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encourage reading in children

Why parents should read out loud to children of all ages

By Education, Mental health, reading
by Chris Couchman

A YouGov poll commissioned by digital subscription app Readly revealed 43% of parents and grandparents have shared a cherished comic or magazine with children, but how many of us are reading out loud to children regularly to impart a keen love of reading?

Studies demonstrate that children of all ages continue to benefit from being read to. Reading together strengthens the bond between parent and child as well as nurtures children’s social, emotional, and intellectual development.

For very young children, reading with a caregiver is linked to increased focus and decreased levels of aggression and hyperactivity. Reading to children gives them the words to describe their most difficult feelings, which allows them to better regulate their behaviour when they’re feeling sad, angry or frustrated.

Brain scans indicate that hearing stories activates the part of the brain responsible for processing visual imagery, story comprehension, and word meaning. Even babies benefit from being read aloud to and the benefits don’t stop even when children are older and can read for themselves. Research suggests children from six to 12 enjoy a cognitive boost when they are read to for an hour each day.

As reading levels continue to plummet amongst older children, reading aloud has the potential to stem the growing tide of non-readers. Sadly the numbers show parents stop reading to their child by the age of eight, with just 19% of eight to 10 year olds read to daily by an adult, across all socio-economic groups.

While the YouGov survey respondents understood that that reading “improves language skills”, “enables children to learn more about various subjects or cultures”, and “gives children time for themselves”, it takes a more hands-on approach to set children up for life when it comes to reading. It’s unequivocal that reading out loud is essential, but how do parents engage children of all ages to enjoy reading together on a regular basis?

Here are some expert tips from Readly, the digital magazine app, to get started:

• Don’t just read at bedtime
Reading before going to bed is a classic ritual but for some children, it can be associated with having to stop playing. Build a more positive association with reading by switching up times and locations. Parents can try reading under the table in a den or at a picnic outside while eating snacks to make it fun.

• Don’t be afraid to embrace technology to encourage reading
Just because children are turning to devices doesn’t mean they have to switch off from reading. There’s a plethora of easily accessible content on the web and in apps to encourage our children’s literary growth. Every opportunity to read is valuable.

• Comic books can be a great place to start
With an emphasis on reading being fun, easy and above all, essential to establishing a regular reading habit, embracing comic books is a simple way to help more children find reading pleasure. Comics are also an excellent, fun and non-threatening reading option for children to start reading in a non-native language.

• Lead by example
Children imitate their parents and other adults around them. Set a good example by cultivating your own reading habits. Don’t forget to discuss the latest article, magazine or book you’ve read with your child any time the opportunity arises.

• Ask and answer questions together
On that note, reading widely even if you think the material is too advanced for your child is a great way to introduce new words and concepts. Use this as a way to capitalise on children’s natural curiosity to explore and learn together.

From recognising patterns in language to discovering something new about the world we live in, the benefits of reading aloud to children builds by the day. We must make more time to read.

With unlimited reading to over 7,500 titles, Readly has a magazine for all the family and as it gives five profiles per household, all the family can read their favourite titles. Perfect for children and grown ups. Visit



How to encourage your child to develop the life-enhancing skills of oracy

By Education, Language, Mental health, reading, Relationships, special educational needs
by Angela Schofield
Oracy Lead, Excelsior Multi-Academy Trust

If you are slightly confused about the term ‘oracy’, which has recently hit the headlines, you are not alone! To summarise, oracy is about communication skills, gaining the skills to engage with other people’s ideas and express your own ideas so that others understand them. At Excelsior Multi Academy Trust, we explicitly teach, practise and assess oracy skills, and see demonstrated how speaking and listening are equally important for effective communication.

Why is oracy so important?
Research has shown that oracy supports children in their academic learning and also in their emotional and social wellbeing. It helps to develop their confidence and instils a sense of belonging, that their voice is welcomed and valued. It is also has a key role in closing the disadvantage gap. Early language and communication skills are closely linked to attainment throughout schooling, and to earnings later in life. The earlier we start to develop oracy skills, the better.

How can you make learning these skills fun at home?
• Playing fun listening games. Enjoy games such as I Spy, 1-20 or describing an image while your child draws it and vice versa. These are all quick games, which develop listening skills too. To practise listening specifically, read a short text and then give a list of words, can they remember which words were from the text? Simple riddle games are good for this too. Try the one below. Explain that you are going to tell a story and then you’ll ask them some questions about it.

You are the bus driver. There are four people on the bus. At the first stop, two people get off and a lady with a bright red hat gets on. At the second stop, a man with a green duffle coat gets off and a small boy with a big dog gets on. At the third stop, four people get off and three people get on. At the fourth stop, two girls get on carrying a large present with a frilly purple bow. (You can continue for longer depending on the age of your child). Finally, ask the question – How old is the bus driver? (The clue is in the first five words).

