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

Friday, 12 January 2018

News and articles about children’s reading

Hampton LibraryThis is the very welcoming children’s area of Hampton Library in Peterborough, where I gave a course this week on encouraging a love of books and reading in the early years. I’m currently planning next week’s follow-up on supporting reading in the primary years. Because of all the training I give on children’s and young people’s reading, I always like to keep up to date with latest research. Here’s the news I’ve come across in the last couple of months, along with a number of valuable articles.

The government has pledged £120 million to tackle the early years word gap.

They are also planning ‘English hubs’ and phonics roadshows to boost literacy, news that has been met with a certain amount of cynicism and anger, in the light of mass closures of libraries.

Northern Ireland and England schools are now in the global top ten for reading. However, analysis by NFER demonstrates that the improvement on previous years is small and that England has an above average number of children who do not like reading.

New research shows that over 750,000 UK children have no books of their own, a worrying statistic as children without books are fifteen times less likely to be good readers.

One in five parents of primary children spend no time reading with their children and over half spend less than an hour a week reading to them. Meanwhile a third think their children don’t read enough books. If only they saw the connection! (I missed this news in September, so am including it here.)

Another new report shows that children’s levels of reading enjoyment and daily reading frequency are both lower than their levels of cognitive reading skills.

It’s always interesting and useful to see the annual International Literacy Association What’s Hot in Literacy survey.

Do read Geoff Barton’s article ‘I salute the teachers, TAs and librarians who inspire a love of reading in children for whom books are alien’. Great to see librarians given due recognition. I applaud this too: ‘We need also to celebrate schools that maintain a commitment to wide-ranging, joyful reading for pleasure, rather than texts deployed merely for comprehension and analysis.’

Rob Smith has written about the importance of letting children enjoy being read to and reading for themselves without always having to answer questions, write reviews, or do some other ‘work thing’.

School librarian of the year Lucas Maxwell has blogged for Booktrust about ways social media can connect students with authors they love.

Lots of useful ideas in teacher Jon Biddle’s two most recent blogs: ‘Ideas for encouraging peer recommendations in the classroom’ and ‘Reading buddies’.

I very much like Imogen Russell Williams’ article on the benefits of illustration in children’s books, which includes excellent book recommendations.

Teresa Cremin has written a valuable piece on the need for teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature to be widened.

Finally, again from Lucas Maxwell, a tale of reluctant readers and a book.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Wonderful quotes about books and reading

Lana 1For my last blog of the year, some of my favourite quotes about books and reading, illustrated with one of my favourite family photos.

There are many ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play. Philip Pullman

Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger. Ben Okri

A book is a place where children can try on all the lives they haven’t got. Margaret Meek

Children’s books can be bridges connecting people. S F Said

Books allow you to see the world through the eyes of others. Reading is an exercise in empathy. Malorie Blackman

Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood. John Green

Reading is the most powerful gift we can give a child: it puts stardust in their imaginations. Emma Cox

I guess that’s the beauty of books. When they finish they don’t really finish. Markus Zusak

Reading is a first class ticket to the outer limits of your imagination. Juno Dawson

Books are, let’s face it, better than everything else. Nick Hornby

You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book. Dr Seuss

Literacy is the bridge from misery to hope. Kofi Annan

Reading gives you knowledge, it gives you power. Andy McNabb

Our books and out pens are the most powerful weapons. Malala Yousafzai

Books are for life, not just for homework. Keith Gray

Read. Read anything… Just read. Neil Gaiman

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Literacy and language news and articles

Carrickmacross Library This is the children’s area in Carrickmacross Library in Monaghan County, the lovely venue for a course on reading for pleasure that I gave this week – a fitting illustration for my latest round-up of language and literacy news.

A call has been made for early language development to be prioritised as a well-being indicator to try to bridge the big gap in early language development between children in low-income and better-off households, which gets worse with age, and has major consequences.

A new study indicates that babies as young as six months old may realise certain words are related, and that interaction with adults boosts understanding.

Watching television or playing with smart phone apps does not have any effect on children’s language development, providing they still spend time reading, researchers have found.

Justine Greening has unveiled a new network to boost early literacy.

The gap in reading and writing scores between poorer children and their more advantaged classmates has widened slightly at age 7.

