Featured Poem: The Voice by Thomas Hardy

This week’s featured poem, The Voice by Thomas Hardy, has got thinking about reading aloud in Shared Reading groups, the importance of hearing the written word out loud in different voices.

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Reading with Looked After Children in Wirral: Pudsey approved!

Say hello to a certain someone our Wirral team discovered on their travels...
Say hello to a certain someone our Wirral team discovered on their travels…

BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal takes place this Friday, so there’s no need to be alarmed if you spot a sudden surge of fluffy yellow bear ear-wearing individuals. Just last week, we happened to come across a VIB (very special Bear) at MediaCityUK…

Earlier this year, we were awarded a grant from Children in Need to fund our project reading with Looked After Children in Wirral. Our previous work with Looked After Children across Merseyside has shown how reading for pleasure can bring a variety of benefits, not least in creating a safe environment in which young people can engage with literature that relates to them.

“I love this, I want it to go on forever” – a Looked After Child reading with us as part of our pilot project

By reading one-on-one with a project worker or volunteer in a familiar setting, children are able to expand their imaginations and discover new possibilities. Not only does our shared reading approach encourage a love for reading for the sheer fun of doing so, but also allows young people to reflect on the experiences of the characters they encounter, stimulating a greater sense of empathy and understanding.  Making children excited about books in their own space often gives the incentive of wanting to read more, and so we’ve found that confidence with literacy increases, as does general self-esteem.

For some children, reading can offer a support unavailable elsewhere – a way of getting to grips with their emotions and providing a safe domain through which their voice can be heard, and in some cases found. The connection between reading and wellbeing allows for a retreat from the stresses of everyday life and an escape into another world. This was true for Liam, who took part in one of our previous projects:

“The support of reading together was apparent another week, when Liam looked like he’d been crying and his carer said he had not had a good day in school. He did not want to talk to me about it, but he did feel like reading. We got absorbed in the story together, and by the end he looked much happier. I asked him if he felt better than before the session and he said he did, which was very rewarding.”

Over the next three years, we’ll be able to create more of these reading experiences for over 100 young people aged between 5-15 on the Wirral thanks to the funding received by Children in Need. We’ve already started to recruit volunteers who will be matched with a child for one-to-one reading sessions in foster and care homes. After six months, young people will be able to continue by taking part in group sessions with their peers, encouraging friendships to be formed as well as their love of reading to grow.

For more information about our Wirral Looked After Children project, see our website or contact Charlie Kelly, Looked After Children Volunteer Coordinator: charliekelly@thereader.org.uk

Read more of our Reader Stories from Looked After Children in some of our previous projects:

W’s Reader Story
P’s Reader Story

A Quick Reading Roundup

Following a relaxing Christmas break, we’re back in full swing here at The Reader Organisation and while we’ve been gone, there has been plenty going on in the world of reading, so here’s a quick roundup of interesting topics that have cropped up.

Best Books of 2013:

Throughout December, a variety of lists on the ‘best books of 2013’ were published to help readers see a roundup of the year in reading, while giving a little bit of help and advice to Christmas shoppers, and reminding us what a fantastic year for fiction 2013 has been. The Guardian’s best fiction of 2013 list included Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize winning book The Luminiares and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. This year has also seen an interesting boost in sales of 48 year old novel, Stoner, by John Williams, which became the 2013 Waterstones Book of the Year. Evidently, 2013 has proven to be a year of triumphs for fiction both old and new. Can you tell us what the best book you read in 2013 was? And which book are you most looking forward to reading in 2014? Comment below or tweet us with your choices – we’d love to hear them!

Reading increases brain function:

Over the festive period  a study at Emory University published in the journal “Brain Connectivity”  has found that reading increases brain function. The study monitored participants’ brain activity after reading, and found that it was more active for 5 days after reading. This research links interestingly with research by The Reader Organisation’s research partners, Professor Philip Davis and CRILS (Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems at the University of Liverpool) into brain pathways for which researchers used scanners to monitor the brain activity of volunteers as they read works by writers such as Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Eliot. Professor Davis stated that “the research shows the power of literature to shift mental pathways, to create new thoughts, shapes and connections in the young and the staid alike.” Please see our full blog post on this research here. Both pieces of research place emphasis on the important biological changes that occur when reading good literature, and really emphasise some of the many benefits of reading. These findings help demonstrate the value of our work, and inspire us to continue working hard in building a reading revolution.

