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

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

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

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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.

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