• Reading to your child. Hearing you read a story, with all the different voices, is not only fun and a time to bond with them, but it also supports them to understand how tone of voice can change the meaning of words and make it more interesting to the listener. Hearing a fluent reader, while they look at the text also helps children to develop fluency in reading.

• Encouraging the expressing of opinions, agree and disagree with reasons. This develops reasoning skills and vocabulary and shows them that it’s OK to disagree. An excellent thing to encourage is changing your mind when someone has given a good reason. You can also frame questions as talking points to encourage extended responses. There are lots of ways to do this and you can choose serious or silly talk activities. We live in a world with a diversity of opinions and being able to listen, engage respectfully and come to your own conclusion is a key life skill.

Ask engaging, fun questions such as:
If I ruled the world, I would … because …
Agree or disagree, Wonder Woman/Spider-Man/ Superman (pick a favourite) is superior to …
Which is better a shark or a lion? Why?

• Engaging in dialogue (not just talk). Talking to your child at home is important, but the evidence shows that it is dialogue that helps children learn language and social skills. Turn taking in a conversation is the important part, so try to avoid the questions, answer and move on cycle of interactions. Just chatting and exchanging ideas is so important for child development and hugely enjoyable. We all have such busy lives now but setting aside a time each day just to talk with, rather than to, them will have a significant impact on their learning and social and emotional learning.

• Playing with and exploring vocabulary. Begin with one word and find opposites or as many synonyms as you can, or find out where words come from. Biscuit, for example, comes from the French for twice baked. Before the introduction of effective food storage, baking twice reduced the moisture in the biscuits making them less likely to attract weevils! Children find these sorts of facts fascinating. There are lots of examples online but for older children, the Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins is a useful resource as is the children’s book The Dictionary of Difficult Words.

By starting when your child is young, you’ll not only be helping them to develop their communications skills, you will be giving them a priceless gift that will serve them well throughout their lives. A gift they can, in turn, pass on to the next generation.

Angela Schofield is the Oracy Lead at Excelsior Multi-Academy Trust, which supports six schools in Birmingham. The Trust is committed to ensuring the highest standards of academic performance and places communication skills at the centre of its curriculum. Excelsior provides supports to all its schools to enable them to help their children achieve their goals and ensure they are ready for the next stage of their education. Excelsior MAT was shortlisted for the MAT Excellence awards 2023 in three categories: Employer of the year; Inclusivity; and Wellbeing.

early years play

The importance of early years play

By children's health, Education, fun for children, numeracy skills, Playing, reading, Relationships
by Jasmine Holbrook
Imogen Ruby

Playing underpins all aspects of a child’s development and keeps infants active and happy. Through play, children develop their language, emotional, social and motor skills, as well as their creativity, problem solving abilities and imagination. Alongside the benefits for your little one, playing together with your child can strengthen your bond and allow you to join their world. Play develops through a series of commonly observed stages and by altering your play style and the toys offered throughout these stages, you can continue to support and encourage this development.

Play can begin right from birth. Those early movements of a baby’s arms and legs that seemingly have no purpose are actually helping them to learn to move and you can join in by gently encouraging movement. This could be through baby massage, swimming or laying your baby on your chest, tummy to tummy, a great opportunity for eye contact and kisses.

Babies love interaction with another human face, allowing your little one to study your facial expressions. Talking and singing can make this fun for both of you. Tummy time will strengthen their arms and necks and help prepare them for crawling. Using high contrast flash cards and toys, as well as baby safe mirrors, will continue to develop these skills, as well as their visual and brain development and encourage them to continue learning about the world around them.

As a baby begins to move and explore their world further, they are able to engage with toys in a different way and will start to play alone, showing not much interest in other children’s play but developing an increasing focus on what they themselves are doing. Warm interactions from the adults around them, playing alongside whilst still allowing space to enjoy some independence will enhance their understanding and enjoyment. Board books, rattles and sensory toys such as ribbon rings and musical shakers are all great choices for this stage of development.

Commonly, around two years of age children become more curious about what other children are doing, observing without joining in. As your child begins to observe other children playing, you may feel that you want to encourage them to join in but there is no need. This stage is important for children to learn about social cues and to understand the behaviour and rules within social play. Their vocabulary continues to develop rapidly, with discussions about what they are seeing.

Children at this stage will benefit from opportunities to be around other children, but will very much enjoy activities with you such as singing, story telling, early role-play toys and of course, outdoor and indoor physical play.

Social skills continue to develop as children begin to learn to share toys and copy activities, whilst still playing alongside each other without much involvement. Age appropriate toys that can easily be shared and interacted with are important, for example wooden animals, vehicles, chunky puzzles and building blocks.

