Now, I feel happiest when my class are making a lot of noise. And I love my subject because actually, so much of the time it doesn't matter if you can't speak very good English, or if your handwriting is spidery because none of that stops you making music. Your levels of literacy wont stop you having an emotional or creative response to what you hear or what you play. Many of our "weaker" students and EAL students do very well in subjects like mine because so much of what you assess them on is based on practical work. And we have fun. And we do make a lot of noise.
But I do have a duty to support literacy in my subject. We learn key words, we boost vocabulary, often we talk about where words come from. And we do written work, particularly evaluation as that's a key level 5 skill at Key Stage 3. And I'm only too aware of the huge gaps in students' writing and reading levels. I'm amazed at the poor standards some children arrive from Primary school with. And so very, very often, it's not their fault. And it's not despite the hard work of their teachers at their primary school either. They just haven't had the best start to their education - which begins at home from day dot - for all manner of reasons. Maybe it's financial, maybe they have been brought up in households that simply don't value education the way I do, it doesn't matter. By the time they arrive with us in Year 7, sometimes the gap for some is just far too big to close and we fight to get them the best skills set we can, but the reality is that children are still leaving secondary school unable to read and write properly. And I'm not just talking getting the apostrophe in the wrong place; this BMus (Hons) PGCE-er over here still gets that wrong (and I'm by no means proud of that). I mean can't spell the basics, can't read important documentation relating to their lives... With this is mind, I'm signed up to support Save The Children's campaign Born to Read and hope that posts like this might just help raise the awareness of a really significant problem. Over the next months and years Born to Read will provide 7,000 more reading helpers for 23,000 pupils in schools in deprived areas across the country, working in partnership with Beanstalk – an organisation with 40 years’ experience in helping children learn to read. They will also be supporting parents to help develop their children’s reading skills at home.
You can help raise awareness too. Why not share this post with the hashtags #borntoread and #educationmatters or sign up to become a changemaker yourself?
I made a pledge when E was born. I will NEVER say no when she asks for a book. Never say no when she wants to read, never say no to a library trip, never say no for a request for a new read in the bookshop, irrespective of cost or time. Because I truly believe that being able to read opens doors, and the sooner we ingrain that attitude on our children, the more they will read, the more they will succeed.
Last week I took E to the library for the first time and I could already see the fruits of our labours falling into place. Picking up books from the Meg & Mog and Hairy Maclary series that we don't own at home, but knowing who they are because we have read others. At bed time she asks for "book" before she settles down for the night. Most of the time it's books scattered across our sitting room and not toys. Reading is just part of everyday. I feel satisfied we're getting it right and I pray that her love for reading stays this strong. Aside from anything else it's a great way of spending time together, but I know that every time she picks up a book it's doing the tiniest little bit to help her improve her chances at school, her GCSE results, her future prospects.
Stuck for reading ideas? It's the end of Children's Book Week, so I thought I'd share our top 10 with you, in no particular order...
- Noisy Farm - Axel Scheffler
- E & Daisy's Big Day Out (a personalised book from a friend, and a big clue about who E might really be!)
- Turn it up, Doris! - Sam Lloyd
- Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy - Lynley Dodd
- Alien's love underpants - Clare Freedman
- Supermarket Zoo - Caryl Hard and Ed Eaves
- Mr Brown can moo, can you? - Dr Seuss
- Lark in the Ark - Peter Bently and Lynne Chapman
- Meg & Mog - Helen Nicoll and Jan Pienkowski
- Oh Dear - Rod Cambell