by Michaela Ledsham, EYFS Teacher, Sturton Le Steeple C of E Primary
*Please note Power of Reading in the Early Years is now known as Closing the Vocabulary Gap in the Early Years
Our insight into the possibilities that the Power of Reading* could offer our youngest children began in 2017. As a school we wanted to develop reading for pleasure and engagement in writing for our children. After conducting extensive research our literacy coordinator brought the work of the CLPE to the attention of the Senior Leadership Team. As a small school, training our literacy coordinator in the Power of Reading* was an investment, but one we knew that our children deserved. The overriding factor for selecting the Power of Reading* was that this would enable the staff to use a whole school approach in raising the profile of literacy.
As well as being part of the senior leadership team I have the pleasure of being the EYFS teacher and coordinator. During the Power of Reading* training I was able to work on some sample teaching sequences with our nursery and reception pupils. I can honestly say that my colleague and I were hooked from the beginning and so were the children. The choice of quality picturebooks on offer is extensive and is still continuing to grow. I was further delighted to find that within the collection I could select texts to match the personal interests of my children. The sequences themselves are incredibly detailed with a large range of literacy-focused and creative activity choices. They provide us with an excellent starting point for practitioners to build upon to support the needs of our individual learners.
For our nursery pupils the focus is predominantly on their communication and language development. They share the same texts as the Reception pupils and as a team we collaborate on our Power of Reading* planning for each week. As EYFS lead I am delighted to observe the nursery children chatting about the text and illustrations, predicting what the story may be about, describing what they see and examining each character in detail. The Power of Reading* has resulted in children using a rich and varied story vocabulary. Further to this, the rich language is transferred into the children’s role-play and into many of their child initiated learning experiences.
For our reception children the texts open up a multitude of learning opportunities. The children are led through a series of discussions and engaging creative experiences prior to reading the text. Recently we have chosen one of the new additions to the Power of Reading* EYFS text collection, Ruby’s Worry by Tom Percival. I can honestly say that I had the full engagement of the children from the very first session. Initially the children only had the image on the title page to investigate and they carefully hypothesised who the girl may be, what she was doing and how she was feeling. The responses ranged from ‘She is listening to her favourite music’, ‘She is prancing’ and ‘She looks happy and relaxed’.
Ruby’s Worry has opened up lots of discussion based on her ethnicity and why is she alone on the title page. This led to colour mixing skin tones in art. The children wondered if she had a family and if so where they were, as she was too young to be left alone. Ruby’s Worry focuses on the character ignoring her own worries and the children were able to understand that the best thing to do with a concern is to share it. I asked the children who they could share their worries with and they could empathise with the character by suggesting that they could tell a friend, their parents and their teacher.
For the writing experiences the reception children have drawn upon their own personal narratives by suggesting ways that Ruby can distract herself from her worries. They have also labelled a series of common emotions, sent cards to Ruby to extend their friendship to her and have gone on to write to their own families to share their feelings about them. The Power of Reading has given the children a purpose for writing that is built upon a sequence of rich discussions and role-play scenarios.
Our children have developed not only a love of reading but also a love of writing over the last academic year. We are hopeful that this is a continued trend and the early indicators are incredibly positive.
In June 2018 we had a significant increase in the number of children achieving the ‘expected’ judgement within the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile. It is my belief that this is down to developing an embedded culture of reading for pleasure and through providing meaningful writing experiences for our youngest children. The Power of Reading* will continue to be enjoyed within our school. Our children deserve the very best start to their early literacy and I know we have found that in the Power of Reading*.
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