication, language and literacy to children between three and five.

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has recently spoken about how vital reading and literacy more widely are in the early years. ‘Reading empowers children …… when you make a reader, you give them the world.’

In ‘Why aren’t children reading in schools’ Barbara Band analyses the reasons children may not be readers, and what to do about it, not least a school librarian ‘recognised as a valued professional colleague with specific skills and expertise’.

‘How can schools promote reading for pleasure?’ is well worth reading.

Clare Sealy makes important points about the necessity for daily reading aloud and highlights other reading for pleasure strategies in ‘We must promote reading for pleasure at primary school’.

‘On selecting better read alouds’ by Pernille Ripp has lots of valuable ideas.

In ‘Why asking how to get boys reading might be the wrong question’ author Jason Reynolds suggests that we need to listen to young people if we want to encourage them to get reading.

Do have a look at ‘For some children, reading feels like a cryptic code. We can help them crack it’.

I was very struck by ‘Vocabulary: What does it mean to know a word?’, which explores how to help children gain a strong understanding of words.

The International Literacy Association has published a useful report on reading fluency: ‘Reading fluently does not mean reading fast’.

Ali  Sparkes has three terms’ worth of practical suggestions in ‘Making the most of your author visit in primary’.

RedbridgeThat mention of author visits brings me back to last week’s ceremony, where children’s author Polly Ho-Yen wowed everyone with her passion for reading and writing and her humour. It was great too to hear Mayor Debbie Kaur-Thiara’s heartfelt belief in the power of reading, libraries and the summer reading challenge.

Monday, 25 June 2018

What characterises a good reader?

Sam & Jessie plus book

I often ask participants on training courses what characterises a good reader. It’s not at all an easy question, and there many possible answers.

At a conference recently Ofsted defined good readers as children who can:

•  see images
•  hear a reading voice
•  speculate and predict what happens next
•  ask questions and pass comments
•  empathise and relate what they read to their own experience
•  read and re-read sentences, searching for meaning
•  continually re-interpret as they read
•  enjoy multiple meanings and ambiguity
•  notice and interpret patterns (visual, verbal, aural, thematic, figurative)
•  relate what they have read to their own experience
•  relation their reading to their previous reading experience
•  have a range of reading strategies they can draw on
•  analyse and articulate their own reading processes
•  pass judgments on likes and dislikes
•  take time to think about a text, rather than rushing to judgment
•  read texts in different ways for different purposes

The Ofsted list is useful and thought-provoking. The absence of any reference to enjoyment concerns me deeply though. As you can probably tell from my choice of photo to accompany this, I think children can be good readers even before they have learnt to read.

I found children’s author Piers Torday’s Twitter response to the Ofsted definition inspiring. Alternatively, he wrote, a good reader is also someone who can

•  laugh
•  cry
•  sit on edge of seat
•  wonder
•  think about the world
•  throw the book across the room in rage
•  feel inspired
•  escape reality
•  imagine other lives and experiences
•  close the book and still be somewhere else for a brief moment

Yes, yes, yes!

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Picture books and their value – and some useful websites and publications

KFP2

I was very lucky to attend the Klaus Flugge Prize shortlist announcement last week. The prize is for the most promising and exciting newcomer to children’s picture book illustration. These are the books in contention.

I’m a huge fan of picture books. They have an enormous role to play for children of all ages. Is there any better route into reading for pleasure? Surely there is no aspect of literacy they do not benefit. Picture books are great for building empathy, and for supporting every area of social and emotional development. They increase children’s knowledge and understanding of the world. They develop thinking skills. They stimulate curiosity, imagination and creativity.

I felt very privileged to write a guest blog ‘In praise of picture books’ for the wonderful charity Give a Book recently. It gave me the opportunity to try to encapsulate all they offer and think through good practice in using them. They are on my mind again now as I am in the midst of preparing a picture books training course. All this has made me realise it might be useful to list some online and printed resources about picture books that I find particularly valuable.

Lauren ChildAt the start of this I mentioned the shortlisting event last week. Lauren Child gave a delightful talk about her development as an illustrator. This is one of the pictures she shared. How lovely to discover that the wall here is a National Trust one. She photographed that beautiful sky in Hackney. And the plants? They were growing in a New York allotment.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Children’s reading news – a round-up of recent research and articles

mso98AE2There’s been lots of reading-related news recently. This is my latest round-up, illustrated with a delightful old family photo.

New research highlights an increasing vocabulary deficiency in UK schools.

A study shows that the benefits of reading aloud to children include behaviour and attention.

‘Three strategies to engage primary pupils in reading’ looks at the importance of peer reading, regular read-alouds and auditing school reading materials.

An American expert suggests that reading aloud is valuable in high school for breaking down equity barriers.

‘Why do children read more? The influence of reading ability on voluntary reading practices’ is well worth looking at.

‘Reading for pleasure: a different king of rigour’ explores primary class provision that makes a difference.

‘What teachers need to know about shared reading’ explores the benefits of shared reading in the early years and beyond.

‘The 9 essential components of a KS2 reading scheme’ is useful. I would add an attractive, well-stocked and well-promoted school library to the list.

‘Why are boys from low income families more likely to disengage with reading?’ suggests teachers’ stereotypes can affect boys’ engagement with reading.

Here are a school librarian’s top tips for inspiring pupils to read.

Finally, do take a looks at these two videos, the first about how Eileen Littlewood, headteacher at Forthview Primary School, built a reading culture at her school and the second on how shared reading can help younger readers (and the older ones too).

Friday, 23 February 2018

Language and literacy news and articles

mso64805There have been lots of useful articles and reports about children’s language and literacy development and ways to support them published in the last couple of months. Here’s a round-up.

Important new research shows that engaging young children in conversation is more valuable for brain development than ‘dumping words’ on them.

An analysis has recently been published exploring whether screens help or hinder language development in the early years.

We know that children’s language and literacy is immensely enhanced by being read to, so it is sad to see that only half of pre-school children are being read to every day.

Reading aloud is of course not just important for young children. ‘Encouraging a love of reading in a culture of assessment’ by parent Brian Gesko is moving and valuable.

Disturbing National Literacy Trust research highlights a huge gap in life expectancy between children in areas of good and poor literacy.

Do read ‘The best way to start closing the attainment gap between poor kids and their peers? Reading, reading, reading’ by head teacher Colin Harris.

It’s also well worth looking at this article showing how literacy skills have significantly improved as a result of the reading for pleasure scheme in Renfrewshire primary schools.

Primary English lead Rachel Lopiccolo suggests five ways to boost reading for pleasure in primary schools.

There are valuable ideas in ‘Why every class needs read alouds’. I love this: ‘The read aloud is like the Swiss Army knife of literacy; it has multiple uses at every age and in every content area.’

The ever-useful Scottish Book Trust lists some creative ways to get primary children to respond to books.

‘Fascinating rhythm’ is interesting on the value of rhythm for dyslexic and other children for phonemic awareness, reading fluency and wider learning, and ways to embed it.

A new report that tells us secondary school students are reading well below their reading level has received considerable press coverage, for instance this Guardian piece. It’s important to note however that this research is based solely on data from the Accelerated Reader project, and many have questioned its accuracy as a national picture.

‘Don’t knock kids for rereading books. Encourage them to read, full stop’ is a thoughtful response to the report and its reception by the director of the English and Media Centre.