Tag archives: literacy

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!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Literacy across the curriculum – statements by Ofsted and in the new national curriculum

IMG_1208This term I am giving both primary and secondary courses on literacy across the curriculum, a sign of the importance of this issue. It is extremely high on Ofsted’s agenda, and the new national curriculum also places great stress on teaching literacy through all subjects.

I have pulled together relevant extracts from the national curriculum and statements made by Ofsted about literacy across the curriculum.

National Curriculum in England Framework Document

  • Teachers should develop pupils’ spoken language, reading, writing and vocabulary as integral aspects of the teaching of every subject.
  • Teachers should develop pupils’ reading and writing in all subjects to support their acquisition of knowledge.
  • It is vital for pupils’ comprehension that they understand the meanings of words they meet in their reading across all subjects.
  • It is particularly important to induct pupils into the language which defines each subject in its own right, e.g. accurate mathematical and scientific language.

Ofsted: Moving English Forward

  • Too few schools have effective programmes for developing literacy skills across the curriculum.

Ofsted: School Inspection Handbook

  • Literacy includes the key skills of reading, writing and oral communication that enable pupils to access different areas of the curriculum.
  • Inspectors will consider the impact of the teaching of literacy and the outcomes across the range of the school’s provision. They will use the evidence they gather to inform the overall evaluation of pupils’ achievement, the quality of teaching and the impact of leadership and management on raising standards.
  • Progress in literacy is assessed by drawing on evidence from other subjects in the curriculum, where this is sensible.
  • The descriptors for an outstanding school include the following criteria:
    • The school’s curriculum promotes and sustains a thirst for knowledge and understanding and a love of learning.
    • Pupils read widely and often across all subjects to a high standard.
    • The teaching of reading, writing and communication is highly effective and cohesively planned and implemented across the curriculum.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Picture books at key stages 2 and 3 – why they are valuable and some great titles

DSCF1678I was delighted to give a course for KS2&3 teachers and librarians yesterday on using picture books. There were great discussions about how they support enjoyment and learning. The best ones have many layers of meaning, so they work with everyone, whatever their abilities. They benefit every area of literacy – fabulous for building comprehension skills. They’re great for fostering thinking, creativity and social and emotional development. And they are immensely valuable in terms of subject teaching. Literacy across the curriculum is heavily stressed in the new curriculum, and it’s something Ofsted is very concerned about. Picture books really help!

I made a promise on Twitter that I would share a list of some of my favourite picture books for these key stages. There are dozens I could have included, but I have restricted myself to these, all of which are very thought-provoking (a few are too young for KS3):

Allsburg, Chris Van: The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
Baker, Jeannie: Mirror; Where the Forest Meets the Sea; Window
Baker-Smith, Grahame: Farther
Briggs, Raymond: Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age
Browne, Anthony: Into the Forest; Willy the Dreamer;  Willy’s Pictures
Child, Lauren: That Pesky Rat; What Planet Are You From, Clarice Bean?
Crew, Gary: Memorial
Davies, Nicola: The Promise
Duffy, Carol Ann: Lost Happy Endings
French, Fiona: Snow White in New York
Gaiman, Neil: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish; The Wolves in the Walls
Garland, Sarah: Azzi In Between
Gravett, Emily: Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears; Meerkat Mail; The Rabbit Problem
Greder, Armin: I am Thomas; The Island
Grey, Mini: The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon
Jeffers, Oliver: The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Kelly, John: Scoop!
Kitamura, Satoshi: Once Upon an Ordinary School Day
McEwan, Ian: Rose Blanche    
Morley, Ben: Silence Seeker
Pinfold, Levi: Black Dog
Rosen, Michael: Sad Book
Scieszka, Jon: Stinky Cheeseman; The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!
Snicket, Lemony: The Dark
Tan, Shaun: Lost Thing; The Arrival; The Red Tree
Thompson, Colin: How to Live Forever; The Last Alchemist
Wiesner, David: Art and Max; Flotsam; Tuesday