Children will become more interested in playing with others, in talking and engaging and this develops their problem solving skills as well as their co-operation as they begin to navigate a shared space. During this stage, play is not very organised or focused but they are learning teamwork and communication skills as well as beginning to recognise other children’s boundaries. The best way to encourage this type of play is by creating shared spaces with similar toys, such as several dolls in a shared dolls house, a variety of vehicles on a play road map, or a mixture of animals or dinosaurs within a woodland themed playzone.

Co-operative play is the last stage of play and is vital for social and group interaction. This usually begins around the age of four and continues throughout childhood, bringing together all the skills already learned. This is where imaginative play becomes a key focus of a child’s play as they take on different roles within their imagination. You can encourage and enhance this stage of play in so many ways; for example, playing shops with a shopkeeper and a customer, playing kitchens and tea parties, directing ‘traffic’ in the garden, dressing up, the possibilities are endless.

Playing with your little one can create deeper connections and stronger emotional bonds as well as foster trust and open communication between you. It provides valuable insight into your child’s development and interests, and allows you to better understand their world. Through shared play, you can create treasured moments, enhance your own stress relief and boost your overall wellbeing – there are benefits of play for all of us!

Imogen Ruby has sustainability at its heart; through our organic clothing choices, environmentally conscious toys and passion for reusable cloth nappies.

mindfulness, primary to secondary school change

Navigating the transition

By Education, numeracy skills, reading, Relationships, Special support needs
by Mrs Sarah Bakhtiari
Principal of Shoreham College

As a headteacher I have witnessed countless children embark on the exciting journey from primary to secondary education. This pivotal moment can be both exhilarating and daunting, not only for the children but also for their parents. In this article, I aim to shed light on this significant transition, emphasising the importance of collaboration between parents and schools, and offering guidance on how to navigate this new chapter with the aim of making it the best it can be for the young person.

Parents: The experts in their child
Parents, you are the experts when it comes to understanding your child. You have nurtured them, watched them grow and know their strengths and areas for development better than anyone else. As your child embarks on this new adventure, remember that your insights and observations are invaluable. Share your knowledge with their new school, as it will help create a holistic understanding of your child’s abilities and needs.

Schools: The experts in education
Schools, on the other hand, are the experts in education. We have dedicated our lives to understanding how children learn, grow and thrive academically and socially. Trust that we will provide the necessary support and guidance to ensure a smooth transition for your child. By working together, we can create an environment that nurtures their potential and fosters their personal growth.

Listening to each other
It is essential to recognise that children can present differently at home and at school. They may exhibit behaviours or emotions that are unfamiliar to you, as they navigate this new environment. It is crucial for both parents and schools to listen to each other, sharing observations and insights to gain a comprehensive understanding of the child’s experiences. By doing so, we can collaborate effectively and provide the best possible support for your child’s development.

The emotional roller coaster
It is natural to feel a mix of emotions as your child moves to secondary school. However, it is important not to let these emotions overwhelm you or your child. Getting on an emotional roller coaster with your child can hinder their ability to adapt and thrive in their new environment. Instead, focus on maintaining a positive outlook, offering reassurance, and celebrating their achievements along the way. Your calm and uplifting presence will provide the stability and confidence your child needs during this transition.

Embracing the journey
Moving from primary to secondary school is a significant milestone in your child’s life. It is a time of growth, self-discovery and new opportunities. Encourage your child to embrace this journey with an open mind and a positive attitude. Remind them that they are capable, resilient and ready to take on new challenges. Encourage them to make new friends, explore new interests and seek support when needed. By doing so, they will develop the skills and confidence necessary to thrive in their secondary school years.

The transition from primary to secondary school is an exciting and transformative period for both children and parents. By recognising that parents are the experts in their child and schools are the experts in education, we can create a true partnership that supports the child’s holistic development. Remember to listen to each other, celebrate achievements and maintain an open and honest dialogue. As a partnership, we are best placed to ensure that this transition is a warm, friendly and uplifting experience for all involved.

Please call 01273 592681 to find out more about what Shoreham College can offer you, or to arrange a personal visit at any time of the school year.

wee girl reading

How can we support children to become readers for life

By Education, fun for children, reading
by Child Development Expert Dr Jacqueline Harding
Director of Tomorrowschild, Senior Lecturer at Middlesex University, former BBC Education Editor and Headteacher

Those who read for pleasure do better in a wide range of subjects at school and it positively impacts comprehension, critical thinking and wellbeing. Early enjoyable exposure to the world of text and illustrations can increase motivation to read for a lifetime. Content, in whatever format it is served up, must uphold two main ingredients: inspiration and imagination. Quite simply, the brain loves to play, and these two ingredients inspire it to keep going. So how best can we stimulate the playful brain to build a love of reading?

