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

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A round-up of recent news and articles about children’s and young people’s reading

manchester girl readingI’ve always loved the Reading Girl statue by Giovanni Ciniselli in Manchester Central Library. The perfect illustration for my latest haul of children’s reading news.

The National Literacy Trust’s important annual literacy survey has just been published. Great to see that rates of reading for pleasure continue to rise. Sadly, though, 40% of 8-18 year-olds enjoy reading little or not at all, with significantly more boys than girls in this camp, far more secondary age students than key stage 2 pupils, and more pupils from white ethnic backgrounds than other ethnic backgrounds. Pupils who enjoy reading were found, not surprisingly, to spend more time reading, to read more widely, to have higher reading scores and better comprehension.

Reading with children starting in infancy gives lasting literacy boost. Shared book-reading that begins soon after birth may translate into higher language and vocabulary skills before elementary school, according to US research.

Children’s reading improves if parents have positive views about their potential and are given ways to support reading effectively at home. A new survey shows big benefits to funding parental support for reading, especially for boys.

There are lots of excellent tips for raising a reader from the New York Times.

Do listen to Dr Vivienne Smith talking about why reading is important, not least for empathy and mental health.

Author and former teacher Jo Cotterill has great ideas for developing reading for pleasure. I also recommend this Scottish Book Trust blog on the subject.

A tweet by year 5 teacher Lauren Butterworth demonstrates how important it is to model reading behaviour: ‘The biggest influence on reading for pleasure in my class has been me reading – the kids love asking me questions.’

‘The essential components of a KS2 reading scheme’ is full of valuable pointers. The final essential on the list? A teacher who loves reading.

One of my greatest joys at primary school was when teachers read to us, and I loved it especially when it happened outside. A recent article explores the value of taking reading lessons into the open air.

Many primary schools are moving away from the carousel guided reading model. For teachers looking for guidance on this ‘How I teach whole class reading’ is useful, as is ‘ How to switch to whole class guided reading’.

Boys’ reading attainment is frequently addressed. A recent article suggests that girls’ reading problems often fall beneath the radar.

An anonymous English teacher ponders on the implications of the lack of reading by English teachers. It’s well worth reading the comments too, and this response from another English teacher.

New research demonstrates that children’s learning and comprehension do not differ between printed and digital books. Comprehension is dependent on content, not medium.

‘Inappropriate content’ is a useful discussion between an author and a bookseller about why age banding children’s books is unhelpful.

Last but definitely not least, an inspiring animation from We Love Reading.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Entrepreneurs Tackling Illiteracy – Project Literacy Lab

project literacyThis is the august Royal Institution, venue for last week’s exciting Project Literacy Lab event, which I felt very privileged to attend.

Project Literacy is an international partnership between Unreasonable Group and Pearson which aims to eliminate global illiteracy by 2030, by helping entrepreneurs deliver successful rapid growth ventures. Given that over 758 million people, 10% of the world’s population, lack basic literacy, it’s an exceptionally ambitious target. A year on from its inception, Project Literacy already touches the lives of over 10 million people across 30 countries. The entrepreneurs’ brief TED-style presentations about their ventures were inspiring, with lots of moving stories. One that has stayed with me was of a grandfather engaged in an anti-recidivism project determined to learn to read so he could read to his granddaughter. Some of the initiatives develop children’s and/or adults’ literacy skills directly, in several cases through brilliant apps and other accessible technology. Mobile phones have a reach that was previously unimaginable. Other projects do not tackle illiteracy head on, but nevertheless have a major impact. By making solar lighting available in homes with no access to the electric grid, Angaza enables children to study after sunset. The affordable, reusable sanitary pads produced by AFRIpads mean girls no longer skip school or drop out due to lack of menstrual products.

Literacy is vital, for individuals and for societies. Nisha Ligon of Ubongo, a great educational entertainment programme, said ‘once children learn to read, they can read to learn’. Entrepreneur and Project Literacy co-founder Daniel Epstein spoke of the link between literacy and life expectancy. Lily Cole, Project Literacy’s amabassador, told us the rate of violent crime is double among illiterate people, and that literacy is key to combating radicalisation and AIDS. Infant mortality goes down 30% if mothers are literate.

An amazing afternoon.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Children’s books in translation

IBBYI was very lucky to attend the IBBY UK event on books in translation this week. Translator and children’s book expert Daniel Hahn chaired a fascinating panel discussion with Helen Wang, winner of the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation for her translation of Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxaun; Joy Court, books editor of The School Librarian and co-editor with Daniel of Riveting Reads: A World of Books in Translation; and Sarah Ardizzone, whose renditions into English of a wide variety of French books have won many plaudits and prizes. (I made a very small contribution to the Riveting Reads book, championing Sarah’s superb translation of Alpha by Barroux.)

The panellists talked first about the importance of children’s books in translation. Without them children miss out. They miss out both on books that are culturally specific and books that are universal. Children need books that are windows, doors and mirrors, Joy said, quoting the famous words of Rudine Sims Bishop. Children have the right to be omnivorous, Sarah told us, paraphrasing her own translation of part of Daniel Pennac’s wonderful book The Rights of the Reader.

