Category archives: reading promotion

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

10 day picture book challenge

picbks

I felt very honoured to be nominated to take part in the on–going ten day picture book challenge on Twitter. Thank you Sue McGonigle. It was incredibly hard to choose just ten books out the hundreds that I love. And formidably difficult to sum them up in only three words, a key aspect of the challenge. These are the glorious books that I eventually picked, and my descriptions of them (which I discovered are somewhat repetitive only as I put this together).

Day 1. The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton. Tate Publishing, 2018.
Nature – Optimism –  Community
Day 2. Tilly’s At Home Holiday by Gill Hibbs. Childs Play, 2014.
Affirmative – Inclusive – Hopeful
Day 3. You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart. Puffin, 2018. First published 2003.)
Interactive – Inclusive – Irresistible
Day 4. Through the Eyes of Me by Jon Roberts and Hannah Rounding. Graffeg, 2017.
Joyful – Affirmative – Autism
Day 5. 15 Things Not to Do with a Baby by Margaret McAllister and Holly Sterling. Frances Lincoln, 2015.
Funny – Subversive – Touching
Day 6. The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen. Orchard Books, 2013.
Beautiful – Sensitive – Reassuring
Day 7. Dog on a Train by Kate Prendergast. Old Barn Books, 2015.
Sensitive – Beautiful – Wordless
Day 8. Ernest by Catherine Rayner. Macmillan, 2019. (Originally published 2009.)
Very – Determined – Moose
Day 9. The Blue Balloon by Mick Inkpen. Hodder, 2019. (Originally published 1989.)
Balloon – Magic – Powers
Day 10. Mr Big by Ed Vere. Penguin Random House, 2008.
Loneliness – Music – Friendship

For those with access to Twitter, Jo Bowers has been collating contributors’ choices. Together they make a stunning roll-call of some of the very best picture books around. Every time I look I get delightful reminders of favourite titles, authors and illustrators, and inspiration for future book delving.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Reading aloud – the benefits and importance of reading to children

me reading

I treasure this picture. It came in a thank you letter sent to me by a child in year 1 after I’d read with his class. (He wisely decided to depict just five of the thirty children.) I love it that the book I was reading was clearly so exciting that it made me levitate!

I’ve very much enjoyed giving courses for early years practitioners, family learning workers and library staff recently on effective reading aloud. What a joy to explore the importance of reading with children and to identify ways to make the experience as enjoyable and engaging as possible.

Jim Trelease, in his seminal work The Read-Aloud Handbook, says ‘People would stand in line for days and pay hundreds of dollars if there were a pill that could do everything for a child that reading aloud does.’ Why? What are the benefits of reading to and with children? These are some very cogent ones:

  • enjoyment – here’s Trelease again: ‘Every time we read to a child, we’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain’, and what better reason for reading aloud could there be, plus we know that it’s the children who love books who become the ones who read the most, with knock-on effects for all their learning, and for their wellbeing.
  • speech and language development – children who are read to gain a feel for language and skills that aid their spoken communication.
  • vocabulary – great again in terms of oracy, and for literacy: the size of a child’s vocabulary in the early years, in particular their knowledge of unusual words, i.e. the types of words that are found in books but not often used in everyday language, is a good predictor of their reading ability at ten.
  • literacy skills and confidence – if children have been read to they understand how written language works, so much so that an American Academy of Pediatrics report says ‘Reading to babies and children helps immunise them against illiteracy.’
  • prediction skills – the books that we read with children often have pattern and predictability, and being able to work out what might happen next stands children in good stead when they are in the early stages of learning to read.
  • comprehension – the ability to understand is at least if not more important than the ability to decode, and being read to and having discussions about the text greatly improve comprehension skills.
  • wider learning – we know for example that children who have been read to tend to be better at maths, presumably because so many of the books we share in the early years have mathematical concepts such as size, shape, number.
  • knowledge of the wider world – there are so many things in books that children will never encounter in normal life.
  • imagination and creativity – early years practitioners tell me that they know which children have books shared with them at home because it shows in their artwork, in their play and in what they talk about.
  • brain development – in the words of children’s author and literacy expert Mem Fox ‘Reading aloud and talking about what we’re reading sharpens children’s brains.’
  • social and emotional development – the books we read with children help them understand themselves and others, building empathy, resilience and wellbeing.
  • concentration and listening skills – read books with children and you can almost see their attention spans grow.

Let me finish with Dr Seuss: ‘You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.’

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Summer 2019 children’s reading news update

Cowell's listCressida Cowell was pronounced Children’s Laureate this week. This is her very impressive and important charter – the perfect illustration for my latest children’s reading news update. (You may also like to see the ideas and tips of all her Laureate predecessors about how to children into bookworms.)

