Category archives: early years

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, 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