Research commissioned by Readly, the European leader in digital magazine and newspaper subscriptions, reveals that many parents and grandparents believe that comics and visual content can encourage children to develop a love of reading.

The relationship between reading text and image is being reconfigured all the time and we are all finding our way through those changes, accelerated by the digital world in which we live. The critical question is: can images and written text work well together in formats such as comics and magazines or will they forever remain in competition with books and more text-based formats?

As a young child, it never ceased to fascinate me that during rainy playtimes at school when the comics and magazines were allowed out of their secret location, the most reluctant of readers would pounce on the opportunity to gobble up the stories whilst doing their best to avoid the books on the shelf for the rest of the day! It may well have been this memory that led me to study this area later in life.

So, how as adults can we embrace this image dominated culture and remain committed to developing literacy skills and readers for life? We certainly don’t need to and shouldn’t be making the choice between comics and magazines and books. Children like to be entertained, to laugh and have fun and this is a golden ingredient on offer in comics and magazines. Perhaps we can locate a popular theme in a comic/magazine and follow it through to a book, where text is more pronounced and bring about a gradual and respectful process that takes account of the child’s agency. If they choose it, they are more likely to immerse themselves in it.

This thought is supported by the National Literacy Trust whose research showed that having opportunities to read digitally could be particularly effective for children with low levels of reading engagement, such as reluctant readers. For these children, reading enjoyment increased both on a screen and in print, indicating that reading digitally had the potential to provide a route into general reading and literacy.

Here are my top tips to inspire children to become life-long readers:

1. Immerse children in the illustrations
Encourage young children to ‘lose themselves’ in the illustrations – the ‘meaning’ extracted from pictures helps them make sense of the text. This helps them to increase reading comprehension by explaining the words on the page and is a crucial part of the storytelling process.
2. Digital appeal
The digital space is here to stay, and children encounter it in a very different way to grownups; they were born into this digital world, they learn with it in school, and they see it used every day. Support children to move seamlessly between the digital space for reading and print formats by offering them content that is personalised and something they are really interested in. On platforms such as Readly they can browse and read all their favourite comics and magazines on a phone or tablet at home or on the go.
3. Relax into reading
Dial down any stress involved in ‘learning to read’ and offer them fun material that has something to ‘say’ to them! There needs to be a sense of relaxation, this is key to the experience of beginning to decipher those squiggles on the page. Children tend to like characters who are inspirational and stir a positive feeling for them.
4. Inspire them with comics
Fun and imagination motivate learning. It is a well-trodden path along the journey to becoming a lifelong reader. Children who read graphic novels and short form content are more likely to foster a love of reading. It helps create a healthy habit, provides exposure and drives confidence for reading, with the illustration helping to deepen the narrative and reveal important social and cultural cues.
5. Get involved too!
Dive into the reading space with them whether that is online or offline. Laugh and enjoy the experience together – this communicates that reading is a marvellous activity.
6. Bring reading to life
Carry on the experience in the real world – perhaps by getting creative using storylines and characters they love or that inspire them.
7. Laugh
Get to know what makes a child laugh and exploit it! Choose funny, laugh out loud content and characters.
8. Be ‘on the child’s side’                                                                                                                                                                                  When it comes to respecting the importance of pictures, spend time looking at the picture and knowing it plays a huge role in reading too.
9. Combine formats
Offer children both comics and books – the more formats they enjoy reading across, the better!
10. Talk reading and review
Chat about the story lines in comic and magazines and search for books that follow similar themes. Talk about which part of the content the child enjoyed, any they didn’t. Knowing what they want to read about is a crucial step in inspiring a love of reading.

Children are hungry for content that is meaningful to them, irrespective of format, as they can move with ease between platforms and generally assume less of a distinction than we might expect.

Readly, the unlimited digital magazine and newspaper app for all the family, has collaborated with Disney to bring over 80 Disney magazines to its subscribers. Young readers can immerse themselves in the Disney experience through brilliant stories, fantasy adventures, craft ideas and activities based on their favourite Disney characters. Visit


kids learning

Why send your child to preschool?

By Education, numeracy skills, reading, Relationships

by Marsha Dann
Lead Teacher, Play B C Preschool

A quality preschool, where there are well-qualified and experienced practitioners who give high priority to interacting with children and observing them closely in order to chart their development, responding to their needs and confirming and extending their learning, will enhance your child’s potential and give them an early advantage.

Supporting early childhood development
The Early Years are a crucial time in your child’s development. Scientists tell us that the brain develops rapidly in the first three years gaining up to 90% of its final mass and although the brain continues to develop into adolescence the best time for shaping brains is in the Early Years.