The latest National Literacy Trust report on children’s reading shows that reading enjoyment, reading engagement and levels of daily reading are all slightly down.

Recent research tells us that many parents are often too busy or tired to read their children a bedtime story and rely on technology instead, including Alexa.

Hungry Little Minds, which provides guidance on supporting babies’ and young children’s’ learning, including language and literacy, was launched this month

A recent speech to early years practitioners about Ofsted’s approach to the early years contained lots about supporting spoken language and reading.

It’s worth reading ‘Developing pupils’ vocabulary is about more than words’.

‘4 steps to ensure pupils read for pleasure’ has good ideas on helping primary children fall in love with books and reading. I would add using the library.

Teacher and reading champion Jon Biddle’s reading questions will be great for stimulating discussion in classrooms and libraries.

According to a study into what works best for struggling readers in elementary schools, whole class and whole school approaches and one-to-one tutoring are highly effective; technology-supported adaptive instruction is not.

New research suggests that reading aloud is one of the best things secondary English teachers can do to support comprehension and close the advantage gap.

The Education Endowment Federation has published new guidance to help secondary schools improve literacy in all subject areas.

‘Inference: why comprehension is not just about vocabulary and knowledge’ explores ways to teach comprehension skills such as inference.

For inspiration, look at Andy McNab’s recollections about his journey into reading. He was 16 and fresh out of juvenile detention when he read his first book.

Finally, ‘If kids can’t read what they want in the summer, when can they?’ makes a passionate and well-informed case for children to read what they like.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Children’s and young people’s reading – new research, articles and blogs

GreuzeI’m always drawn to pictures of children and books. I discovered this one by Jean Baptiste Greuze in the fascinating Painting Childhood exhibition at Compton Verney. A great illustration for my latest round-up of children’s reading news.

I was very pleased to see storytelling and reading encouraged in WHO guidelines on what under 5s need to grow up healthy.

A ‘Chat, play, read’ campaign has been announced to encourage learning at home.

The National Literacy Trust, in conjunction with OUP and the APPG on Literacy, has published Language Unlocks Reading: Supporting Early Language and Reading for Every Child.

A new survey shows that story time with e-books is not as helpful as with print books. Parents and children interact less when reading electronic books together than printed ones. However, not all studies come to the same conclusion on this.

According to research into 9-18 year-olds’ reading, reading both digital and print formats offers the highest benefit for young people’s literacy.

Another new report reveals a link between children’s reading skills and their ability to manage money.

Author Claire Barker has some useful insights about the power and value of comfort reads.

Primary teachers and librarians, have a look at Scott Evans’ inspiring ‘The rights of the reader teacher‘ (adapted from Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader).

‘The power of reading aloud’ on the Literacy with Miss P website has lots of useful information and ideas.

‘Forget the classics: let GCSE students read young-adult fiction’ by English teacher Andrew Otty is well worth a look.

Finally, do take a look at this inspiring story about a school which live-streams bedtime stories.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Children’s and young people’s reading – latest news and views

Max & Amazing BabyYou are never too young for books!

It’s a while since my last round-up of recent research and articles about children’s reading, and lots have come out since.

New studies reveal that the number of 8 to 18-year-olds reading for pleasure has dropped to 52.5%, down from 58.8% in 2016, with only a quarter reading daily, compared with 43% in 2015, and that only 32% of British children under 13 are read to daily by an adult for pleasure, 9 percentage points down on 2012.

According to the What Kids Are Reading 2019 report, only a quarter of pupils get the recommended daily time for reading for pleasure. (It’s important to know that this report only surveys children involved in the Accelerated Reader programme, and is not representative of all children or all schools.)

New research demonstrates that parents and carers who regularly read with small children give them a language advantage of eight months. The biggest difference is with receptive language skills, i.e. understanding. Socially disadvantaged children experience slightly more benefit than others.

A study into the Too Small to Fail campaign in the US shows that when doctors explain to parents the value of talking, reading and singing with their babies and children it has a major impact.

The International Literacy Association has produced a list of children’s rights to read. These are the stand-outs for me, none of them surprising, but all of them important to re-iterate:

  • Children have the basic human right to read.
  • Children have the right to choose what they read.
  • Children have the right to read texts that mirror their experiences and languages, provide windows into the lives of others, and open doors into our diverse world.
  • Children have the right to read for pleasure.
  • Children have the right to supportive reading environments with knowledgeable literacy partners.

Also from the ILA, ‘Creating passionate readers through independent reading’ has lots of useful information and ideas.

‘Comprehension is essential to phonics lessons, and picture books are a great place to start’ came out last summer, but I only came across it recently. Worthwhile reading for primary teachers.

Finally, there are lots of great ideas in this post from the Renfrewshire school that won the Literacy School of the Year award in 2018.