So, clearly I haven’t been updating this as often as I’d planned! I’m still finding it quite hard to just throw stuff ‘out there’, but hey ho! I will try and do better and keep reminding myself that leaving my comfort zone is a GOOD thing!
I’m still loving the display-style bookcase that we put up this weekend. The boys have both enjoyed having more options when choosing their books and have already veered away from tried and trusted favourites to experiment with some new stories. It feels brilliant that they are able to access all these great books that have been – thanks to insufficient furniture – just out of their reach for ages.
C chose ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch’ by Ronda and David Armitage, as well as ‘Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel’ by Virginia Lee Burton – both of which he really enjoyed (predominately thanks to the pictures of food in the former and construction vehicles in the latter!) and which provided new material to stimulate the usual chat and extended discussion ‘post-storytime’.
H chose ‘The Way Back Home’ by Oliver Jeffers and ‘Pat The Bunny’ by Dorothy Kunhardt. Oliver Jeffers is a very popular choice for the adults as well as the children in this house, so I was pretty excited to see H follow in his brother’s footsteps in becoming a fan as well. M doesn’t always ‘get’ the children’s books we have (although to be fair to him, he will read to the boys until the cows come home and I love that they see both their parents sharing books with them and enjoying reading) but he loves ALL the Oliver Jeffers books, so H’s choice was a hit with him.
I am so pleased that both the boys are surrounded by books and that they enjoy being read to, as well as ‘reading’ books themselves. With all the current debate about the new primary curriculum and the Year 1 phonics testing, I have been thinking more about my own opinion (as a teacher and a mum) on learning to read. I don’t claim to be well qualified enough to provide research-based evidence for anything (though I follow many much more intelligent people on Twitter who have definitely been useful in locating this for me), but I can’t get away from the fact that ensuring children read for pleasure (and continue to do so as adults as well) is the absolute top priority. I am definitely a ‘big picture’ person when it comes to learning, so I always look to focus on the end goal and work backwards from there. Therefore the heavy emphasis on phonics doesn’t really work for me. It’s definitely a useful strategy and it obviously helps some children immensely, but it isn’t the be all and end all, over and above the many other different ways that children learn to read. As so many others have said, it is about decoding, not about reading for meaning.
C has been showing us recently that he is able to read certain words, although at not yet three years old, clearly they are nothing complicated. However, I’m certain that he recognises these words because he has been read to so often – it’s certainly NOT because he is following any kind of programme for learning to read (although I’m well aware that no two year old is following one of these programmes). He constantly references his favourite stories in conversation and he’s so keen to read that in supermarkets, my first port of call is to find a free catalogue for him to browse through as we do our shopping! I’m sure things will change and he’ll go through periods of not being so keen on books and reading, but I don’t think it’ll be too long before I’ve passed on my ‘Book Worm’ title (and sparkly crown!) on to him, and then hopefully to H as well. However they navigate the technical aspects of learning to read, I would HATE for them to lose the enjoyment they get from reading and the motivation that they currently have to keep doing it.
One of the main things I’ve learned as a parent, via worries about weight gain, walking, talking, etc., etc., is that children do things at their own pace and that ‘normal’ covers a far greater band than I’d ever imagined possible. Whilst, as a former teacher AND a parent, I would hate for any child to be struggling and receive no help, I just don’t feel it’s right for such rigid structures to be imposed to dictate when children should achieve certain things (and this feeling doesn’t just apply to phonics). I worried for ages about C not talking as much as his peers just over a year ago. Now, he literally never stops talking – commentating on his every move and thought with a rigorous attention to detail! I know that there will always be a need to identify and support those children who find learning harder at the earliest possible opportunity, but jumping in too soon and making children (and parents) feel as though they are failing causes stress for everyone involved. One of the longer term outcomes of this is bound to be that children are turned off reading and find it hard to shift their mindset back to seeing it as a pleasurable activity, let alone one that could potentially improve their careers, relationships and health.
Anyway, they are plenty of people commentating on this subject matter, many of whom are considerably more qualified than me and are probably more articulate as well! However, seeing all these debates over the past week has really got me fired up about Story Seekers and about developing my idea for baby and toddler classes (as well as perhaps working with nurseries, pre-schools, after-school clubs, children’s centres – the list goes on!) that will give parents and children the desire to read for pleasure from the earliest possible moment. I guess maybe what I’ll use this blog for is to share my ‘lesson plans’ (for want of a better phrase), as seeing things in writing will definitely make things clearer for me even if no-one else gets involved. Ideally though, people will comment and share their thoughts and opinions as well, so that by the time H goes to school and I’m ready to officially enter the workplace again, I’ll have an awesome little package in place to make sure EVERYONE becomes a book worm 🙂