Report suggests less people are reading on a daily basis:

John Gingham’s article in The Telegraph reports Ruth Rendell’s belief that “Reading has become a “specialist activity” which only a minority enjoy regularly, rather than something most people do routinely.” The article then suggests that you can see a decline in reading when Philip Hensher refers to noticing the lack of people reading on public transport compared to 20 years ago. See the full article here. Here at The Reader Organisation, we are dedicated to working to make sure that reading is not something only a minority enjoy regularly.  Consequently, this article gives us an even greater drive to continue building a reading revolution and to spread the word on the  the positive work we do in getting people into reading.

With all this taken into account, we are beginning 2014 with an absolute belief in the importance of the work we do and we carry with us a drive to continue doing what we do best which is, getting people into reading great literature.

Read to Lead this Autumn in Glasgow

Sharing Reading Experience MastheadRead to Lead Glasgow
30th/31st October, 1st November 2013
City Halls & Old Fruitmarket, Candleriggs, Glasgow G1 1NQ

Looking for a new start with literature this Autumn? Interested in using your love of reading to make an impact on the lives of others – and to discover more about yourself? The Reader Organisation is taking our revolutionary shared reading course, Read to Lead, to Glasgow this October and November.

Read to Lead is the only course that introduces you to the working practice of shared reading. A stimulating, enriching and inspiring three-days literary learning will enable you to run shared reading sessions informed by The Reader Organisation’s visionary practice. After the course, you will receive twelve months access to our exclusive and specially tailored Ongoing Learning provision, ensuring you can further your shared reading practice with support from staff and fellow practitioners.

We’re especially pleased to be bringing Read to Lead all the way up to Glasgow this Autumn as we have a real Reading Revolution going on there already. Our Glasgow Schools project is a three year transition project, funded by the Tudor Trust, which aims to promote, develop and deliver a culture of reading amongst children, their families and the wider community in the East End of Glasgow. Each week our Reader-in-Residence Patrick reads with over 280 children through group, one-to-one and whole school readings. Children who have never read out loud before in the classroom are doing so with confidence and enthusiasm, recommending stories and poems to their friends and contributing more to their studies, with shared reading sessions an important part of the fabric of school life.

Here is just one Reader story from our Glasgow Schools Project, of a child from St Mungo’s Learning Community:

When I first met H, he was incredibly stony faced and made little to no eye contact throughout the entirety of our early sessions. However, as we progressed he began to enjoy the short stories more and really valued having an hour without his brother or any of his peers close at hand. The big breakthrough for H came when reading the Skellig extract from A Little, Aloud for Children. H loved the suspense and horror of finding a decrepit man in his garage and was gripped throughout. At the end of the session when I asked him for a mark out of 10 he gave it an 8. When I asked him why only an 8 he said “I’d give it 10 if we knew who the man was”. When I told H that this was an extract from a longer story and that we could read it and find out if he liked he beamed from ear to ear and nodded, repeatedly saying “Yes!”.

Since then H has given the story 10 out of 10 each week, been really articulate in his responses to meeting Mina, his concerns for the baby and how it must feel to be Michael. Teachers overhearing from their rooms or passing by are astounded at how positive and enthralled H has been, especially as his default setting in class is to be so reticent and dour. Each week he remembers exactly where we have left off and sits smiling for an hour as we continue with the story.

You could bring about the same effects with people of all ages and backgrounds by joining us for Read to Lead in Glasgow this Autumn and beginning your journey into the world of shared reading. No former experience with literature or education is needed – just a belief in the social value of reading, a love of literature and lots of enthusiasm.

For full information on Read to Lead and how to book your place on our Glasgow course, see the Courses section of our website or contact our Literary Learning Coordinator Sophie Johnson on sophiejohnson@thereader.org.uk or 0151 207 7207.

Reading for pleasure puts children ahead in the classroom

068A new study has found that children who regularly read for pleasure are more likely to perform significantly better in school subjects than their peers who read less.

The research by the Institute of Education at University of London is the first study of its kind to examine the effects of reading for pleasure on the cognitive development of children over time. Researchers discovered that children who read for pleasure made more progress in maths, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10-16 when compared with those who rarely read. The reading behaviour of 6,000 young people was analysed, as were the test scores of children from the same social backgrounds at ages 5 and 10. The study discovered that children who read books often at age 10 and more than once a week at age 16 gained higher results in all three ability tests at age 16 than those who read less regularly.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery of the research is that a child’s own reading for pleasure was found to have a greater effect on cognitive development between the ages of 10-16 than their parents’ level of education. The effect of reading books often paired with going to the library regular and reading newspapers at the age of 16 made four times the difference to progress in school than the advantage gained from having a parent with a degree.

