Category archives: early years

Monday, 27 February 2017

Family learning takes many forms – a photographic overview

A little while ago I blogged about the importance of family learning and gave some links to sources of information. This time, I thought I would share a few of the photos I showed on a recent course on the topic for an inspiring group of community development workers, children’s centre staff and library staff. They give an indication of the many forms good family learning can take.Golders Green rhyme time 2Rhyme times are fabulous in terms of fun, and for developing social and emotional skills and language. This is a great one run by Barnet Libraries.Family Drop-in 003Enjoyable activities like this drop-in event at Orleans House Gallery support family bonding and give ideas for things to do at home.Bedtime reading event - 3There’s nothing to beat story times for building a love of books and reading. Lots of engagement in this Bromley Libraries bedtime story hour.Marlborough session 3 -2Everyone enjoys creative activites, and they support social and artistic skills. I was very lucky to be part of Historic Royal Palaces’ Curious Stories project.DSCN0274I loved contributing to this Barnet Libraries project. Lots of fun, and everyone got a real sense of achievement, an important aspect of family learning.Fitz & Museum of Classical Archaeology 1For family learning to work it must be enjoyable. This is a wonderful collaboration between the Museum of Classical Archaeology and Fitzwilliam Museum.cardiff storyResearch shows that family learning supports well-being. You can see how it happens in these photos from a Cardiff Story event.Liverpool & Enfield 2Family learning is inclusive and intergenerational. Don’t forget grandparents! These photos were taken at events in Liverpool and Enfield libraries.prehistoric animalLots of good family learning is very informal, as in this event at Crealy Adventure Park mounted by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum.Oak20Lastly, a reminder that play is an important part of family learning activities. Here is an Enfield Libary Service toddler time.

Family learning is transformative. For anyone interested in finding out more about its benefits and ways to support it effectively, there are still places available on two courses I’m giving later this term: Sheffield on 23 March and Cardiff on 28 March. I also deliver bespoke in-service family learning training for local authorities, schools, museums, and other organisations.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Rhymes and rhyme times and their value

golders-green-rhyme-time-1I have lots of training coming up on supporting reading in the Early Years Foundation Stage, and on working with babies and under fives in museums. Preparing them has got me thinking again about how important rhymes and rhyme times are. Then just today, I had a request for a rhyme time course.

There’s no question that young children love rhyme times, and that parents and carers value them greatly. The photo here of a wonderful session I attended in a Barnet library demonstrates just how special they are. There is also no question about the support they give for children’s well-being, their learning and their overall development. Research and anecdotal evidence show that they benefit:

•    social skills
•    self-esteem and confidence
•    attention and concentration
•    memory
•    imagination
•    physical coordination and motor skills
•    cognitive development
•    understanding of the world
•    numeracy
•    communication skills
•    speaking and listening skills
•    literacy
•    phonological awareness
•    vocabulary
•    comprehension

Quite a list! You might also be interested to read a recent article on the value of music and rhyme for children’s literacy development and another one on how using stories, songs and rhymes can support mental health.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Children’s and young people’s reading: recent news and views

dog readingLots of serious news and views to come, but I couldn’t resist starting with a story about a dog that’s learnt to read.

New OECD data tells us that young people in England have lowest literacy levels in developed world. As a trainer who specialises in children’s and young people’s reading, I am always keen to explore ways to make reading more accessible, attractive and worthwhile. Digital reading surely has a big part to play.

I felt very privileged to attend this fascinating debate on children’s reading in the digital age. Well worth watching, to find out how good use of technology has the power to bridge the alarming literacy gaps in the UK.

The National Literacy Trust reported in December that e-books make a particular difference to boys’ reading. The report prompted a BBC exploration of the place of e-books in schools.

A new survey by Booktrust found that families prefer printed books and lots of parents have qualms about digital reading. Chief executive Diana Gerald points out its benefits, when used in partnership with printed books.

I would completely agree with this, and we are immensely lucky in this country to have wonderful children’s books at our disposal.

Michael Rosen is fascinating on what children learn from picture books and how.

Here’s the Canadian Paediatric Society on why it’s never too early to start reading with children.

A recent study found that toddlers could be ready to begin reading lessons at 3. Without doubt we should encourage a love of books from babyhood onwards, but let’s make sure that’s what the emphasis is about, not reading lessons. I was very interested to read parent Sally Marks lamenting the focus on phonics drilling at home. ‘Let’s leave phonics to schools and curl up with a good book instead.’

