Tag archives: literacy

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Literacy and language news and articles

Carrickmacross Library This is the children’s area in Carrickmacross Library in Monaghan County, the lovely venue for a course on reading for pleasure that I gave this week – a fitting illustration for my latest round-up of language and literacy news.

A call has been made for early language development to be prioritised as a well-being indicator to try to bridge the big gap in early language development between children in low-income and better-off households, which gets worse with age, and has major consequences.

A new study indicates that babies as young as six months old may realise certain words are related, and that interaction with adults boosts understanding.

Watching television or playing with smart phone apps does not have any effect on children’s language development, providing they still spend time reading, researchers have found.

Justine Greening has unveiled a new network to boost early literacy.

The gap in reading and writing scores between poorer children and their more advantaged classmates has widened slightly at age 7.

Oral language is key to reading, says literacy expert Dr Jessie Ricketts, but the subject is sorely neglected in schools, and pupils could be missing out on progression as a result.

The Department for Education’s promotion of synthetic phonics can be damaging to early readers and is seriously flawed, according to Dr Andrew Davis of the University of Durham’s school of education.

Research by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies shows that reading improves teenagers’ vocabulary, whatever their background. The lead author says: “The link between reading for pleasure and better vocabularies suggests that if young people are encouraged to discover a love for books, it could alter the course of their lives, regardless of their background.”

The new HMCI, Amanda Spielman, has expressed concerns about the curriculum narrowing both at primary and secondary level. Here is some of what she says in relation to KS2 SATs preparation and reading: “Testing in school clearly has value. This kind of test is intended to measure the child’s ability to comprehend. However, the regular taking of test papers does little to increase a child’s ability to comprehend. A much better use of time is to teach and help children to read and read more. Additionally, the books that teachers read to children need to be more challenging than those the children are picking up themselves.”

Sarah Hubbard, Her Majesty’s Inspector, and National Lead for English, has written about the English curriculum.

‘Ideas for encouraging peer recommendations in the classroom’ by primary teacher Jon Biddle has lots of great strategies for creating a buzz about reading.

A scheme in Blackpool is helping more fathers read with their children every day. This video makes lovely viewing.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Entrepreneurs Tackling Illiteracy – Project Literacy Lab

project literacyThis is the august Royal Institution, venue for last week’s exciting Project Literacy Lab event, which I felt very privileged to attend.

Project Literacy is an international partnership between Unreasonable Group and Pearson which aims to eliminate global illiteracy by 2030, by helping entrepreneurs deliver successful rapid growth ventures. Given that over 758 million people, 10% of the world’s population, lack basic literacy, it’s an exceptionally ambitious target. A year on from its inception, Project Literacy already touches the lives of over 10 million people across 30 countries. The entrepreneurs’ brief TED-style presentations about their ventures were inspiring, with lots of moving stories. One that has stayed with me was of a grandfather engaged in an anti-recidivism project determined to learn to read so he could read to his granddaughter. Some of the initiatives develop children’s and/or adults’ literacy skills directly, in several cases through brilliant apps and other accessible technology. Mobile phones have a reach that was previously unimaginable. Other projects do not tackle illiteracy head on, but nevertheless have a major impact. By making solar lighting available in homes with no access to the electric grid, Angaza enables children to study after sunset. The affordable, reusable sanitary pads produced by AFRIpads mean girls no longer skip school or drop out due to lack of menstrual products.

Literacy is vital, for individuals and for societies. Nisha Ligon of Ubongo, a great educational entertainment programme, said ‘once children learn to read, they can read to learn’. Entrepreneur and Project Literacy co-founder Daniel Epstein spoke of the link between literacy and life expectancy. Lily Cole, Project Literacy’s amabassador, told us the rate of violent crime is double among illiterate people, and that literacy is key to combating radicalisation and AIDS. Infant mortality goes down 30% if mothers are literate.

An amazing afternoon.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Rhymes and rhyme times and their value

golders-green-rhyme-time-1I have lots of training coming up on supporting reading in the Early Years Foundation Stage, and on working with babies and under fives in museums. Preparing them has got me thinking again about how important rhymes and rhyme times are. Then just today, I had a request for a rhyme time course.

