St Anne’ s Family Reading Project Lambeth

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Family Reading at St Anne’s School started as a direct result of the Lambeth Family Reading Campaign and the success and inspiration of the Café Reading Project at St Stephen’s Primary School. And, of course, it was also driven by the need to involve our parents in the life of the school and their children’s education, and to foster a love of books and reading.

St Anne’s has a large percentage of families (81%) with English as an Additional Language (EAL). Last year, to improve the attainment of our Portuguese pupils, we ran a series of successful Portuguese Family Workshops for Reception and KS1 children. We decided to build on this experience with Family Reading which would be open to families in the Reception classes. Our aims were to encourage the enjoyment of books through reading, speaking and listening and other practical activities, and to increase parents’ involvement in their child’s education. We ran eight sessions every Monday from 3.45 to 4.45 pm.

The team running Family Reading at St Anne’s included a teacher and a Teaching Assistant fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese. She has worked at the school for several years and has an excellent rapport with parents. Her involvement has made the sessions much more meaningful and enjoyable for several families. We decided to invite to the first project the families of Reception children new to St Anne’s but initially we found it difficult to recruit enough parents for a number of reasons.

Consequently, we needed to spend a lot of time in the playground talking to and persuading parents to join.

We were given an initial block of planning time within the school day which gave us valuable time together and also time to make resources, etc. We planned the sessions around three popular texts: Dear Zoo, Handa’s Surprise, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and we spent two sessions on each. Two other sessions included a visit to our local library and a bookmaking session.

After refreshments, each session started with a reading of the text. We modelled this in the first week or so, then we read with the children joining in, and finally all the adults took part if they felt comfortable to do so.

For each text we prepared a variety of resources and activities. Some of these included making masks, drama activities , board games based on the stories, memory games, making fruit salad, puppets, singing a song and magnetic story props. For every game, we made several copies, which families could then borrow. (These were the most popular borrowed items.) Families could also borrow the current week’s book and CD, which we bought with the funding, and dual language and other books (from school resources).

Working so closely with parents enabled us to answer questions which arose around reading as well as around the alphabet, handwriting, completing reading diaries, choosing books, reception words and so on. Parents whose first child is starting school are entering a new world and they need all the information available to support their child.

Over the eight weeks our parents, including mums, dads, and an older sister at secondary school, showed great enthusiasm and commitment. Children loved working with their parents and parents enjoyed helping their children, sometimes with activities they might not have had the opportunity to do when they were at school. Families were encouraged to use their first language. We talked about the advantages of bilingualism and the importance of children speaking their first language at home. The evaluations showed that all the children had enjoyed attending the sessions and were more interested in books as a result. Evaluations also showed that the parents had learnt new activities and were more confident about reading with their children.

Our second Family Reading project started in January 2008. We decided to invite families of Reception children again, follow the same plan and use the same resources; this reduced preparation time. Recruiting parents to this project can be quite time consuming. We hope to make best use of time in the future by meeting new Reception parents in the summer term. We can talk to them at that stage about the project and take details of those who are interested so that they can sign up and start in the new academic year.

In the summer term we will most likely widen the project to include Year 1 children and, weather permitting, hold picnic reading sessions in the local park.

Families who have been part of the previous projects will be able to join us again. Several have said they would like Family Reading to be permanent.

Liz Kehoe EAL Teacher St Anne’s RC Primary School

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