Tag Archive | reading

There’s no magic strategy to ‘teach’ your child to read

Bit of a shock/horror title I know. But further to my last week’s post on reading when I was talking about the book ‘Rethinking Learning to Read’ there was something else I wanted to tell you. Something most people don’t know.

Create a relaxed approach to enjoying books

We don’t know because we’re led to believe the opposite. We’re led to believe that there is a specific strategy for teaching reading that professionals know but parents don’t.

The real truth is – brace yourself – there isn’t!

There is no one single magic approach to reading that will guarantee that your child will read.

This is what Harriet Pattison shows in her book. And I was talking to another academic about this recently, a professional who is engaged in teacher training, and he confirmed that there is no strategy that training teachers are taught in order to get kids reading. They are in exactly the same position as parents!

Okay, so teachers learn a bit about the psychology of learning (soon forgotten) and about various schemes, and graded readers and devices like phonics or whatever the latest fad is. But nothing is fool proof, will work for all, because everyone is different and responds differently. But those differences don’t have to be difficulties – only if you’re in school.

There are a multitude of activities that parents can encourage that will help their child to read; games for example, reading aloud to them, shared reading and stories, providing material for their reading, allowing them to use computers and computer games and similar, texting included, encouraging any reading material comics included, providing a reading happy climate, reading themselves, reading signs when out etc.

What is more important and something that parents can do easily, is provide a reading rich environment and encourage – without pressure – a relaxed approach to enjoying books and print. When home educating, it doesn’t matter when a child reads fluently – there are all sorts of ways to learn (films for example). It’s only in school, where learning is print based, that anxieties mount and ‘difficulties’ are created. Out of school, there doesn’t have to be a difficulty.

It’s important to acknowledge and encourage your child’s own personal relationship with reading, which means you might have to keep out of it sometimes! Something teachers can’t do. Perhaps the only ‘difficulty’ is keeping our anxieties under control.

Children are inquisitive about what we do, about stuff online, about phones and words and stories. Your encouragement of that interest will be what eventually leads them towards reading.

And that is something that all parents can do. No magic strategy involved!

A word of thanks & to whet your appetite for Monday

Thank you so much to all those who supported my blog tour. It has meant so much. Thank you also to the wonderful host blogs; I’m so grateful to you for letting me gab on over on your blogs about education from all different angles! And to Bird’s Nest Books for organising it.

If you haven’t discovered these brilliant blogs yet click the links on my previous post. They’re worth a visit; it’s always inspiring to explore new ideas. Did you check any of them out – do let me know? Today (Thurs) is your last chance to win my latest book over at the Home Education Podcast. 

Meanwhile, another thought provoking book; ‘Rethinking Learning To Read’ has just come my way, which the author is going to talk about on Monday’s blog. Even its introduction got my educational juices going. It tells us how there is historical evidence to show that people learnt to read quite successfully through informal approaches long before schemes and schools came on the scene! (Just like many home educators do!)

Can’t wait to read the rest. Pop by Monday and listen to what the author has to say.

Read; for your children’s sake!

The best thing ever on a summer afternoon is to take a book outside and read. 20150806_134010

Notebooks inevitably go with me and I inevitably end up writing – often inspired by the reading whether it’s a novel, non-fiction, whatever! But to have an afternoon devoted to reading outside in the breeze and sunshine is my favourite summer delight. I can spend hours reading, when I probably wouldn’t if I was still inside.

Funny how we can spend hours watching telly or web surfing, yet seldom devote that amount of time immersed in a good book. Soon as I get outside that changes – I can relax and lose time to it.

And apparently we get a double dose of benefit if we do so. Not only do we get the important benefits of natural light, but reading itself also improves wellbeing and has other benefits on society too, like increased empathy and reduced stress. (See this research from The Reading Agency)

And, as if you needed another excuse, your children need to see you reading.

As parents we’re always keen that our children read. It’s an essential part of their development, education and lifeskills. And the biggest influence on children’s connection to reading is whether and how much we read. If they see you reading regularly, they’ll be drawn to it too, especially when you appear to be getting so much pleasure from it.

It doesn’t matter what format you choose to read in. Just as long as you’re reading.