What your child learns in the Early Years is just as important as what they will learn in later years. Perhaps even more so because a good learning environment now can have a positive impact upon social, educational and behavioural outcomes that will last throughout their school years. Choosing a high quality preschool for your child can make a real difference to their future.

Building relationships
Look for a setting which focuses upon relationships rather than resources. The importance of relationships cannot be overemphasised. Attachment theory suggests that humans are born needing relationships with others. Secure attachments lead to independence and well-developed social skills. Social interaction helps to develop the brain and capacity for learning. A good preschool will value social development as highly as intellectual development. Positive relationships formed with caregivers, help develop a sense of security and provide a safe and secure base from which to explore the world.

The key person system helps children to feel valued and cared about by someone in particular while they are at preschool. It allows them to have someone, as developmental psychologist Bronfenbrenner puts it, who is ‘crazy’ about them. It has been acknowledged that people working in Early Years develop strong feelings for the children they care for and my opinion that is as it should be. Your chosen preschool’s team cannot be the same as family, but should come close.

Play based learning
It is widely agreed, that children learn best through play. Childhood pioneers, such as Froebel and Montessori, identified play as being central to early learning. However, free play does not always move learning on, and a balance needs to be struck between spontaneous and structured play and also between child-initiated and adult-initiated learning experiences. Close observation of your child by practitioners will support development and help in planning developmentally appropriate, yet challenging, learning opportunities.

Narrowing the word gap
‘Reading and writing float on a sea of talk’. Lots of warm loving interactions and ‘serve and turn’ conversations with adults and peers will help to build vocabulary. Daily opportunities for songs, stories and rich structured talk at preschool will have a positive impact upon educational attainment and future life chances.

What does a quality preschool look like?
Educationalists identify two main aspects of quality in Early Years’ provision. The first aspect, which relates to processes, has the greatest impact upon outcomes. It is to do with adult interaction, responsiveness and appropriateness of activities. The second aspect, which relates to structure, has less of a direct impact upon outcomes but is important because it influences the processes identified above. It is to do with ratios and qualifications. Research shows that a well-qualified team is important and children make even more progress where a trained teacher is present.

Research evidence shows that quality preschool provision has a significant and lasting effect on educational, social and behavioural outcomes. Sending your child to preschool will get their education off to the best start.

Teacher-led Play B C in the Wallington and Carshalton area offers fun, yet challenging early education. More than just a place, at Play B C every day is a learning adventure. Contact to arrange a visit.



SEN learning

What should you do if you think your child may have Special Educational Needs?

By Education, Mental health, numeracy skills, reading, Relationships, special educational needs

by Chloe Chapman
SEND Consultancy Services

The term ‘Special Educational Needs’ describes learning difficulties or disabilities that make it more difficult for children to learn than most other children of the same age.

What is the first step I should take if I think my child has Special Educational Needs?
It can be a worrying time if you are concerned that your child is not developing in the same way as other children or doing as well as they could be in nursery, school or college. Each educational setting will have a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) responsible for providing additional support for children with additional needs. If you have concerns, you should arrange a meeting with the SENCO and other key staff who work with your child frequently (for example, the class teacher or form tutor), to discuss where you feel your child is struggling and what support is already in place to help your child.

The school (and you) may feel that your child needs more support, and this should be reflected within a SEN Support Plan.

The SEN Support Plan should include clear outcomes that it is expected your child will meet, and the support they will need for that to happen. For example, if your child is struggling with writing, support may include an intervention or support group that your child will attend, and during writing activities a staff member will support them. The SEN Support Plan should be reviewed regularly to ensure that your child is making good progress and the support is working well.

What is the next step if a SEN Support Plan is not working?
If your child has a SEN Support Plan, but they are still not making as much progress as would be expected, they may need an Educational, Health and Care (EHC) Plan. A parent/guardian, educational setting or a professional working with your child can apply for an EHC Plan, using the link available on the Local Offer for your Local Authority.

You do not have to use the forms provided by the Local Authority, but they will guide you as to what information to include. It is important to include as much evidence as possible – this can be information from the educational setting such as; a copy of the SEN Support Plan, results from standardised tests and examples of your child’s work. If your child has received additional care from Health Professionals such as your GP, a Paediatrician or Consultant, then include any corresponding paperwork. You can include reports from other professionals who may have worked with your child, such as: Educational Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, Speech and Language Therapist, Behavioural Support Worker or a Physiotherapist. Where possible, evidence should be dated from the last two years so it is still relevant to your child. For your child to receive the help they need it is important for reports to reflect how they might be on their worst day; this can make for difficult and emotional reading. Please remember that this is a means to an end and with the correct support in place the good days should far outweigh the more challenging days.

Once this information has been submitted to the Local Authority, they will make a decision about whether your child will undertake an EHC Needs Assessment. This is a 20 week assessment process, where the Local Authority gathers further information on your child to make a decision about what level of support is required. At the end of this process your child may receive an EHC Plan, or they may remain on a SEN Support Plan.

