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Posts from the ‘For Parents’ Category

Another year and your child still can’t read?

Are you worried because your child is now in a new school year and still performs well below the level of their classmates in reading ability? I occasionally meet teachers who struggle to teach some of their children to read but insist on doing ‘more of the same’ which hasn’t worked. They refuse to try a new method, even if it is easy to administer, and this wastes precious time that demoralises the child.

Some years ago, as a ‘supply’ teacher I was given a new class of Reception children to teach for one term.

I started teaching them as I had always taught my reception classes for the previous twenty years – they learned 12 words at sight, then I gave them a book containing only those 12 words – which, of course they were able to read easily. Successive books consisted of the same words plus a few new ones, which they always read easily by the end of each book. Within a few weeks, all the children were reading to some degree – some very well.

Then the head teacher had a visit from a deputation of parents who had a child in my class and an older child in another class. They wanted to know why their youngest child could read, when their older one couldn’t.

The Reading Revival Toolkits are the latest generation of those books, which are now honed to the point where any child (with or without special needs) can learn to read in a few weeks – cheerfully, enthusiastically and with a love of reading.

Anyone can use them – there is no special teaching ability needed. So if your school isn’t succeeding to teach your child to read, there is actually something you can do quickly and easily that will produce the results you need: the Reading Revival method.

A tale of two readers – why phonics is not for everyone

We’re used to phonics being the standard technique for teaching children to read these days. It’s by and large what schools rely upon, but, as with any system, it’s not for everyone.  I spoke to a mother recently who relayed an interesting contrast with her two daughters – one who thrives on phonics, and one who simply does not.

Claire spoke at length about the frustration and anxiety she experienced as her elder daughter, Sally, struggled to learn with phonics. From the early days in nursery it was noted that Sally was not engaged and often found excuses to go to the toilet or find something in her tray – anything but take part in the phonics session! Teachers all reassured Claire that in time it would start to make sense, but as Sally progressed through Reception and Year 1, her reading was no stronger and phonics was clearly becoming something of an anxiety-inducing mystery to her. “It just seemed to make no sense to her at all,” said Claire. “The lowest point was when she wouldn’t even look at a page in a book with me, such was her fear of failure”.

In the meantime, Sally’s younger sister Tara was thriving on her daily phonics sessions at school, and rapidly becoming a fluent and enthusiastic reader. “I could tell it was tough on Sally to see her little sister get by so effortlessly,” explained Claire.

By Year 2, Claire pushed the school for a dyslexia assessment for Sally and sure enough, she as diagnosed with mild dyslexia. It was a huge relief for Claire to know the source of the problem, but there was more frustration ahead. “Sadly, even though the school acknowledged the dyslexia, they did not have the capacity to help Sally read with any other technique than phonics. She gets extra reading help, but it’s still based on a system that makes no sense to her”.

It was by seeking alternative ways of supporting her daughter that Claire heard about Reading Revival and the matching and memory based learning is proving far more effective for Sally. What’s more, her heightened recognition of words and sounds and increased confidence about reading have supported her learning at school. While phonics will never be a logical or comfortable learning method for Sally, she is coping far better with it than ever before, and – we hope – will soon be as fluent and confident as her younger sister.



Light the fire; don’t put it out – the pitfalls of extra childhood tuition

This week a leading headmistress warned that mothers and fathers risk undermining their children’s natural development with excessive tuition. So how do parents help their child achieve full potential without pushing them too hard?

Although I work in the field of learning and education these days, I wasn’t the brightest child at school. I’m sure many people will join me with a pang of recognition when I disclose that my school days were spent always struggling to keep up with my friends, experiencing the daily heart sinking feeling as the class compared marks of returned homework, knowing I would rarely achieve better marks than them. I escaped from school with a tidal wave of relief and no more than an average set of qualifications.

So what were my parents doing to try and make my school days ‘the best years of my life’? My mother was a retired headmistress, so you’d be forgiven for assuming that I was subjected to hours of extra-curricular tuition to ensure I didn’t let the side down.

Private tutoring is on the increase; one study has suggested almost half of families now pay for private tutors in a bid to help children get into the best schools and universities. However, Alexia Bracewell of Longacre School in Guildford believes many parents are “setting up their children to fail” by pushing them too hard.