There are so many little moments in a day we could be reading; on journeys, in a queue, waiting room, on the bus, trips out with picnics, waiting for the dinner to cook, with your lunch. The more you read, the more they’ll want to.

The effect may not be immediate or apparent. But by reading, you’re establishing a valuable attitude to it and that’s what counts. They might want to run about and build dens, that’s fine, but you can read whilst they do so. Then they’ll have that image of you – their most important adult – attaching importance to the activity of reading. That lays the foundations of what they’ll attach importance to in times to come.

So take a regular afternoon reading. Take things to read on your family picnics, outings, journeys and holidays. Or just slope off into the garden on a sunny afternoon and take a moment out just for yourself to have a home holiday with a good book.

See if you don’t feel the benefits too!

(If you haven’t read ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ it’s a sweet, funny, family story just right for an outdoors read to move your mind and emotions!)

Just a bit excited…

Who’s Not At School? Illustrations by James Robinson

I’m just a smidgen excited! Okay – maybe that’s a bit of an understatement, but I’m not big on dramatic announcements.

It’s just that a new project is about to come to fruition next month.

I’ve long wanted to write something for children. For something I loved best of all when mine were small was having them curled in that perfect space between lap and arms sharing a picture book together. It is the most delightful experience to hug a child on your knee and absorb a story together. And that’s where readers are made as I said in a recent post.

The best kind of stories of all are those you can identify with, those that make you suddenly think; this is just like us!

That rarely happens when you’re a home educating family, just like with other minority groups. Nearly all stories feature children going to school as if home education didn’t exist, wasn’t real, or the families weren’t living real and proper lives that were as important as any other family lives.

Time for that to change and hopefully ‘A Funny Kind of Education’ is helping. This was a story so mums and dads would have something fun to read that was perhaps a little bit like them, as well as raise awareness.

But the children need one too. So a publisher, illustrator and I have got together to produce one….maybe more than one, who knows!

And I’m excited to tell you it will be available in May. So come those times when your child wants you to read them a story there’ll be one out there which has an inquisitive, curious and adventurous little home educator just like them! But I think many a family will recognise themselves in there however they are educated, most of all I hope it’ll raise a smile and plenty to talk about.

I got my daughter to read it as some of her antics were what inspired it. She twigged…and it made her giggle. She’s grown up now but that doesn’t stop her perching on my lap – also with a giggle!

If you pop over to the publisher; Bird’s Nest Books you can find out more and sign up for the newsletter to get the publication date first hand.

And I’ll try and keep you posted through the excitement!

Children are made readers…

First morning back at my desk and I’m having a bad attack of post holiday blues!

I’ve had such a lovely time away with my eldest. But such a painful time when it comes to parting again. Such is the nature of being a parent of grown offspring. It’s made up of greetings and partings and gaps in between. How parents managed before mobiles and Skype when they were so completely cut off from each other I’ve no idea!

Although I tried hard not to think about the work I do here; the writing and blogging etc, I did sneak into a book shop for a good browse and stroke of all the lovely books. The aesthetic of them will forever appeal to me, despite the advantage of ebooks. They’re part of a writer’s world. That and the coffee shop and a chance to sit among books and eat cake; two delights in one!

And over one stand of books in the children’s department I noticed a little sign which said:

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.

What a thought!  Couldn’t resist posting it here to remind all parents that time spent with a child on their lap looking at a book does so much more than you think; it teaches them about reading.

We can’t do it enough; we should read to them as much as we can, whatever age, however old they are. As long as they want us to. Such a simple thing. Such a loving thing to do. Such an important thing to do – give our time and attention to our children and develop a love of books and reading at the same time.

If we all did it enough – instead of assuming we needn’t bother as children will be taught to read by schools or schemes – children would read naturally and organically with a little encouragement and help. Their delight and curiosity about reading ignites the motivation to want to do it – why would they not read then? It’s parents who start that off.

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents – not necessarily in schools – a thought worth keeping in mind.

Image rich education

seeking out pictures - a soothing stream and leaves

seeking out pictures – a soothing stream and leaves

Sometimes I just have to go seek out pictures! Writing can be very monochromatic as a medium, even when talking about the diversity of home education. I begin to hanker for other things to look at besides print.