Dr Alice Sullivan, one of the researchers who carried out the study, noted:

“It may seem surprising that reading for pleasure would help to improve children’s maths scores. But it is likely that strong reading ability will enable children to absorb and understand new information and affect their attainment in all subjects.”

060All of The Reader Organisation’s projects with children and young people are focused on reading books for pleasure. We work both in schools in Liverpool, Wirral and Scotland fostering a love for reading, as well as in one-to-one sessions within and outside of the classroom. Our aims are to develop a life-long love of reading for pleasure in children and young people and to create a culture of shared reading amongst parents, carers and teachers. We’re developing a reading for pleasure revolution with teachers of the future at Liverpool Hope University, so the news that reading for pleasure makes a real difference to pupils is something we’re welcoming.

Many of the children and young people we read with on a regular basis have gained a number of positive effects from regular reading for pleasure. W, a looked-after child with learning difficulties is just one of them:

When I first started reading one to one with him, his reading ability seemed so low that I felt concerned about finding a book that would be appropriate for his age as well as his ability. As it happened, in our first meeting I had taken the book Skellig, by David Almond, which I had almost written off as being too difficult for him. However, he liked the cover, so I thought, well, let’s give it a go. I started reading it to W, and almost immediately, he was hanging off every word. He was just soaking up the story, and watching my face – I wondered if he had ever been read to before.

We have a reading ‘trick’ now, where W, when he is reading, follows the words with his finger and taps under words he doesn’t know. I then whisper the word to him, and he repeats it and continues with his reading. His reading is getting better and better, and his vocabulary is widening – but what is more important in our sessions is his enjoyment of the book. W is expressing more and more feeling and thought through the book.

W’s story shows that not only does reading for pleasure have an measurable effect on ability and comprehension, but it is first and foremost a fun and enjoyable activity that enhances a child’s confidence and brings out more of themselves.

Read W’s Reader Story in full, along with others about some of the children and young people we read with, on our website, where you can also discover more about our projects in education settings across the UK.

Reading for Pleasure with The Reader Organisation

There’s been quite some focus in the042 news recently about the wonderful activity of reading for pleasure, and worries about whether our children are doing enough of it.

A  research study funded by publishing group Egmont was reported by The Guardian to suggest that today’s parents’  increasingly busy lifestyles are preventing them from having the time to actually sit down and read to their children usually after the age of five. Meanwhile, teachers argue that due to the target-driven policies of education today, they do not get time to instil a genuine love of reading in the children they teach, and introduce them to a variety of books. This means that our younger generations are missing out on one of our greatest human pleasures, and no doubt growing up with an inhibited appreciation for language and its creative power.

In December 2012, The Reader Organisation held a Reading For Pleasure In Schools Day Conference, a successful event that focused on strategies to engage primary and infant school children in reading for pleasure. That means no testing, no grades, no pressure for the child…just pure, plain, enjoyment. Over 50 teachers and teaching assistants from across Merseyside were in attendance, along with special guest speakers Frank Cottrell Boyce and two representatives from Walker Books UK. It ended with a consultation session where teachers gave their opinions on what would enable them to turn their school into a ‘Reading Revolutionary School’.

Now, we’re focusing on secondary school pupils.  Our upcoming Reading For Pleasure in Secondary Schools Day Conference will be taking place next Monday 15th July at Liverpool Hope University, and we hope that you will join us. It is one thing to get068 primary school children to read, an age group whose imaginations are still fluid, excitable, and naturally curious. It is quite another to engage secondary school pupils, who are at a greater risk of losing connection with literature because of the mental space it demands, the time within their schedule it may require, and even perhaps a slight insecurity about whether reading is indeed a ‘cool’ thing to do. During this conference, The Reader Organisation will be exploring how exactly we can encourage adolescents to read more.

On the day you can expect a range of interactive and focused sessions, including participating in shared reading sessions based on TRO’s award-winning Get Into Reading programme, and learn more about how to encourage children to read for pleasure within and beyond the classroom.

Guest speaker Frank Cottrell Boyce, best-selling author, screenwriter and patron of TRO,  will be returning and answering your questions. Founding Director Jane Davis and Liverpool Hope University Reader In Residence Charlotte Weber will also be talking about The Reader Organisation’s work, and our partnership with the university.

This event is FREE of charge, and refreshments and lunch will be provided on the day.

To book your place, please contact the Liverpool Hope Partnership Team on partnershipoffice@hope.ac.uk or call 0151 291 3062