Education & Family

Arm-twist parents into school story-time, says Rosen

Michael Rosen
Image caption Magic happens when adults read to children, says Michael Rosen

Children's author Michael Rosen has urged primary schools to make parents come and sit on the floor for a grown-up story time.

The former children's laureate said a "powerful magic" happens when parents read to children and allow them to interpret what they see and hear.

Reading closely with children was just as important as phonics, he added.

Mr Rosen also urged ministers to say in public when they read a good book.

'Magic'

Speaking at a conference in London promoting a family-based early literacy programme Making it REAL, Mr Rosen stressed the key role that parents reading with their children has for learning.

There was plenty of research showing that children who used a wide range of reading material found school "pretty much a cinch", he added.

He cited the example of a school in Dagenham with very good literacy results that he had visited, where parents were subjected to a "kidnap day".

They were encouraged to come in and sit on the floor and drink orange juice and eat biscuits and read to each other, he said. The idea was to model how parents could read to their children at home.

"Please kidnap as many parents as you can for 10 minutes a week and sit down together and read," he told delegates at the National Children's Bureau event.

When children read story books repeatedly, he said, they see how the "surrogate people in the book - the bears or the children, for example, cope with loss and danger".

He added: "As they read they are overcoming the problem again and again, and they get that sense of satisfaction because they are actually in the book.

"They are hearing the story in the words but what they get from the pictures is not the same."

He said it was necessary for children to interpret the ideas and feelings that tune in with their own experiences.

"It's in that interpretation that this powerful magic happens," he said.

'Die on the branch'

Mr Rosen also bemoaned the loss of school libraries, saying it was surprising that they were not statutory in the way that public libraries are.

He said he had heard of many closures of libraries on his school visits: "There are secondary schools that have closed their libraries and primary schools that have let them die on the branch."

Delegates at the event also heard of the successes of the Making it REAL programme, which has been piloted in several local authorities, among families with children aged two to five.

The programme involves home visits in which parents are guided on how to promote early literacy through play and reading together.

An evaluation of the NCB scheme suggested a huge increase in children's engagement with and sharing of books.

There were 74% of children involved in the programme who shared a book on most days at the end of the scheme, compared with 43% beforehand.

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