Tag archives: Enfield Library Service

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.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The power of rhyme

What a treat to happen upon With Great Pleasure on Radio 4 this morning. The wonderful science writer Simon Singh shared some of his favourite pieces of literature. Actually, several of them would probably not usually merit the term literature, which is not to belittle his fabulous choices at all. I especially loved his lead-in to a parody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. The original is apparently Singh’s toddler son’s number one nursery rhyme. Singh joked that he likes to think of it as an introduction to astronomy. While this is a rather unusual perspective on the value of nursery rhymes, there is plenty of evidence that they play an important part in children’s learning.

I am currently working up a course on library rhyme times, as a follow up to a training day on early years library provision. It has been great to visit some inspirational sessions and to talk to library staff and parents and carers to help me build up a complete picture of good policy and practice. One grandmother spoke to me in glowing terms about the impact rhyme and toddler times have had on her grandson. She praised their effect on his social and emotional development – they have made him much less shy – and was in no doubt about their contribution to his language development and general learning.

I have learnt a lot from my visits and discussions that will inform not only my early years and new rhyme time training, but also my courses on family learning and family literacy, and not just for library staff, but in museums and across the cultural and heritage sector generally. Very many thanks to Enfield Library Service in particular.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

First Steps family literacy programme

It is great to be working with children and families again this term. First Steps is a family literacy scheme that has been run by Enfield Library Service for eleven years. It is a six-week intervention programme designed to support the families of Year 1 children who are at risk of falling behind with their reading. The scheme has an impressive track record, and lots of schools apply to take part each year. All the schools chosen have low reading levels, and are in areas of significant deprivation.

The sessions take place in libraries, with fantastic assistance from library staff. Half of them involve the children and their parents and carers together, the other half are for the parents and carers alone, so that they can find ways to help their children without having to talk about problems in their presence. The emphasis throughout is on making reading fun, with lots about enjoying books together, and plenty on games and everyday activities to help children see reading as pleasurable rather than a chore. The sessions are very informal, very practical and very interactive. I am always tremendously impressed by the extent to which everyone gets involved, particularly as many of the parents and carers have very low levels of education, and few of them speak English as a first language. We always work with at least one interpreter, often with several.

This year, as usual, I am doing sessions morning and afternoon one day a week, in different libraries. All the families are lovely, and very keen. We are now three weeks into the programme, and all the parents and carers have made changes to the ways they are sharing books and reading with their children. For many, reading has become a whole family affair. Each family has spotted improvements in their children’s attitudes to reading. The children want to read more, because reading sessions are now enjoyable instead of stressful. And because the children are enjoying reading now, they are getting better at it.

I have been one of the First Steps tutors ever since the scheme started. Every year my knowledge and understanding grow, and my admiration for the amazing job parents and carers do in what are often appalling circumstances. My courses on family learning have all benefited enormously from the learning and experiences I have gained. I’m looking forward to next week’s sessions. Everyone’s going to be making books together. Should be great fun.