How to find information about services available through my Local Authority?
Local Authorities have an obligation to publish information relating to services and support for children on the Local Offer. The Local Offer will include information about how to apply for an EHC Plan, who to contact for help and what the process will look like for your area. If you are thinking about applying for an EHC Plan it can be useful to discuss this first with your local SEN Team, a local support group or an independent SEN consultant.

Aside from an EHC Plan, what else should my Local Authority be offering? –
The Local Offer should explain what schools are expected to provide as part of a universal offer for every child. Teachers should be regularly assessing children to identify which children may need additional help. In any one class, the teaching staff (with guidance from the SENCO), could be running a number of catch up or intervention groups for children with skills or knowledge gaps. The expectation is that if a teacher identifies a gap or delay, that the school should look to their own existing groups and resources to support a child in the first instance. As a parent, regular communication with school staff is key to making sure that you are both on the same page and your child is getting access to the support they need.

If you would like more advice about your child and their individual circumstances, then please do get in touch. SEND Consultancy Services can talk through possible next steps, attend meetings, read over reports, SEN Support Plans or EHC Plans and be an advocate for you and your child.

kids shouting in ear

Ten strategies to develop your child’s communication skills

By Education, family, Language, reading
by Ellen Martin
Help Me to Talk

It can be difficult to know how to encourage the development of your child’s communication skills. There are lots of things you can do at home to help. Here are my top 10 strategies for helping your child’s communication.

1 Get down to your child’s level
When communicating with your child, get down and be at their level. Play with them face to face where possible, hold toys up to your face this will draw your child’s attention to you. For example, you could kneel or sit on the floor holding a bubble pot close to your face.

2 Watch and wait
We can often respond to children’s nonverbal requests and needs before they have even initiated them. As parents, you know when your child gets hungry, and you know what snack they will want. So, you pre-empt it, you already have the snack ready before they realise they wanted one! This can remove the need for interaction. Watch your child and wait, see if they will tell you in some way that they are hungry or want something. This could be verbally or it may be through gesture. For example, they may take your hand and guide you to the biscuit tin!

3 Naming/commenting
Simple is key when learning language. Label what you see, keep it to one word, and keep it simple. For example, when playing with bricks you might say “oh look a big red brick”, instead you could say “brick”. Think about what target words you would like your child to say or learn.

4 Use gestures
Use a gesture or sign when you name or do something. Gestures provide a concrete visual representation and can help your child to understand what you are saying. Make sure with any gesture you are still saying the word. We want the gestures to support talking development, not replace it. Some children do pick up gestures before words, but it is important to continue to model the words.

5 Reduce the questions
When we are asked a question, especially one we do not know the answer to, we feel under pressure. This is the same for children when we ask them questions. They can feel put on the spot, which is difficult for children who are learning to talk. Instead, use a naming or commenting approach and explain what is happening. So rather than asking your child “what’s that?” tell them what it is, give them the opportunity to learn language.

6 Offer choices
Offer your child a choice of two things, for example, at snack time you could offer a banana or a cereal bar, make the choice visual. As you offer each one hold the item up, so it is clear what you are referring to. Offering choices encourages a child to interact, especially when it is something as motivational as food or toys! Your child may indicate their choice using words or gestures.

7 Repeat, repeat, repeat
We learn best when things are repeated, and children are no different. Repeat key words or gestures over and over during play or in your daily life. This will help your child to link the word/gesture with the action or object.

8 Functional communication vs ‘ABC’ and ‘123’
It’s important your child can express their needs and wants using functional communication. This may include words such as ‘go’, ‘more’, ‘help’ ‘stop’ and ‘open’. Words that can be used on their own to communicate but also built on to increase communication. Shapes, letters and numbers aren’t as useful when it comes to communication as they can’t be used to express needs or wants.

9 Follow your child’s lead
We often try to teach children as they play or direct them towards a new activity. Whilst this may create more opportunities for them it can limit communication. Children are more likely to communicate in a familiar activity they enjoy. Allow your child to show you what they enjoy, follow their lead and join in with their play and interactions. You can then use language appropriate to their interests which will help build language and attention skills.

10 Pausing – count to 10 and then give them time
When we are learning something new we need time. Time to listen, process and then respond. This is the same with learning language. By pausing and counting to 10 in your head, we give children time to understand what you have said and respond. If after pausing, they do not respond you can model the words/gestures you would like them to use.

