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Your dear little lad has brought home Him, you know the one, the kid who is smart and funny and who you wish you didn’t like because he seems to be perfect at everything. He has normal and regular parents and a normal and regular vocabulary…so why is he already on Gold books?
STEP AWAY FROM THE BOOKBAG!
Seriously, looking at other children’s books is not helping you or your child, it is only putting more pressure on you both and turning what should be an enjoyable activity into homework.
Human beings are hardwired for reading, that’s the good news. Most children have an epiphany moment with their reading somewhere between the ages of five and ten – yes, I said TEN! The epiphany moment is quite remarkable – a child can just suddenly find the right book or the right motivation and they whoosh off with their reading.
So what does the school expect? They probably won’t tell you, but your child will be expected to comfortably reach Level 2 by the time they enter Year Three. This means that they will be assessed through a series of increasingly dull and worthy texts to ensure that they can do things like blend phonemes, understand what a text is about and answer questions about it and recognise the component parts of a book like an index and a glossary. The bare bones of reading are pretty tedious and the chances are your child will be doing this stuff long before they reach transition to Year Three. So relax.
If, however, your child is not quite there, it doesn’t mean that they won’t get there with a little help. A good number of children have issues that may impact on their reading and hold back their epiphany moment, but that doesn’t mean they can’t achieve the basics that will get them a comfortable Level2/3 at infant-primary transition.
- Read with your child. When they hit a word that they don’t know, remember, they have never met this word before and will need an introduction. Let them try three times, no more than that because it becomes horribly frustrating.
- Let your child read alone. No help, no input, just let them sit with words in front of their faces. These need to be their choice and it might be something you loathe. Tough!
- Read to your child. I can’t begin to tell you how important it is for children to be read to. Not just picture books, longer books with chapters that they are not yet ready to read alone. It is a superb way of expanding their vocabulary, gives them something to aim for, and it’s lovely. Do not assume your child is too old for this, you are never too old for a bedtime story.
- Acknowledge and draw attention to the fact that there are words everywhere. Give them reading with a purpose so that it does not feel as if you are expecting them to carry out a homework-like task. Ask them what the competition is on the cereal packet, put the subtitles on when they are watching their favourite tv show, stick post-it notes on the objects around the house that have new and exciting words to learn (such as television, radiator, refrigerator) Children have incredible powers of assimilation and suck up new words with ease – provided they see and hear them repeatedly.
The most important thing you can do for your child is to enjoy reading yourself and stop making it a chore. Make it a treat and let them soak up any words that they want (I’m a great fan of the literary qualities of the Beano) and stop putting pressure on them to be the same as others. They all learn at different paces and all come to reading in different ways. You probably don’t need to buy any special books or sign up for some expensive plan or club, just look out for reading opportunities everywhere.
Remember – only one in ten adults regularly read a book, and yet we expect 100% of small children to do it. It just might not be their thing, and there may be educational issues that need addressing, but it doesn’t mean they can’t become independent readers who enjoy diving into a book.
Most of all…RELAX!
Originally posted on www.beingamummy.co.uk
Dawn Finch is a YA author and for the last decade she has specialised in reading development in young children. She is vice-chair of the London and South East School Libraries Group and a published author. Her book (Brotherhood of Shades) is a contemporary ghost story and is published by Harper Collins.
You can ask her questions about books and reading at www.dawnfinch.com
Dawn Finch, Vice President CILIP, YA author, school library and literacy consultant.
With over a decade of UK school libraries under my belt, and as a YA author, it is easy for me to see why your child needs a school library with a trained professional to run it. I’ve seen first-hand the positive difference this makes not only to your child’s development in literacy, but also to their enjoyment of reading and their linguistic progression. It’s not just about stamping books out, it’s about understanding and nurturing your child’s reading, guiding them so that they can successfully navigate the maze of reading and emerge triumphant and in charge. So much more than Biff and Chip and struggling to the end of a scheme. It’s about becoming a lifelong reader and having something in your life that will change it for the better. That’s what school librarians do, and they do it because it’s their passion and it’s important to them. Your child deserves that person in their life.
You can read the research for yourself – try this survey from Australia that shows the impact school libraries have on children’s literacy.
Or maybe look at what’s being said in the House of Lords.
Or just some common sense from a writer who knows a thing or two about reading. Neil Gaiman’s lecture for the Reading Agency is well worth a watch.
But I know I don’t really need to convince parents that their child deserves a well stocked library run by a qualified librarian. You know it makes a positive difference to their education, and their lives.
