It really does make you wonder how people are allowed to waste time and money coming up with such drivel.
First, make sure there is a library in every primary school and a librarian who understands what children like to read and who knows how to excite and enthuse children’s appetites, to turn them into confident self-starting readers.
Then, and only then, when the children are literate and have become readers, make sure they have libraries in secondary schools.
Libraries in secondary schools that are full of children who have not learned to read past a page of text are going to be empty libraries.
Create readers when they are still full of enthusiasm and soaking up knowledge and habits and you will find we start to top those international education tables again, which is all that politicians really care about anyway.
I tweeted the following: If you want to raise literacy standards in schools, isn’t a school library and a librarian who knows about books an obvious place to start?
I’ve been surprised at how often that has been retweeted – it seems so blooming obvious to me!
I visit many schools. Some really don’t have a library at all! Some have a few tatty books in the corner. Some have wonderful libraries – usually supported by tireless parents.
I often visit international schools. Many of them physically build the school around the library, which becomes a central hub of learning. I know they have pots of money and dedicated intelligent parents with time on their hands to help out, but I think they show what happens when you take libraries seriously.
These libraries are run by people called Teacher Librarians. Yes, they check books in and out and do all the library stuff, but they also teach about which books are good to read and they teach how to research. They help children to find things out in between and after lessons.
Teacher Librarians know their stuff, they know which books are new, cool and inspiring. They know the right book that will get a particular child reading. They are also whizzes when it comes to researching the internet. They are Librarians – they know how to find stuff out!
Teachers in primary schools have so much going on. They have little spare time to read children’s books to recommend to their children. This is where a dedicated Librarian comes in.
If we are serious about raising literacy standards, I presume that means we want children to be able to read beyond a standard piece of text on a screen – to read anything freely and confidently.
Literacy only comes through hard work and practice. Hard work and practice means reading a lot. A good book makes you want to read – the hard work becomes a pleasure.
If there is no one to recommend brilliant books and inspire children to try new things, how are they ever going to put in the hours to achieve a reasonable level of literacy?
If you have a school librarian, someone to inspire you and keep you interested, then you need the books on hand to read – preferably in the well-stocked school library – the beating heart of the school.
I heard on the news this morning that more and more families are hiring home tutors. While that may be a good thing if your children need particular specialist help, there are things that you can do that will have a much deeper effect on your children’s education and also on the happiness of your family. They are not only cheaper, they are free!
The press and politicians love to bash schools. They do it to sell more papers and gain more votes. The care and education of the children comes a long way down their list of concerns.
Schools actually do an amazing job. Each year they are asked to achieve more and more, and are given a hard time if they can’t squeeze more into the same sized brains that enter their doors each year. The world is changing just as fast for teachers as it is for you I. Schools and teachers are doing an amazing job keeping up while meeting unhelpful political targets. Teachers want to teach, not win votes for politicians.
Teachers only have so much time in the day and rarely have time for a one to one sit down with your child. If they do, they are probably, subconsciously making sure there is no physical contact and that no part of the conversation can be misconstrued.
Children come home from school tired. They’ve been working hard all day. The last thing they want is to see the smiling face of a home tutor when they get through the door! They’ll put up with it and may even, reluctantly, learn something because, generally, children do what they are told.
You, as a parent are the best home tutor a child can have and you come free! Every thing you do is a potential learning situation. Separating colours for the wash, weighing and measuring, counting, adding and taking away. So many irritating moments can be made simpler and more fun but remembering to turn it into a game. I know it’s hard to remember when you are exhausted too, but it does make it so much easier than fighting and arguing.
But there is one simple thing you can do that no teacher or home tutor can do that will change the lives and educational prospects of your children more than anything else.
Snuggle up together at bedtime and share a book.
You don’t have to be the greatest reader in the world or be able to do all the whacky voices. You are your child’s hero, so whatever you do will be great. If you can make the time to spend twenty minutes or half an hour reading to your child every night, you will be increasing their educational prospects more than any other intervention could ever hope to.
However sophisticated we think we are, we are still apes and we still need moments of physical closeness to bond. It is that closeness that children crave that modern life does its best to exclude. If children learn to relate reading with the best, cosiest time of their day, they will want to learn to do that magic trick themselves.
Following along as you read, is the best way to learn those long words and see them being decoded before their eyes. Learning to read is the hardest job any of us encounter in our lives. It requires thousands of hours of practice to become fluent. And fluency in reading is the key to pretty much every subject in education. Even sport has become an academic subject! Without fluency, don’t waste money on home tutors. They will force learning in one ear for it to pop out of the other. A tutor should enhance a hunger for knowledge, not be there to force it in.
The stories you read at bedtime will stay with your children for ever.
And, if you remove TVs and computers and any other electronic distractions from the bedroom, you’ll find that children who’ve had that special, bedtime story and a quiet review of the good bits of the day or prayers, if you are that way inclined, will go to sleep happy in the knowledge they are loved and that someone has the time to care about them.
This can be your quiet-time and relaxing end of the day too – every day.