If we want to ensure children feel positively about reading, we must of course read to them, and not just when they are very young. Do check out this inspirational TED talk by teacher Rebecca Bellingham on why it matters.

I also strongly recommend a great series of vlogs by author Phil Earle for Booktrust. I so agree with him that children need to be able to choose books that give them sense of achievement.

Like many others, I have a particular concern about comprehension. Lots of teachers on courses tell me about children who are excellent at decoding, but do not understand what they are reading. In which case, what’s the point? Here’s a useful blog about how to use questioning to support comprehension.

Study after study has proved that children and young people who enjoy reading read more and are better at it. Hardly surprising! It’s instructive to read this teenager’s view that students need to enjoy the books their GCSE books.

And here’s another valuable article from the Guardian children’s book site: Children’s books: a middle class ghetto?

Finally, on a much lighter note, the results of a poll about heroes and villains in children’s literature. I’m delighted to see Pooh and Paddington among the heroes. Cruella de Vil and Mrs Coulter are definitely my favourite villains.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Great picture books for young children about reading, books and libraries

A plea on the invaluable School Librarians Network for suggestions of picture books for EYFS and key stage 1 children that feature reading, books or libraries got me hunting my shelves. I love stories on these themes, and use them a lot on courses and in workshops. It was great to be reminded of books I had forgotten by other librarians too. These all come recommended, as read-alouds and for children to enjoy by themsleves. (Sorry, not all are in the photo.)

IMG_2433Kate Banks, The Bear in the Book
Pascal Biet, A Cultivated Wolf
Jane Blatt, Books Always Everywhere
Richard Byrne, This Book Just Ate My Dog
Emma Chichester Clark, Bears Don’t Read
Lauren Child, But Excuse Me That is My Book and Wolves
Katie Cleminson, Otto the Book Bear
Gillian Hibbs, Tilly’s at Home Holiday
Michelle Hudson, Library Lion
Mick Inkpen, This is My Book
Oliver Jeffers, The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Marni McGee, Winston the Book Wolf
Emily MacKenzie, Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar
Anna McQuinn, Lulu Loves Stories, Lulu Loves the Library and Lulu Reads to Zeki
Wendy Meddour, How the Library (Not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel
Judy Sierra, Wild About Books
Lane Smith, It’s a Book
Jessica Spanyol, Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian
Louise Yates, Dog Loves Books

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Reading in the EYFS – great books to share with nursery and reception year children

3-5 booksOn Monday I gave a course on reading in nursery and reception year classes. In the afternoon delegates explored ways to bring books alive. They produced exciting plans for using them in topic work and to support the EYFS areas of learning and development. I thought it might be useful to list some of my favourite books for sharing with this age group. All are brilliantly written and illustrated and highly enjoyable. (Modern classics like The Gruffalo, Handa’s Surprise, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Owl Babies are not here because they need no introduction from me.)

Airlie Anderson, Momo and Snap are NOT Friends!
Bernard Ashley, Cleversticks
Quentin Blake, Clown
Rod Campbell, Dear Zoo
Stephen Cheetham, Off to the Park
Lauren Child, I am Absolutely Too Small for School
June Crebin (ed), The Booktime Book of Fantastic First Poems
Dan Crisp, Little Drivers Going Places
Hannah Cumming, The Lost Stars
Julia Donaldson, Wriggle and Roar: Rhymes to Join in with
Rebecca Elliott, Just Because
Jo Empson, Rabbityness
Emma Garcia, Tap Tap Bang Bang
Sarah Garland, Doing the Washing; Eddie’s Garden
Pippa Goodheart, You Choose
Emily Gravett, Blue Chameleon
Mick Inkpen, The Blue Balloon
Julia Lacome, Walking Through the Jungle
Mick Manning, What’s Under the Bed?
Anna McQuinn, Lulu Loves Stories
Lydia Monks, Aaaaargh Spider
Jill Murphy, Peace at Last
Hiawyn Oram, Angry Arthur
Jan Ormerod, Doing the Animal Bop; Grandfather and I
Catherine Rayner, Augustus and His Smile; Ernest
Nick Sharratt, Ketchup on Your Cornflakes; Shark in the Park
Susan Steggall, The Life of a Car
Britta Teckentrup, How Big is the World?
Ed Vere, Mr Big
Steve Webb, Tanka Tanka Skunk
Jakki Wood, A Hole in the Road