The First Chapter - how to get involved in the Year of Reading
Taken from Read More Live More (a 2008 National Year of Reading Publication) published in February 2008.
The National Year of Reading is a great chance to inspire a love of reading in children from an early age and involve the whole staff, families and carers. There are plenty of ways to involve families and children, even at the youngest age. The nationwide Bookstart scheme, which provides a book for children at three stages: eight months, 18 months and three years, reaches most families with young children. This and other schemes mean libraries are already engaged in supporting reading in the early years – but there is much more you can do to celebrate the NYR in your setting. The year is also an opportunity to inspire reading by giving your early years community ownership of the project. Involving staff, parents and children when you plan activity is a great way to empower a community through reading.
So what can you do to get involved?
Why not start by asking colleagues and helpers to help compile a list of their favourite picture books? The children can also choose their favourites and have a pile of the books they love best in a special place for easy access. Ask families for suggestions from home and borrow treasured family favourites to share with everyone.
Draw up a top ten list of favourites and share it with families, suggesting that parents and carers can borrow the titles to take home one evening, or get the books from your local library. If everyone gets really familiar with particular titles, you can have a shared language about special characters and plan other activities that will have a particular resonance.
Parents and carers can feel overwhelmed by the choice of books available, and will welcome suggestions of books to look out for. Have a session for new parents specifically about books and reading, perhaps in the local library with the help of a librarian. Existing lists of favourites will provide useful guidance. Encourage your families to join the library to have access to a wide range of books.
When reading one to one with a young child, add the child’s name into the story, either as an extra character, or as the name for an unnamed character in the illustrations. Sometimes you can get away with using the child’s name in place of the main character in a book (especially if the character gets up to mischief).
Make sure that your early years setting includes fathers and male carers in any NYR activities. Ask the children to invite fathers, grandfathers, brothers or uncles to events. If you have an NYR display, make sure pictures of men reading with children are included. Try to select books which have good father figures as well as mums. If possible hold events at times when fathers may be more likely to be able to attend, such as outside work hours.
Celebrate oral storytelling traditions from different cultures within your early years setting and embrace the children’s different backgrounds.
Have a storytelling week, inviting parents and staff to tell their stories to the children. Encourage the storytelling tradition by giving tips and advice to staff and parents on what makes a good story, to help boost their confidence. Talk about the stories afterwards with the children to reinforce what they’ve heard and encourage their active involvement. It is important to highlight that speaking and listening skills are the foundations of reading and writing.
Using favourite books
Use favourite books to create new stories. With the children’s help, make up new stories about favourite characters. What would the children do if Mr Magnolia or Spot or Alfie lived in their house? Get suggestions from the children about someone they would like to read about and what they would do. Then write the bare bones of a story on some poster-sized pieces of paper, with the best artist among you having a go at drawing some outlines. The children can do their bit with crayons, and you can see what happens. You may end up with a book to share with parents.
Celebrate the NYR with a book party. You can invite characters from books which have been popular with children and parents; ask the children which characters they would like to invite and they can make invitations or draw the characters. Consult with the children as much as possible about the book party to build on their communication skills, stimulate their imaginations and help generate a feeling of excitement.
Create a fun menu; ask everyone involved what food they would like. Plan games and activities around favourite books, such as What’s the time, Mr Wolf?, or We’re going on a bear hunt. You could include games that involve rhymes from books to get everyone involved and talking. End the party with a final storytelling session. Give the children a certificate for taking part, and give parents and carers information about accessing books through the local library. Reading with young children and sharing books together act as spurs for talking, which helps develop speaking and listening skills. It also helps parents and carers bond with their children and encourages communication.
Promoting reading through the NYR is a great opportunity to build on existing work and, above all, to have lots of fun.