A couple of weeks back, I went to the first meeting of a new book group. I’d been thinking for ages that I wanted to join one and then, while my little lad Arthur and I sat waiting for our Saturday morning haircuts in the barber’s, one just sort of presented itself to me in a poster stuck to the antique dresser they use as a reception desk. It was for men only, it was to be held in a pub and the first book was a cracker, ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, a shatteringly bleak post-apocalyptic vision I’d taught to some dream Year 9s about 4 years previously – how could I not go?
Pobble, recognised this week as the most promising education technology company in the UK by the organisation of British publishers, has announced that it will further expand its team of literacy teachers. As many as six educators joined Pobble this term. Here, one of them shares her experience.
Let us get one thing straight - you are not alone. In the words of John Donne, “No man is an island”, and this statement quite rightly includes the busy role of a literacy coordinator. This may not always seem like the case. You may feel a little like Dick Van Dyke’s one man band from Mary Poppins, but remember: you are repeatedly highlighting and drawing people’s attention to an aspect of education that is not only essential to teaching and learning, but to the personal development of students that your colleagues have the opportunity to develop as individuals on a daily basis.
Do you teach pupils who can’t read as well as they should? Do they skip words or lines when reading? Or struggle to read long words? Do they struggle to copy off the board? Do they need to run a finger or ruler under their place when reading? Or lay their head on their arm, to cover up one eye, when reading or writing? Do they have difficulty catching a ball? All of these problems can be symptoms of convergence problems.
For those of us of a certain age, a school library was a place where you had to sit quietly, under the watchful gaze of a stern librarian who’d “shush” you loudly if you dared to try and have a conversation with your friends. Walk into a library in any school or college today and you might have to walk right out again to check you’re in the correct building.
A recent study by the National Literacy Trust has revealed a sharp increase in the number of pupils aged between 8 and 18 who read regularly outside of the classroom. In 2014, 41% of pupils read outside the classroom, a 32% year-on-year increase from 2013, and this is a hugely encouraging sign for literacy development.
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
As a very young child, like so many others, my school reading consisted of Janet and John-style reading scheme books. Whilst these undoubtedly helped me develop my reading skills, the plots were a bit dry, and not particularly inspiring. I was fortunate, though, as my parents and grandparents bought me books, and we paid regular visits to our local library. I particularly enjoyed Paddington Bear and The Mr Men Series, and as an older child, I discovered Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, and other authors whose writing still endures today.
A good environment for reading is probably just as important as the book itself. Jane Jackson, marketing manager at BookSpace, shares her top tips on how to create the ultimate reading-zone.
Creating a school reading culture is high up on most headteachers’ wish lists. But presenting reading as an attractive offer isn’t always that easy. While most young people find electronic media instantly attractive so motivation is not an issue, we have to work much harder to make books appealing.