If you would like more strategies and support with your child’s communication skills, then please do get in touch. Help Me To Talk provide engaging sessions at home, nursery, school and virtually to families across Surrey and Hampshire. For children as young as two years old.,

`Xtraordinary people

The seven dyslexic archetypes How to spot, support and empower your dyslexic child

By Education, numeracy skills, reading, Relationships
by Kate Griggs
Made By Dyslexia

How can you tell a child is Made By Dyslexia? As many as 1 in 5 children are dyslexic but research suggests that 80% of dyslexic children leave school without being spotted. This proves that in order for parents and teachers alike to spot, support and empower dyslexic children, there needs to be more awareness about what the signs of ‘Dyslexic Thinking’ are.

Dyslexic brains are wired slightly differently, which means they have a different way of processing information. This difference results in a pattern of challenges, but extraordinary strengths too.

Children with dyslexia have trouble learning to read, write and spell as well as remembering lots of facts and figures or concentrating and following instructions. Tests are particularly tricky for dyslexic children as they are a combination of all these things and can make them feel embarrassed or even stupid, which they are not! This can make school particularly frustrating for dyslexic children. But if spotted early, and given the right support, they can and will do well.

How to spot your child’s dyslexic superpower
• Think about what your child loves to do and would do for hours, if left to their own devices. These are usually their ‘Dyslexic Thinking’ skills.
• Find out what they are passionate about, what they love to talk about, watch or learn about.
• Encourage them to do both of the above, lots and lots. Skill + practice + passion = superpower.
• Easy-to-spot strengths include sport, art, music and dancing. But empathy, kindness, imagining, listening and questioning are all incredibly valuable superpowers too.
• Acknowledge their expertise. Dyslexics often don’t realise how good they are at these things, so may not recognise them as their superpowers.

To identify ‘Dyslexic Thinking’ skills in children, we conducted one of the largest research projects of its kind. Our extensive research with dyslexic people, teachers, psychologists and parents, helped us to gather a unique insight into dyslexic strengths and thinking skills in children. These are the things that dyslexic children are naturally good at, and love to do. Because they love to do them so much, they practise them a lot and become extraordinarily good at them and these things become their ‘superpowers’.

From this research, we developed seven dyslexic archetypes:
1. Storytellers
2. Makers
3. Entertainers
4. Movers
5. Imaginers
6. Questioners
7. ‘People’ people

Dyslexic children have a natural ability in some or all of these seven archetypes. While all children will show ability and interest in these areas, dyslexics tend to immerse themselves and become very good, often ‘expert’ at them. You can develop resilient confident learners by nurturing these natural abilities, which can develop into valuable skills in work and life.

Here are some of the signs for each dyslexic archetype in children:
• Storytellers:
Persuasive. Tell tall tales. Elaborate explainers. Invent stories. Love stories and films. When they grow up, Storytellers often become journalists, teachers, writers, filmmakers, politicians or campaigners.

• Makers:
Jigsaws. Puzzles. Lego. Building things. Making things. Cooking. Crafts. Art and painting. When they grow up, Makers often become architects, craftspeople, chefs, designers, gardeners, artists or programmers.

• Entertainers:
Music and rhythm. Singing. Dancing. Jokers. Expressive arts. Like putting on a show. When they grow up, Entertainers often become actors, musicians, comedians, salespeople, PR people or presenters.

• Movers:
Fidgets ‘on the go’. Physical risk takers. Sports/ball skills. Balance. Climbing. Skateboarding. Gymnastics. When they grow up, Movers often become musicians, sportspeople, dancers, sports coaches, choreographers or firefighters.

• Imaginers:
Daydreaming. Making up games and fantasy/imaginary worlds. Create dens and ‘worlds’ out of things. Get lost in their imagination, immersed in activities. When they grow up, Imaginers often become scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, photographers or filmmakers.

• Questioners:
Constantly ask ‘what if?’ and ‘why not?, Challenge norms and rules. Have an answer for everything. Always curious. Problem-solvers. Explain things to everyone. When they grow up, Questioners often become detectives, spies, entrepreneurs, journalists, writers or real change-makers.

• ‘People’ people:

Peacemakers. Social organisers. Busybodies. Helpers. Charmers. Carers. Leaders. When they grow up, ‘People’ people often become nurses, doctors, teachers, care workers, managers or presenters.

So, by far the most important thing we can do for any dyslexic child is to identify their strengths and place as much importance on them
as we do on their challenges. With help, our children will learn to do all they need to do well enough, but it’s their dyslexic strengths that will help them to excel in life.

Early identification and the right support is vital for dyslexic children, so that’s why Made By Dyslexia has created our free online dyslexia awareness training films, so parents and teachers around the world can gain the knowledge they need to begin to support their children.

Kate Griggs is the founder and CEO of global charity Made By Dyslexia and author of dyslexia guide This is Dyslexia (Penguin, £11.99) and children’s book Xtraordinary People: Made By Dyslexia (Penguin, £6.99).


