I don’t know how you feel about reading schemes. I don’t particularly like them.
Why? Because they make everyone using them regard learning to read as some kind of ‘race through the rainbow’: Pink Sticker Child moves into Green Sticker Child and success is measured by children moving UP into the next section.
(Ok - there might not always be stickers on the spines of books these days but there is a recognisable pathway through the scheme, which is my point.)
It’s always UP – never meandering or sauntering sideways in response to a child’s curiosity. Surely a child’s reading journey should be fuelled with rich picture books, a newspaper article that has made them curious or even something from when they were younger they want to read again and again?
If I had to guess at some of the questions that parents most frequently ask about reading in primary schools - my best bets would include:
‘Don't you think my child needs a new reading book, this one is too easy?’
‘Is this book at the right age level for my child?’
When will they be moving on to the green sticker books?
'What can I do to help my child's reading?'
In response to the last one at least, I know that schools don’t just use the reading scheme and will offer lots of advice to parents, including taking children to the library, borrowing the lovely picture books from the classroom shelves and playing games etc. but somehow, no-one seems to really believe a child will learn to read successfully unless we all jump on the rainbow and follow it to the end.
Unfortunately, there’s no crock of gold at the end of the rainbow stickers in any reading scheme I’ve ever seen.
The best way to counter the Rainbow Syndrome?
If you’re a parent it’s easy:
- Invest some regular time in the local library – go often and let children spend time sauntering and meandering through the shelves. Browsing is something children need to do to develop an independent sense of being a real reader. Let them choose for themselves – with gentle and enthusiastic suggestions from you.
- Play reading games – the activities in the T C Network support aspects of reading in active, interesting ways. Increasingly schools are using these ideas for homework - asking parents to help their children enjoy reading,rather than it being a chore every evening - to plough through and up that rainbow. The little and often elements of these reinforce and supplement what children gain from reading books.
- Whenever possible buy interesting and appealing books for the children in your lives. Grandparents love getting a book title to look for and buy.
- Read aloud to children often – Infect them with enthusiasm and the beautiful illustrations of children’s books. If you find it hard to find the time every day – record /video you reading on an MP3 or computer so you can share their favourite books even if you’re late back from work.
Imagine the treasure at the end of any child’s rainbow that is a shelf full of amazing books they can enjoy forever.
Whether you are a parent or a school try and buy good books. And to do that you need to visit a friend of mine.
Marilyn Brocklehurst is the most knowledgeable (and lovely) person I know when it comes to giving advice about children’s books.
I realise that reading scheme books are here to stay for a while longer but it doesn’t mean children need to only travel down the yellow, green, pink or blue brick sticker road.
Please, please choose different paths and wander at will.