Posted by: Bill Lord | November 2, 2010

Authors to know

Today I worked with another group of teachers about firing up the teaching of reading. Here are some of my musings on the matter. Many of you may have read the post ‘Promoting Reading’ which includes much of this and most of the books are similar but I have added some new authors in the last two weeks.

Reading is an art and something which we should seek to pass onto children. It is imperative that teachers have a good understanding of which books are available for them to use and which are best. We are at a time when publishing houses are producing some wonderful books and we must ensure that this is reflected in our reading stock.

Children need to hear books being read without interruption – this is about ensuring that teachers read texts outside the literacy shared and guided reading sessions. These moments are magical and show children the power of text. As teachers we know that books can make you feel uncomfortable, warm and fuzzy, cold, shocked, surprised, emotional (I could continue) but I am not convinced that this is something that we impart to the children. To do this we need sustained periods of time where the children can sit down, shut up, stick their thumbs in their mouth, plait someone’s hair or play with their shoelaces as they listen to a wonderful book.

This is hard for teachers to bring out about due to the perception of the packed curriculum and so it is vital that all schools have a collective view on how books will be shared with children.

Teachers also need to be aware of books which is why things like the Read for Joy wiki will hopefully grow as teachers share good books but it should also be done in-house with teachers given a small amount of time in staff meetings to make others aware of books which they love. If schools are trying to place an emphasis on reading then this should include developing a reading staff. It is certainly worth reading the UKLA Research on Teachers as Readers

I read the opening to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman to the group to show them the power of a text which is not necessarily a comfortable read.

The book is wonderful and will grab children from the terror of the opening through its use of humour, pathos and tension to a great conclusion. It is highly likely that the children will draw comparisons to the text in their literacy work so the time may well impact on their writing but they should be hearing books of this quality read to them by a range of people (if possible)

There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.
The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.
The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.

We moved onto talking about reading comprehension and the importance of Guided Reading which can, at times, be difficult for teachers due to the sensitivities over what you do with other groups whilst you are hearing readers. Teachers do worry about the progress made by other groups but need to keep in mind the fact that guided reading is the best way of teaching, practising and applying reading skills and ensuring that children cover more than recall and inference questions.

One activity we quickly discussed to aid comprehension and certainly teachers’ assessment of children’s comprehension was to use an application like Microsoft Photostory with images from a text or children’s illustrations of a scene from a text for children to talk over. At its simplest children could be asked to recount what happens in the text – we know that children’s ability to summarise a text, events or a presentation is varied and that it is a key skill.
I know that, whilst on holiday, I asked my daughter to tell me about the Eva Ibbotson book “Journey to the River Sea” just as we walked into the Cornish town of Fowey – half an hour later we sat down next to the sea and she was about three quarters of the way through the book. She knew the book inside out but was unable to prioritise events in order to provide a brief summary of the events!

For children to be able to summarise this needs to be modelled and practised – talking about books is a great way in.

Next in our discussion we moved onto looking at a range of books which could fire up their children. I had chosen the theme of authors and illustrators who brought something different.

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book
The Day I Swapped my Dad for two Goldfish
The Wolves in the Walls

The Pea and the Princess

Mini Grey
The Pea and the Princess
Traction Man is here
The Adventures of the Dish and Spoon
Biscuit Bear
Traction Man meets Turbo Dog
Egg Drop

Marcia Williams
Archie’s War – my scrapbook of the First World War by Archie Albright
My Secret War Diary by Flossie Albright

Catherine Rayner
Augustus and his Smile
Harris finds his feet
Sylvia and Bird
Norris the bear who shared

The Ice Bear

Jackie Morris (Author and Illustrator)
The Ice Bear
Tell me a Dragon
Starlight Sailor (James Mayhew)
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
The Snow Leopard
How the Whale Became (Ted Hughes)
The Seal Children

Christian Birmingham (Illustrator)
Wombat goes Walkabout (Michael Morpurgo)
Windhover (Alan Brown)
The Sea of Tranquility (Mark Haddon)
The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S.Lewis)
The Night before Christmas (Clement C. Moore)

Monkey and me

Emily Gravett
Meerkat Mail
Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fear
Monkey and Me
The Rabbit Problem
Orange Pear Apple Bear

Grahame Baker-Smith
Leon and the Place Between

Iggy Peck Architect

David Roberts (Illustrator)
Pooh! Is that you, Bertie?
The Troll (Julia Donaldson)
Tyrannosaurus Drip (Julia Donaldson)
Iggy Peck Architect (Andrea Beatty)

Marcia Williams
My Secret War Diary – WWII
Archie’s War – WWI
Bravo, Mr William Shakespeare

F.E. Higgins
The Eyeball Collector
The Black Book of Secrets
The Bone Magician

V.A. Richardson
The House of Windjammer
The Moneylender’s Daughter
The Street of Knives

Paul Dowswell
The Cabinet of Curiosities
Powder Monkey

Helen Ward
Varmints (with Mark Craste)
The Tin Forest (with Wayne Anderson)
The Boat (with Ian P. Andrew)
The Dragon Machine (with Wayne Anderson)

I talked about the use of Storybird

Finally I showed them how easy Storybird is to use.

It could be used for whole class or to target specific groups such as intervention groups supported by a TA or gifted and Talented to work independently. Here are some great examples from Pete Richardson.

For delegates of the meeting I would also recommend looking at these two resources below

Inanimate Alice
Finally I demonstrated the first chapter of Inanimate Alice This is the book which was demonstrated by Bill Boyd at Storytyne where he talked about his work with a group of teachers using Inanimate Alice.  It tells the story of the 8 year old Alice and her adventure in China. At present the book has four different chapters in four different locations. The text is written by an award winning author and is incredibly high quality. The text is moved through page by page which can be re-visited by clicking on the relevant icon. It is an interactive text which is divided into different frames using a wide range of modes. It used diagetic and non diagetic sound, animations, video films, exploded diagrams with a handheld mobile device as the main interaction tool between the character and the user.

The character was born digital (Alice was conceived as a digital project), it is a high quality text, has highly interactive engagement, uses trans-media engagement, covers different continents, gives potential for wide curriculum coverage and is progressively challenging – she moves from 8, 10, 11 and 13 in the fourth chapter. It is used widely in the Pacific Rim particularly in Australia but is being worldwide.

Useful links

Sarah Brownsword talked about her work using Inanimate Alice in her classroom at TMEast earlier this year.

As I often do I finished with a flag up for my blog post on the Second World War which remains one of my most read posts.

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