There’s no question that young children love rhyme times, and that parents and carers value them greatly. The photo here of a wonderful session I attended in a Barnet library demonstrates just how special they are. There is also no question about the support they give for children’s well-being, their learning and their overall development. Research and anecdotal evidence show that they benefit:

•    social skills
•    self-esteem and confidence
•    attention and concentration
•    memory
•    imagination
•    physical coordination and motor skills
•    cognitive development
•    understanding of the world
•    numeracy
•    communication skills
•    speaking and listening skills
•    literacy
•    phonological awareness
•    vocabulary
•    comprehension

Quite a list! You might also be interested to read a recent article on the value of music and rhyme for children’s literacy development and another one on how using stories, songs and rhymes can support mental health.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Children’s reading news – a summer update

reading mugs
Another round-up of recent reading news and articles, illustrated by my lovely reading related mugs, all given to me by my equally reading besotted daughter.

An important new study on teaching reading through synthetic phonics has found that this helps children from poor backgrounds and EAL children, but has no long-term benefits for the average child.

More new research tells us that boys who live with books earn more as adults.

Since my last blog on reading the National Literacy Trust has published its annual report on children and young people’s reading.  Reading enjoyment is going up, but the gulf between enjoyment at primary and secondary levels is sadly growing, as is that between boys and girls. In his foreword Director Jonathan Douglas points out the clear correlation between attainment and reading enjoyment, frequency and attitudes. ‘The more that can be done to develop and sustain children’s intrinsic motivation to read throughout their school journey, the more success they will enjoy both academically and in future life.’

Author Nicola Morgan has created a list of the benefits of reading for pleasure.

If you can’t imagine things, how can you learn? is fascinating. Significant numbers of people cannot conjure up mental images, and this impacts, among other things, on their ability to learn to read, on comprehension, on retaining and recalling information and on grasping abstract concepts.

A report about the age at which children start formal education identifies some key issues in relation to literacy. New Zealand research shows that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. ‘By 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later.’ A separate study of reading achievement in 15 year olds across 55 countries showed that there was no significant association between reading achievement and school entry age.

It’s worth reading a head of English on the importance of schools making time for reading. ‘Schools being all about education, you’d think reading would be at the centre of the curriculum and school life. Wrong’ says Dr Kornel Kossuth.

Those interested in literacy across the curriculum may be interested in this article on literacy’s role in boosting maths outcomes.

It’s always good to hear young people’s perspectives on reading. I found Why teenagers are resistant to e-readers extremely interesting.

That article, along with many I’ve quoted in blogs about children reading, was published on the Guardian children’s books website. It’s always been a source of invaluable information and inspiration. Sad news indeed that it’s closing.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Literacy and gender – research, articles and training

msoD229AI was very struck by an article about gender stereotypes in the TES last week (not yet online). Five year-old children’s stories reveal considerable gender differences, and show that gender stereotypes are already ingrained by this age, with children believing that boys should be strong and brave, and that girls are more concerned with family and love. Boys are much readier than girls to see themselves as heroes of their stories.

Gender differences in literacy have been the subject of debate and soul-searching for decades. I have given training on children’s reading for twenty years now, and there has been no time in that period when I have not been asked for courses on boys and reading.

Latest available figures from the National Literacy Trust show significant gaps in reading and writing attainment and reading enjoyment between boys and girls. We know from Sutton Trust research that boys from disadvantaged backgrounds fare particularly badly.

I was fascinated to find out from the recent OECD report on gender equality in education, that while there is a gender gap in literacy in school years in all OECD countries, among 16-25 year-olds the difference all but disappears, suggesting that as boys mature and become young men they acquire some of the reading skills they hadn’t acquired at school through work and life experience. The report also discloses considerable unconscious gender bias in teachers’ marking. Girls are often given higher marks, even when their performance is similar.

I very much agree with children’s author Jon Scieska’s assertion that ‘one of the best things we can do to help boys is to expand the definition of reading.’ Boys often read more than they are given credit for. I love the photo here of a family member engrossed in his reading.

Boys can be chatterboxes too! explores ways to make sure boys are given appropriate language support in the early years. All activities can be language activities, the blog points out.

I started with the TES article. I can’t resist finishing with this story by a five year-old boy quoted in it. ‘Once there was an army man that was very brave until he became old, and he lived to be 33.’ Wonderful!