Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back to school, back to school books - A ReadItDaddy editorial musing...

Charlotte starts back at school today in Year 2 and it's been a heck of a busy year or so. Last September her reading wasn't bad but she lacked the confidence to read much on her own.

Through following the school's programme of level-based books, and of course with a whole bucketload of books read at home, she started to gain in confidence and now reads fluently - moving beyond picture books and onto early chapter readers.

This isn't the story for all parents though, and those with reluctant readers at home will probably find the level-based books extremely frustrating, particularly if (like at Charlotte's school) the focus is on reading these at home, which feels like homework even at a fairly tender age.

It's a subject that has received a lot of coverage in the media, that 'magic bullet' method of engaging reluctant readers using all manner of methods ranging from encouraging children to learn through play and in particular through app play, through to giving children instruction manuals or fairly 'dry' reading material to allow them to concentrate on the language and reading methods rather than being distracted by the story and the subject.

Most of Charlotte's 'sent home' books aren't that bad but now and again they feel a bit old fashioned and don't really interest her. We do go through them but it was actually quite nice to see her whizzing through them, ticking them off her list then digging out bigger and better books at home to almost wash the other ones away :)

We've also discussed phonics a lot on here. As much as I always felt that phonics felt like a weird artificial language in its own right it does work and it worked for us, but only used as part of an extensive toolset to introduce reading methods. I still firmly believe that phonics on its own is like trying to ride a bike with square wheels. It always takes supplementary reading of stories and non-fiction stuff to offset that stilted and sometimes unintuitive method of learning.

The real crux though is time. How much time are you willing to put in as a parent? If you feel that your child's early development and learning experience is something that rests firmly with the school then you're grossly mistaken. So many times I've seen parents who are completely mystified why their children aren't interested in learning, in reading or in anything other than their games consoles or DVDs and this causes problems when you point out the simple observation that it's because the parents themselves aren't interested in learning, reading or anything other than their jobs, their mobile phones, their social media presences or how much of a bargain they can nab in the Black Friday sales.

Time is valuable and precious and I often find myself wishing that I could borrow Hermione's watch from the Harry Potter books, to be able to be in several places at once (rather than locked to a desk for 8 hours or more a day). I'm sure a lot of other parents feel exactly the same way, and though my simplistic view of early years development might grate a bit, your time is what it truly takes to give your children that bump-start in their early years and early education. Can you think of anything more rewarding than being able to spend time with your kids engaging their curiosity and interest?

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