This is dyslexia

Unlocking independent education scholarships and bursaries

By Education, numeracy skills, reading
by Tamara Pearson
Assistant Head, Head of the Junior School Our Lady of Sion, Worthing

Boaters? ‘Hogwarts’ campus? ‘Mallory Towers’ traditions? Maybe. Maybe not. My experience was decidedly different.

Growing up in South East London in the 80s, with a bird’s eye view of The Oval cricket ground, my primary state school was an eclectic and creative start to life. My classes were always large and busy; teacher time was generally spent with children who required additional help. Art projects for the Notting Hill carnival and a chance to perform at the National Theatre were certainly highlights.

However, after discovering my grandma’s Irish harp in her attic, music quickly became an all-consuming passion. Lessons on the edge of Battersea Park were a complete joy. I felt lucky to have found my ‘thing’ and was relishing the chance to play and perform. I played alongside professionals, appeared on television, performed at weddings and regularly played at local care homes. A solo recital in front of the Head of Music at a large public boarding school resulted in a top scholarship and a huge change in my education.

As a scholar, my harp was housed in the Headmaster’s House, where I practiced for hours each day. I sang in the choirs, performing at St George’s Chapel (Windsor), Winchester Cathedral and sang great choral works such as Haydn’s Creation. Orchestral opportunities and coaching in composition were hugely inspiring and further developed my musicianship. As a solo performer, I played at the opening of new buildings in partner schools, governor lunches and formal events – including large charity occasions. As the only harpist at the school (at the time), I was very happy to be literally wheeled out for any occasion.

My scholarship opened up a world of opportunities which far exceeded musical enrichment. Tutorials, workshops, enrichment days, visits and outings, productions, concerts, a huge array of sporting activities and life beyond the classroom. The experience of an independent education was life-changing. To this day, I carry the lasting legacy of my education. It was not just what I learned, but how I learned – the memories and how I was made to feel.

I am forever grateful to have been passed the key which unlocked this opportunity for me. Consequently, I am passionate about ensuring there are similar opportunities available to other families. To be truly known and nurtured by inspirational and passionate teachers, in an environment of ambitious academic discovery, where a joy of learning is fostered is what our children deserve.

Most independent schools offer scholarships for talented pupils. Whilst very competitive, scholarships may offer more in terms of prestige, rather than financial awards. Means-tested bursaries may also be available for families who need financial assistance with fees.

Independent school fees vary considerably and it is important to consider the full picture; additional charges, uniform costs and the full cost of an education through to senior school.

Scholarships can now take many forms. There are traditional academic, music, sport, art and drama awards, as well as more holistic and alternative offerings. Financial awards can vary, as can the complete package of fees.

Scholarships are rarely worth more than around 10% of fees these days. However, scholars may benefit from additional features, such as further coaching, trips/tours, mentoring and enrichment.

Scholarships at prep school level (primary phase) are less common. There tend to be standard entry points for these – usually being at the age of seven. Some prep schools offer ‘exhibitions’ which is the name given for a minor scholarship.

Scholarships may also be available for internal candidates. Again, these are usually made available at key intake points throughout the school at set times in the year.

Bursaries provide financial support for families with talented children who would otherwise not be able to afford full fees. These range in value from school to school – they can also cover additional expenses such as uniform and trips. Whilst based on a child’s ability or talents, bursaries are also means tested, which means that each year the family’s financial standing is inspected by the school bursar. The threshold for support can differ from school to school and it is important to remember that it may not be the only factor of consideration (schools may also look at the number of dependents, other assets and outgoings such as holidays).

It is important to note that schools can award scholarships with bursaries; providing the prestige of a scholarship, with the financial support of a bursary.

Whilst we all see the best in our children, it is imperative to dig deep and be realistic about whether they are ready to apply for a scholarship. It is also wise to carefully consider the school. It can be tempting to be lured by the largest ‘discount’, rather than looking at full costs and even if the school is a perfect fit for your child.

Some tips to consider:
• Research schools and their scholarship and bursary options.
• Compare full and true costs (including any wraparound, meals, uniform and additional expenses such as music lessons/extra-curricular opportunities).
• Check the timing of scholarships and be organised with deadlines.
• Be honest on all application paperwork – about abilities and finances.
• Do not push or pressure your child.
• Keep a sense of proportion and trust that you will find the right school for your child.

Tamara Pearson is Assistant Head, Head of the Junior School at Our Lady of Sion School in Worthing. She is also mother to an eight year old who attends Sion and she is passionate about helping the Juniors embrace every enrichment opportunity available.

Our Lady of Sion Junior School welcomes children from Early Years to Year 6 when children transition to the Senior School. Alongside its Bursaries and Senior School Scholarships, the school has recently launched a new Scholarship for children in Years 1 and 2.