Oral language is key to reading, says literacy expert Dr Jessie Ricketts, but the subject is sorely neglected in schools, and pupils could be missing out on progression as a result.

The Department for Education’s promotion of synthetic phonics can be damaging to early readers and is seriously flawed, according to Dr Andrew Davis of the University of Durham’s school of education.

Research by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies shows that reading improves teenagers’ vocabulary, whatever their background. The lead author says: “The link between reading for pleasure and better vocabularies suggests that if young people are encouraged to discover a love for books, it could alter the course of their lives, regardless of their background.”

The new HMCI, Amanda Spielman, has expressed concerns about the curriculum narrowing both at primary and secondary level. Here is some of what she says in relation to KS2 SATs preparation and reading: “Testing in school clearly has value. This kind of test is intended to measure the child’s ability to comprehend. However, the regular taking of test papers does little to increase a child’s ability to comprehend. A much better use of time is to teach and help children to read and read more. Additionally, the books that teachers read to children need to be more challenging than those the children are picking up themselves.”

Sarah Hubbard, Her Majesty’s Inspector, and National Lead for English, has written about the English curriculum.

‘Ideas for encouraging peer recommendations in the classroom’ by primary teacher Jon Biddle has lots of great strategies for creating a buzz about reading.

A scheme in Blackpool is helping more fathers read with their children every day. This video makes lovely viewing.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Reading for information – inspiring quotes for National Non-Fiction November on fostering children’s curiosity

NFI’m delighted that one of the courses I’m giving this week is on reading for information, perfect in National Non-Fiction November. These are some of the great books we’ll be looking at, all brilliant for developing curiosity.

I love all the quotes here. They demonstrate the value and importance of nurturing enquiring minds, and give some useful pointers into how to do it – not least harnessing the power of libraries and librarians.

  • ‘I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.’ Eleanor Roosevelt
  • ‘Curiosity is the engine of achievement.’ Ken Robinson
  • ‘The most reliable predictor of achievement is a hungry mind.’ Sophie von Stumm
  • ‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited.’ Plutarch
  • ‘Reading for information is about thinking, wondering, and sometimes understanding, with the ever-present possibility of being unsettled.’ Margaret Meek
  • ‘If we are to motivate children to go through the research process, then we must ensure that their curiosity is stimulated, by exposing them to new information or ideas that cause them to want to know more.’ Jeni Riley and David Reedy
  • ‘It is not the answer that enlightens but the question.’ Eugène Ionescu
  • ‘The essential move in learning is to transform information to understanding.’ Margaret Meek
  • ‘Libraries offer the arsenal in the war of understanding.’ Mal Peet
  • ‘Librarians open up the world. Knowledge is useless if you don’t even know where to begin to look. 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
  • ‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’ Dr Seuss

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Reading dogs

Fifteen or more years ago my late brother-in-law, an inspirational primary school headteacher and adviser, told me about the amazing impact his dog was having on pupils’ reading. Children who struggled with reading, and for whom reading aloud was a humiliating ordeal, happily read to Buddy. Nick saw their confidence, behaviour and skills surge. The key, of course, was that Buddy was friendly and cuddly and non-judgemental (also deaf, though the children didn’t know that).

reading dog - Townhill Community School & Swansea Library ServiceIn those days the concept of a reading dog was pretty revolutionary. Happily that has changed. The value of reading dogs is now widely attested. I was reminded of Nick and Buddy when Carole Billingham, Swansea Children and Youth Librarian, shared this great picture at a course of mine on special educational needs that she attended. Her dog Stella lives up to her starry name when she helps struggling readers in the library and local schools. I loved hearing about Stella’s transformative effect on children’s language and literacy skills, and on their motivation and well-being. The children here are from Townhill Community School.

Please, Sir – sit! The tale of a learning support dog’ quotes research that children who read to listening dogs show an increase in reading levels, word recognition, a higher desire to read and write, and an increase in intra and interpersonal skills.

In ‘How these adorable dogs are helping children love reading’ Jaki Brien, a volunteer for Therapy Dogs, describes what happens in reading sessions with her dog, and how and why they change children’s attitudes and aptitudes.

‘Children urged to read to dogs, perfect listeners’ highlights the therapeutic as well as literacy benefits of reading dogs. ‘Meet the dogs who help children learn to read’ reports children’s emotional intelligence growing alongside their vocabulary.

Wonderful!