People often think of translated books as worthy, but thankfully most are not. They are just great reads. Thankfully too, the amount of books available is growing, though publishers rarely see a good financial return on them. Prizes for books in translation raise their profile and give translators the validation they deserve. Books in translation can now be nominated for the Carnegie and Greenaway awards which has increased their exposure. One, Wild Animals of the North by Dieter Braun and translated by Jen Calleja, reached the Greenaway shortlist this year. Hopefully the Riveting Reads publication will also build awareness of the wealth of fabulous titles that children can enjoy.

It was particularly interesting to hear about the role of the translator. Daniel described it as a mix of artistry, craft and creativity. Translators need to be editors. As Joy said, the literary quality of a translated book is all down to the skills of the translator. Translating the words is just the start of the process, Sarah explained. Helen spoke about the work involved – seven drafts to achieve something that reads well. All asserted in one way or another that the key is to be true to the spirit rather than the letter of the original text. Metaphors are apparently particularly tricky. We heard that it is crucial not to over-edit: not to produce a book that is beautiful to read but smoothes out the quirks of the original. The quirks can be what make a book, but translating them into the appropriate vernacular is an extremely hard task.

A great evening, full of insights, and very thought-provoking. Thank you IBBY!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Recent news and articles about children’s and young people’s reading

IMG_3406I love this picture, Jeune fille lisant by Simon Simon-Auguste, which I came across in the art gallery in Troyes in France last summer. It seems the perfect illustration for my latest round-up of reading news.

‘How reading impacts your kid’s brain’ pulls together research on the benefits of reading for brain development, mental health and even life expectancy.

‘Learning to read is a complex process, so we need to make sure that it isn’t reduced to one strategy’ identifies methods for helping young children engage with the written word.

There are more good ideas for making reading fun in the early years in ‘Making storytime special.’

In ‘Why whole-class reading beats a carousel – and seven ways to ensure it is successful’ a KS2 teacher explains his preference for whole-class reading sessions over guided reading, and lists key ingredients for making them work.

A US study demonstrates that classroom book collections arranged by topic rather than by level increase children’s reading skills, motivation and enjoyment.

The International Literacy Association’s annual What’s Hot in Literacy survey highlights significant mismatches between what is currently hot in literacy teaching and what should be.

New research indicates that print books remain more popular with children than reading from screens. The study also discovered that the more devices a child has access to, the less they read.

‘Print matters’ explores the reasons for children’s and families’ preference for print over digital reading. Parents and children like the physicality of printed books and enjoy the emotional closeness of sharing them.

However, the way children read changes with age. Whereas 9-12 year-olds read offline for twice as long as online, 13-16 year-olds spend double the amount of time reading online, according to a new Childwise report. The report also found that a third of 15-16 year-olds say they never read, compared to 5% of 9-10 year-olds, and that boys are almost twice as likely never to read as girls (20%, compared to 11%).

I was delighted by a headteacher’s piece on why she asks interviewees what they are reading. ‘I need teachers who have a rich hinterland, and who can encourage reading in children. I want them to have read enough books not to be embarrassed when faced with a class reader. I want them to be keen to enter another world for a bit, and I want them to do it for themselves.’

Finally, do read this heart-warming letter from teacher Jon Biddle to his class.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Supporting looked after children’s reading and wider learning

boy-with-letterbox-blue-parcelI love giving training on looked after children. I’ve been very privileged in the last couple of months to provide courses for foster carers, designated teachers and virtual school staff, and I very much enjoyed giving a workshop for Letterbox Club last week. If you haven’t heard of it, Letterbox Club is a wonderful scheme run by Booktrust that posts books and learning-rich games and activities to looked after children.

Most children and young people in the care system have experienced trauma, loss and disruption. A high proportion suffer mental health problems. Low self-esteem and low self-confidence are commonplace, as are high anxiety levels. It doesn’t help that aspirations for looked after children are often low. All of these are significant barriers to learning. But having worked with many inspiring carers and professionals (teachers, social workers, librarians and museum workers) over the years, I know that with the right support looked after children can and do thrive, educationally and socially and emotionally.

It’s always a delight to hear carers talk about how they support learning. It’s the everyday things that often make the biggest difference to looked after children’s attitudes to learning. Things like cooking together, looking up information together, going to the shops, gardening, kicking a football around together, doing puzzles together, playing board games, playing computer games. Visits to the library and to museums can be transformative. Carers can be fabulous role models. Recent Booktrust research shows a correlation between the amount that foster carers read themselves and the amount that the children they look after read. Lots of children who enter the care system have poor reading levels for their ages, but I am not surprised that the Booktrust survey demonstrates that the longer a child has been in foster care, the longer they have been living with their foster carer and the older they become, the more likely they are to be average or above average in their reading level for their age. Enjoyment is key. Enjoying reading together, whether from books, comics, magazines, newspapers, catalogues or anything else has enormous impact. So does having lots of engaging reading materials that tie into individual interests lying around. These words of a carer highlight the power of books in foster homes: ‘We all had a go at Where’s Wally. Even the teenagers wanted to have a go.’

For anyone interested, here is a peer-reviewed article on looked-after children and reading I wrote.