Literacy beyond the classroom

July 10th, 2018

Educators are often asked the immortal question, ‘Why did you become a teacher?’ and despite some jokey responses regarding the holidays, almost all would answer that they simply wanted to make a difference. What this difference looks like changes from pupil to pupil, school to school and subject to subject. In Literacy, however, it is fundamental.

Take a moment to think about your life if you were unable to read, write or speak confidently – what effect would it have on you? It is thought that up to 1 in 4 adults in the UK are functionally illiterate – meaning they have English skills below those of an 11-year-old, with many far below even this. Prisoners in England are even more likely to be illiterate, with the Shannon Trust estimating that at least 50% are functionally illiterate, with some completely unable to read or write. Aside from the larger national implications of this (functional illiteracy is estimated to cost the UK economy approximately £36 billion per year), the human cost is far greater as this video from Save the Children reminds us:

The aims of the National Curriculum are clear:

“English has a pre-eminent place in education and in society. A high-quality education in English will teach pupils to speak and write fluently so that they can communicate their ideas and emotions to others, and through their reading and listening, others can communicate with them. Through reading in particular, pupils have a chance to develop culturally, emotionally, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Literature, especially, plays a key role in such development. Reading also enables pupils both to acquire knowledge and to build on what they already know. All the skills of language are essential to participating fully as a member of society; pupils who do not learn to speak, read and write fluently and confidently are effectively disenfranchised.”

English teaching is about life skills, not merely passing tests so what can we as educators do to support our pupils? One of the most important things schools can do is to encourage a love of Reading and create a true Reading for Pleasure culture. Research shows that Reading for Pleasure is more important for a child’s cognitive development than their parents’ level of education and has makes more difference to life achievement than socio-economic background. Sullivan and Brown (2013) concluded,

“The positive link between leisure reading and cognitive outcomes is not purely due to more able children being more likely to read a lot, but that reading is actually linked to increased cognitive progress over time. From a policy perspective, this strongly supports the need to support and encourage children’s reading in their leisure time.”

Reading can be one of life’s joys and few can resist the lure of a good book. However, far too many children struggle to enjoy texts and develop a love of Reading whilst at school. Many teachers are rightly beginning to examine how they can encourage Reading for Pleasure and develop this key life skill amongst their pupils. We are lucky enough to work with a large number of schools in developing their Reading for Pleasure culture through the One Education Reading Award which is just one of the many initiatives we work on in partnership with Peters.

When was the last time you read a children’s book for pleasure? The staff we support have worked incredibly hard to become ‘Reader Teachers’, familiarising themselves with new children’s texts and sharing their reading with others. The fantastic support of Peters has ensured schools are incredibly well resourced for Reading for Pleasure – their team of librarians have advised schools on recommended texts, library design and much more. Schools have also extended their understanding of children’s reading preferences by completing family reading surveys, encouraging reading wish boxes and creating ‘Reading Councils’. All of these actions have meant that staff are now far more confident in making specific text recommendations to the children they teach. This has encouraged their pupils to become wider readers by hooking them into new authors and genres. In one school, children have become so enthralled that some have even been found to be squirreling new books away to ensure they can read them next!

Reading for Pleasure and much more will be explored at our third annual Literacy Conference on the 4th October 2018 at The Studio, Manchester. Our theme is ‘Literacy: Beyond the Classroom’ with the day being focused on making a difference to children’s wider literacy lives.

Delegates will have the chance to listen to four passionate keynote speakers:

  • Tony Walsh on ‘Inspiration through Poetry’ @LongfellaPoet
  • Nikki Gamble on ‘More than Information: Revisiting the Challenges of Teaching Non-fiction in the 21st Century’ @nikkigamble
  • Simon Smith on ‘A Purposeful Literacy Curriculum’ @smithsmm
  • Miranda McKearney on ‘Understanding Emotional Literacy’ @MirandaMcK @EmpathyLabUK

As well as networking opportunities and a delicious lunch, attendees will also be able to choose to attend two workshops from this amazing line up:

  • Pobble:  Raise Standards in Writing – Henry Smith @HenryPobble
  • Developing a Reading School Where Adults and Children Love Books – Simon Kidwell @simonkidwell and Clare de Wolff @claredewolff
  • Spelling Strategies to Support All Learners – Paul Gee @OneEducation
  • Vocabulary is Vital to Life – Laura Lodge @lauralodge208 @OneEdLiteracy
  • The Reader Teacher – Scott Evans @MrEPrimary
  • Back to Basics: Reading and Spelling – Diane Moat @OneEducation
  • Using Technology to Enhance your Literacy Curriculum – Amy Kingsley @MissKingsley85 @ClassMissK
  • Hook, Line and Sinker: Hooking Children into a Book and How to Get the Most Out of their Writing – Sophie Merrill @MissSMerrill
  • Literacy: It Is Not All Pen and Paper – Helen Marriott @OneEdSEND
  • Going Global': Using Blogging to Effectively and Safely Connect your Class with a Genuine Global Audience – David Mitchell @DeputyMitchell

Peters will also be there all day as one of our partner exhibitors. It is sure to be another great day! To find out more or to book a place at our special early bird price please click here.

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