Category archives: family learning

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.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Children in museums and galleries

I have just caught up with a very interesting piece about children and culture that was on Woman’s Hour last Thursday. Jeanette Winterson, Rosie Millard and Jenni Murray talked about the value of taking children to museums and galleries, and ways to make visits interesting. All saw avoiding boredom as vital, hardly surprisingly. Rosie Millard has some lovely ways of making gallery trips with her four children playful. Crucially, they never stay very long, and they only look at a few artworks. They buy postcards and then hunt out the pictures, they play compare and contrast games, they use paintings as the basis for story-telling. (A picture of Charles II on his horse has led to lots of enjoyably gruesome discussions about his execution.) The Grayson Perry exhibition, The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman, on at the British Museum for just one more week, has been a big hit with children. Items in it like badges fascinate them, but it’s the irreverence and humour of lots of the exhibits that especially appeals. Much food for thought for me in all this in relation to my family learning courses.

Millions of children have never been inside a gallery, museum or theatre. Winterson and Millard were both adamant about the importance of school visits to cultural organisations.

Thank you for the photo to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery in Exeter, which runs fantastic family and school events.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Bilingual early years library session

I am currently preparing courses on early years library provision, and on rhyme times, and it’s been lovely to visit some great under 5s activities to pick up extra ideas for good practice. As there will be a bilingual context for much of the training I’m planning, it was especially good to attend a library session for Polish families in Enfield on Friday.

It was a snowy morning, so I expected low turn-out, but such is the dedication the weekly sessions inspire that ten or so families came along (there can be up to twenty), one of them with a week-old baby. Babies and one, two and three year-olds were all actively engaged, as were mothers, an older sister and a grandparent. There were lots of things to do, several with a suitably snowy theme, like the story being enjoyed here, and picture-making. Polish music played softly in the background. The morning ended with a wonderful, very participative rhyme time, which everyone loved. Agnieszka Bartoszek, who led the session, used rhymes in both Polish and English, and I found it fascinating to observe all the children and adults switching backwards and forwards from one language to the other with no problem. The little girl in pink here, who is nine months old, adores books in both languages. She sat on a little push-along bike and devoured lots with total delight.

What I admire about sessions like this is that as well as being so enjoyable, they play a huge role in supporting children’s language skills, their emotional and social development, and their knowledge and understanding. The value to the whole family is enormous. The group enables Agi to spread the word about other things going on for under 5s locally, and to alert everyone to issues like the need to register for nursery provision at the appropriate time. Recently she arranged a visit from an oral health practitioner, who talked not only about tooth-brushing, but also about how to find a dentist.

Many thanks to Agi, to Josie Layzell, Enfield Bookstart Coordinator, who arranged my visit, and of course to all the lovely families I met.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Visit to Oasis Children’s Centre

I am currently investigating good early years and family provision for some courses I am preparing for library, museum and gallery staff, and was invited to visit a story and play session at Oasis Children’s Centre in the London Borough of Enfield. What a wonderful time I had – and so most certainly did all the children and other adults who attended. The children ranged in age from under 18 months to just pre-school, and the morning was structured to appeal to them all, with lots of play, rhymes, music and books. David Pickering, pictured here with just one of his many props, had everyone enthralled. He has been doing weekly sessions at the Centre for three years, and is evidently a great favourite. He told me that his particular focus is on developing children’s language skills, though undoubtedly their social, emotional and creative skills also benefit enormously from his approach. He’s a dab hand on the ukulele. The session included a trip to the library of Oasis Academy next door to listen to some extra picture books. Both there and in the Centre, it was lovely to watch masses of very enthusiastic joining-in.

Many thanks to David, to Josie Layzell from Enfield Library Service, and to Kerry, Marie and everyone else at the Children’s Centre.