Category archives: family learning

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Courses on working with children in museums – my training in Qatar

MIAI finally have time to reflect on the training I gave in Doha for UCL Qatar earlier this month. What a privilege to work there. The training venue was the stunning Museum of Islamic Art.

The museum scene in Qatar is very exciting, with lots of new institutions in the planning stages, including an amazing Children’s Museum. Although it has no building yet, staff are already doing ground-breaking work. My training was primarily for museum practitioners, from there and other museums, but I was delighted to have some library delegates too.

The first course was on provision for babies and under 5s. We talked about early child development and the role of cultural organisations in supporting it. There were great discussions on effective activities for families with young children, and lovely ideas for making them enjoyable and fully participative.

Day two was on working with primary age children. I loved the debates about how children learn, and ways to engage them and break down barriers to use – not least that there is not yet a culture of museum visits in Qatar. Some brilliant plans were made for supporting formal education and family learning.

The last day’s course was on working with children with special educational needs. The discussions on learning difficulties and strategies for nurturing SEN children’s learning and enjoyment were excellent. I was tremendously impressed with the initiatives delegates devised and are going now to put in place – wonderful inclusive, multi-sensory, interactive approaches.

Working in Qatar was an extraordinary opportunity. I learnt so much and met fascinating people. Many thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Supporting children’s reading – ideas and tips for parents and carers

First Steps 6-09 021My last blog was on family literacy. This time I’m focusing on how parents and carers can make reading attractive. I love all the reading going on in this family reading workshop I gave.

It’s good to see bedtime reading is on the rise. There’s no better way to help children view reading as worthwhile and fun than reading to them. You don’t have to be a great reader: looking at the pictures together and making up stories spreads a love of books. If reading at bedtime doesn’t work for you, fit it in at a time that does – at bathtime perhaps, or on the bus. If your child demands the same book again and again, it’s a testament to your success. Please go on reading it! You can always read something else as well to save your sanity, or maybe someone else can do the honours sometimes. And do keep reading to your child when they can read, so they know reading and enjoyment go hand in hand.

You’ll find lots of useful tips on the Words for Life website and on this helpful infographic. I totally agree that children should see parents and carers reading for themselves, and I like the emphasis on discussing books, and on borrowing from the library. There are some great ideas here too. As the author stresses, children need to make their own choices of books. Everyone reads better when the book is one they enjoy. Joke books, puzzle books, the Minecraft Annual, the Guinness Book of Records, they are all stepping stones to wider reading.

Reading isn’t just about books of course. I found learning to read difficult. Comics shared with my mother were my pathway into the written word, so I’m a big fan of those, and of magazines. Looking things up in catalogues or the back pages of the paper, following recipes together, checking emails and texts all make reading an everyday experience, and help children feel they can do it.

When your child is reading to you, listen supportively. Give lots of praise and concentrate on what they get right, rather than mistakes. That way they get a sense of achievement. Don’t forget children learn to read in different ways and at different rates. Comparing progress doesn’t help anybody. How lucky for me that my parents didn’t worry that I was a late reader. They read to me, so I always knew books and reading were special, and that’s what mattered.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Family literacy

Foulds-School-22I have given workshops for parents, carers and families on supporting reading at home for over twenty years (this one was in a very deprived area of London), so family literacy is a subject very close to my heart. It is also incredibly important. All the research I have done for my courses on family literacy shows that family support for, involvement in and encouragement of reading has enormous impact on children’s attitudes to and attainment in literacy and wider learning. These are some of the reports and websites I have found useful in terms of data and good ideas for fostering family literacy:

I love hearing imaginative ways of supporting family reading. On a recent course a literacy coordinator in a school with little family involvement told us all about a great half-term challenge. Children and families did all sorts of everyday reading together like following recipes, reading maps, reading emails. They came back to school with wonderful portfolios full of pictures, videos and written work, and, more importantly, increased enthusiasm for reading. This week the Commons Education Select Committee heard from headteacher David Jones about the difficulty of engaging parents in reading initiatives, and how his school got round this. The clip is 19 minutes in. A different strategy used by a school where I gave a workshop was also very successful. They had a whole afternoon and evening of interesting reading-related activities, including demonstrations in every classroom. Their way of reaching the parents and carers they never normally see? All the demonstrators were their children!

Finally, if any proof is needed of the joy of family reading, here is a delightful video of a father and baby laughing together over a book.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Family support for reading

The National Literacy Trust has just published the latest of its excellent reports on children’s and young people’s reading. Family Matters: The Importance of Family Support for Young People’s Reading details the findings of the Trust’s 2011 annual literacy survey in relation to the level of support for reading that children get from their parents. These are some of the key issues:

  • Over four fifths of respondents receive some encouragement for reading from their mothers.
  • Fathers are far less likely to support their children’s reading, with one in three fathers giving no encouragement at all.
  • Mothers are twice as likely to be seen reading by their children as fathers, with a third of fathers never seen reading.
  • The level of fathers’ support has decreased since 2005, as has the proportion who are seen reading.
  • Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to get encouragement to read and to see their parents read, particularly their fathers.
  • Children from White backgrounds are less likely than those from Black, Asian or Mixed backgrounds to get encouragement to read from their fathers and to see them reading.
  • Children whose parents encourage them to read achieve higher reading levels at school,and are more likely to see themselves as readers, to enjoy reading and to read frequently.
  • The same applies to children who see their parents read.

The report points out that family support for literacy does not require high academic ability or substantial financial resources. It concludes that more must be done to increase parents’, especially fathers’, awareness of the important role they play in supporting their children’s literacy. The findings and conclusion certainly chime with my experience as a family literacy tutor. I have witnessed over and over the difference that effective support for parents and carers can make to children’s reading. It’s why I love giving training on family literacy and family learning – I know first hand the value of good interventions. (And it was fantastic to have lots of fathers and grandfathers at my most recent workshop for parents and carers just last week. Male role models matter.)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Making Reading Fun workshop

It was a treat to give a workshop on making reading fun for reception through to year 2 parents and carers at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Stonebridge earlier this week. The school is very small and in a very deprived area, so the turn-out of almost fifty mums, dads, grandmothers and grandfathers was extremely impressive. Family literacy is so crucial – it’s a topic I often give training on – and I was delighted to be at a school that promotes it so effectively.

We set up the hall with large tables and covered them with loads of fabulous picture books. It was great to watch everyone poring over them and to hear the excited conversations about which they liked (pretty well all of them) and why, and how they might use them. We talked a lot about ways to help children enjoy books and reading, and to take the stress out of listening to children read.

What a lovely event. Lucky children to have such committed parents and carers, as well as excellent staff. I met them at an inset a while ago on using picture books across the curriculum, and very much admire the school’s approach to reading. I’m really looking forward to the key stage 2 workshop we’re planning for next term.