Tag archives: Booktrust

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Supporting looked after children’s reading and wider learning

boy-with-letterbox-blue-parcelI love giving training on looked after children. I’ve been very privileged in the last couple of months to provide courses for foster carers, designated teachers and virtual school staff, and I very much enjoyed giving a workshop for Letterbox Club last week. If you haven’t heard of it, Letterbox Club is a wonderful scheme run by Booktrust that posts books and learning-rich games and activities to looked after children.

Most children and young people in the care system have experienced trauma, loss and disruption. A high proportion suffer mental health problems. Low self-esteem and low self-confidence are commonplace, as are high anxiety levels. It doesn’t help that aspirations for looked after children are often low. All of these are significant barriers to learning. But having worked with many inspiring carers and professionals (teachers, social workers, librarians and museum workers) over the years, I know that with the right support looked after children can and do thrive, educationally and socially and emotionally.

It’s always a delight to hear carers talk about how they support learning. It’s the everyday things that often make the biggest difference to looked after children’s attitudes to learning. Things like cooking together, looking up information together, going to the shops, gardening, kicking a football around together, doing puzzles together, playing board games, playing computer games. Visits to the library and to museums can be transformative. Carers can be fabulous role models. Recent Booktrust research shows a correlation between the amount that foster carers read themselves and the amount that the children they look after read. Lots of children who enter the care system have poor reading levels for their ages, but I am not surprised that the Booktrust survey demonstrates that the longer a child has been in foster care, the longer they have been living with their foster carer and the older they become, the more likely they are to be average or above average in their reading level for their age. Enjoyment is key. Enjoying reading together, whether from books, comics, magazines, newspapers, catalogues or anything else has enormous impact. So does having lots of engaging reading materials that tie into individual interests lying around. These words of a carer highlight the power of books in foster homes: ‘We all had a go at Where’s Wally. Even the teenagers wanted to have a go.’

For anyone interested, here is a peer-reviewed article on looked-after children and reading I wrote.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The value of e-books and apps for children with special educational needs

For anyone with an interest in promoting children’s reading and supporting children with special needs, I thoroughly recommend this blog by Alex Strick, Disability Consultant at Booktrust.

Important ideas on the value of e-books and apps for making reading accessible to children with learning difficulties and autism and those who are blind or partially sighted, and their scope for developing communication and other skills.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Booktrust targeted programmes

I had a fascinating meeting this week with Marian Keen-Downs, Head of Targeted Programmes at Booktrust. It was great to hear all that is currently happening with Letterbox Club and Booktrust’s new targeted offers for selected schools, The Ant Club and Beyond Booked up. Both schemes start early next year, providing teachers’ packs with resources and lesson plans to promote communication, language and literacy skills, and reading for pleasure.

The Ant Club  is aimed at pupils in Reception and Year 1. The resources sound wonderful. They will include rhyme, role play, fairy tale and poetry, all brought to life by Nick Sharratt. I love the idea of the scrapbook to help children ‘get carried away by words’.

BeyondBooked Up is aimed at Year 7 and 8 pupils. There will be lots of accessible resources, all designed to inspire interest in books and reading, including play scripts and a brand new anthology of short stories. This is going to be in magazine format, and Jacqueline Wilson and Anthony Horowitz are among the high-profile authors. The packs will be free for eligible schools, and will be available at cost to other schools in the future.

I blogged a few weeks ago about Letterbox Club’s impact on looked-after children’s reading in Brent. The scheme is  transforming LAC’s attitudes to reading and learning up and down the UK. In one Welsh authority, information about the local university was included in the Letterbox envelopes. Foster families asked for a visit, and seeing the place for themselves completely changed the children’s views about higher education. Interestingly, some of the most popular books for key stage 3 children have been an atlas and a dictionary.

Marian and I discussed ideas for workshops on reading for foster carers. Fingers crossed that we can get them off the ground.