Sadly it seems that increasingly the people we need to prove this to are head teachers and SLT members. As parents you need some evidence to prove your case and to get what your children deserve. So, when you are visiting schools to decide which one to commit to for your child’s future – take this leaflet with you. This explains exactly why your child deserves a good school library with a professional librarian. Download it here from the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, print it and take it with you when visiting prospective schools. It will help you to see if the library you are being shown is a successful and supportive place, or just a room full of books. The leaflet will give you key points to look out for, and questions to ask. This way you can be sure that your child will be getting the support and materials that they require, and deserve.
This is not about a librarian banging on about her profession, it is about your child’s one shot at a brighter future. Their next school might make or break them, so why not expect the best? It is a simple fact that their literacy levels will be much higher if they have access to a real library. We’re not talking a room with books in – this is about real libraries run by professional people who have the right training for the job. This is a highly skilled profession, and your child deserves the right support from trained people. This is your child’s right to a better future, don’t stand for anything less.
A poster from the incredibly talented Sarah McIntyre says it all – a powerful search engine with a heart.
I normally enjoy Current Archaeology Magazine but was more than a little annoyed at a small piece in the November issue written by magazine editor Chris Cattling. To ensure that my readers fully understand my reaction to this I felt that I should put the full piece here so that you can judge for yourselves. This is verbatim…..
“Personality Problems In The Library
You might think that libraries and archives are the one place where you might find refuge from the kind of defiant behaviour that broke out on some of England’s streets earlier this year. And yet, clearing out the ‘spam’ folder recently, Sherd’s eye was caught by an unsolicited email from an organisation called ‘Excellence in the Classroom’, offering workshops on ‘Coping with Challenging Behaviour in the Library’.
The circular listed some of the types of behaviour that today’s librarians have to cope with in places that should be havens of quiet study: they include ‘arrogance, pack behaviour, people who won’t put away mobile phones or vacate computers when asked or act a little more quietly and those who decide it would be good fun to take out their frustrations on library staff’.
For £275 a go, the organisation promises a ‘fast-paced and exciting one-day workshop’, conjuring comic-book visions of meek and bespectacled librarians emerging from the course transformed into Supermen and Superwomen, ready to deal firmly with all the forms of anti-social behaviour that dog our society. Once they are trained, perhaps we can persuade some of those Superlibrarians to patrol our railway system and deal appropriately with the ill-mannered louts who choose to travel in the ‘quiet carriage’ but behave as if the rules apply to everyone but themselves.”
This incensed me for a number of reasons – meek and bespectacled I am not and this patronising and stereotypical view of librarians is so hackneyed that I can hardly even bring myself to challenge it. – but that is not the real issue here.
The main problem with this cheap and dismissive little piece is that it is so monumentally ignorant of the daily difficulties faced by librarians. Government and budgetary cuts and library closures have left librarians working largely alone in both schools and public libraries. This is a situation that is easily exploited and librarians daily face more than just the sort of people who are a little noisy in the quiet carriage.
I have worked in libraries in both the education and public sector for almost 25 years and in that time I have personally had to deal with violent threats against me and other staff I have worked with. I have cleared the shelves of needles after the methadone clinic nearby has had a drop-in session. I have faced down drunken and aggressive teens and adults and stood up to violenty abusive grown-men twice my size.
I know of a number of people who have been attacked or faced violent threats of physical assaults. To list just a few – a colleague who suffered broken nose and fractured cheekbone after being punched in the face, another who was stabbed in a row over fines and another who was stalked by an obsessive customer and who had to obtain a restraining order to prevent his access to the library.
Sadly is the tip of the iceberg in this type of incident connected to libraries. I teach school librarians and am consulted a great deal about how to tackle the behaviour of abusive and confrontational young people in school libraries – largely because School Librarians almost always work alone.
Libraries have always attracted both the right and the wrong sort of customer, but there was a time when staffing levels allowed librarians to feel more protected because they had other people do help them deal with it and the police were quicker to attend. Now they work predominantly alone in warm, free and open-access places and it is all too easy for the worst members of society to work that out and to take advantage of it.
I was stunned that an academic (such as Mr Cattling is assumed to be) should demean librarians in such a patronising fashion. I can only guess that Mr Cattling did all of his research in a private school academic library, or maybe on the internet, and has never used a public library and witnessed the issues that librarians have to deal with. All this piece does is show how little people understand the job that we do and the pressure that we are under.
Bespectacled some of us may be…. but none of us are meek, we can’t afford to be.