I did have extra tuition, in French and piano lessons, but I am grateful for these in two ways. I needed French tuition because I was in danger of failing the French GCSE that I had chosen, so it was a necessary blast of half a dozen sessions to get me through. The piano lessons were supposed to give me the chance to learn an instrument, and when I admitted that I didn’t enjoy it, the lessons stopped.

After years spent in an educational sector I believe there are two rules when choosing tuition for your child – necessity and enjoyment. Firstly: necessity. It’s good for a parent to pay for tuition if the child needs it for either the foundation in the basics of education, or to get them through an exam they don’t want to fail. If it’s necessary, pay for it but have a clear achievable goal and then halt.

Secondly, tuition may be good to help a child explore where their talents may lie (or in my case with piano, don’t lie). Tuition broadens the horizons and could help a child decide their future career path. If it stops being fun, stop the tuition. People are most skilled at their natural talents; forcing children down the path of your enjoyment is folly and wasted money.

Motivation is crucial and if parents don’t light their children’s fire for learning, extra tuition will surely extinguish the fire. Simply put, if a child is to succeed with tuition, they must be motivated to do so, either with a goal they want to achieve or the pure enjoyment of unveiling their talents. Let them fulfil their potential, not yours.



Educational toys aren’t very educational

In the January issue of Which? Magazine  it was reported that the magazine’s consumer experts believe that six hi-tech toys that market themselves as educational make claims that are overblown.

Although the manufacturers state on their websites that their products can ‘develop core skills in reading, spelling, maths, logic and creativity’ the experts found some of the claims to be vague and dressed up in pseudo-academic jargon which could potentially mislead parents. In fact, the experts thought that the toys didn’t contain enough high-quality text to have significant impact on a child’s reading.

Emma Plackett, Co-Founder at Reading Revival Ltd. believes that parents who are keen to play an proactive and positive role in their child’s development are being let down because they ultimately don’t see the results from the investment they spend in educational toys.

“These self-styled educational toys that claim to improve reading often do not teach reading in the most effective, efficient way,” she explains. “The toy should help the child to steadily build vocabulary with the most used English words, and add more words at a controlled rate whilst providing plenty of practise of words already learned. If the toy simply draws a child’s attention to random words that they may not often re-encounter, it can only claim to encourage an enjoyment of the reading activity rather than an actual proficiency.”

She also calls for a ‘plain English’ approach to make parent’s choices easier.

“Parents are being seduced by the extravagant promises of toy manufacturers and the language used in the marketing literature may be deliberately opaque,” she says. “Producers of educational aids for children have a responsibility to parents to describe the product and its benefits in such a way that a parent can make the best decision for their child.”



So much more than just a bedtime story

Many parents think that simply reading a bedtime story can help their child with reading fluency. It certainly helps with instilling a love of books, but parents could be using the time to actually teach their child to read.

A recent survey by Booktime says that 71% of parents with children aged four to six consider reading with their child to be the highlight of their day, but why not make the time even more profitable by getting your child to read to you, and learn to read in the process?

The Reading Revival toolkit is a new reading scheme that gives all the tools necessary to teach children – and, indeed, anyone else – to read in a very short time, all in one compact toolkit.  But don’t be fooled into thinking that it is a collection of bedtime stories that can be read to children.

The twelve books have a carefully structured vocabulary that starts with just twelve words and adds a few new words to each successive book so that the pupil can gradually increase the number of words they can read at sight.  By the time Book 12 has been read, then the pupil will have a solid base of most-used words in English and the confidence to go on to complete fluency.

In order to achieve this aim, each book, while telling an interesting story, contains a ‘stilted’ text because the vocabulary is restricted while the child practises vocabulary just learned, with a careful addition of managed new words.  The child has no problem with this as even the youngest child realises that the books are a tool for learning and accepts the difference between ‘normal’ stories and ‘reading book’ stories. These books are very specifically written for a purpose – and is why they are so successful.

This reading toolkit has seen success with reluctant readers and children who can’t read. In fact it has been successful where everything else has failed.

Instead of reading your child a bedtime story, get them to read a story to you. Not only will you share a special part of the day with them, but you’ll be teaching them to read, and what a rewarding experience that will be for both of you.