So I totally get it when kids feel the same. Especially those who don’t readily take to reading but find it as enjoyable as I do a smear test! And there are some kids like that, especially those on the Dyslexic spectrum or those fidgety little people for whom sitting still is an anathema!

When education in schools first took off it was always related to words, especially the printed word. It had to be; it was a person’s only access to knowledge. And it was also part of that exclusive hierarchy where those who had access to reading – and therefore learning – were considered better than those who did not.

That’s no longer the case. Everyone has access to reading and knowledge. And skill in reading is not a direct indication of intelligence. There are all sorts of intelligences and I have known very intelligent children, with a lively, logical and analytical mental aptitude who find no joy in reading because their brains are wired in such a way to make reading as challenging as I’d find running marathons.

Home educating a Dyslexic child made me think about this a lot. And think about ways in which learning, in our media and image rich culture today, no longer needs to depend on print. Although print would inevitably be part of it – it could be a small part at the beginning, building as skill and maturity grew. And we found other ways to learn through practical, experiential, image rich, hands-on opportunities. And that was even before the wonders of YouTube, a fabulous font of knowledge and understanding available through film clips.

For far too long children’s learning has been manifested through the narrow medium (by today’s standards) of the written word. I almost see the old fashioned text and exercise book method (or Web research which is just as bad for a dyslexic if not worse as there’s more to trawl through) needing extinction. Typing with Word is definitely less laborious for children who find writing difficult, but we could still lessen written methods of learning in favour of more image rich ones now accessible. Just because it isn’t reading and writing doesn’t mean it’s not learning, despite the snobbery still attached to those methods!

For many children their learning is inhibited by print. Formats like YouTube open access to learning in ways we didn’t previously have. Many home educating families have told me that their children didn’t practise formal written methods of learning until they were much older yet still went on to write accomplished essays and do Uni work. So we can seek alternative ways to enhance our children’s understanding and knowledge which don’t rely on print.

Meanwhile, I’m off to seek out pictures, away from print, and a visit to the theatre to see my eldest in a production of The Snow Queen. If you’re in Brighton seek it out at The New Venture Theatre and enjoy a print free story with the kids which is bound to inspire! Stories don’t always have to be read – from Snow Queen to Shakespeare – which you can even get in Manga! (Search ‘dyslexia’ for other posts on the subject)

Chelsea playing Gerda in The Snow Queen

The Dyslexic Advantage

How many of you view Dyslexia as an advantage?dyslexia book 011

This is how the authors (Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide ) of the book ‘The Dyslexic Advantage’ present dyslexia. They’ve written a fascinating book based on the view of dyslexia not as a ‘disability’ or ‘learning difficulty’ that has to be corrected, but instead as a way the dyslexic brain has of functioning which gives dyslexics special talents.

In their introduction they explain their refreshing view; ‘There are two big differences between the traditional view of dyslexia and the one we’ll present in this book. First, we don’t see the reading, spelling, or other academic challenges associated with dyslexia as the result of a “disorder” or a “disease”. Instead, we see these challenges as arising from a different pattern of brain organisation – one whose chief aim is to predispose dyslexic individuals to the development of valuable skills…

Second, unlike most books on dyslexia this book won’t focus solely on making individuals with dyslexia into better readers. Instead it will focus on helping them become better at “being dyslexic”…dyslexic brains aren’t supposed to be like everyone else’s…Our goal is to help individuals…enjoy the full range of benefits that come from the dyslexic brain’.

Having come across dyslexic children in school settings I know what a handicap it can be when their learning is heavily based on the ability to deal with the written word.

But as parents who home educate begin to discover there are so many other ways to approach learning, e.g. experientially, or through image based learning (think films, documentaries or YouTube). And dyslexic children don’t have to be seen handicapped – it is perhaps our approach that is handicapped by our lack of providing for individual needs. Home educated children who are dyslexic have gone onto achieve as well as other children do.

If your child is bright and well functioning and intelligent in all areas non-reading related, yet seem to find it difficult to pick up reading as easily as you’d imagine, you might like to find out a little more about dyslexia. You could start with the British Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia Action or the Dyslexia Association

And this book is certainly worth exploring.