Debate over the effectiveness of the LEARN Act

There’s a stark difference of opinion between academics about the effectiveness of the recently-launched Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation Act, or LEARN Act in the US.

The critics, among them the linguist and professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, Stephen Krashen, feel that the act is doomed to failure, particularly as it is based on a combination of three existing failed programs. Others, conversely, believe that the LEARN Act can only be a positive step towards the centralisation and longevity of literacy instruction. One of these is Richard M. Long, director of government relations of the International Reading Association.

In a post Long argues that the Act “establishes the centrality of instruction that is aligned across grade levels and across subjects” as well as emphasizing “smooth transitions from early childhood programs to elementary school, elementary school to middle school, and middle to high school”.

While it is clear that literacy initiatives are both indispensable and critical to the successful education of our children, the fact remains that they have to be tailored to the students who are receiving the instruction in order to be relevant and effective. In the past this hasn’t necessarily been the case. Let’s hope that the LEARN Act really has learned from past initiatives and can produce positive results for American children.

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New video: Narration of ‘The Mystery of the Missing Letters’ Personalised Book

We have just launched a new video – a narrated version of The Mystery of the Missing Letters personalised book for children. The characters in this version are Simon (the hero), Jen (the friend) and Roger (the adult). The names and appearance of the characters can all be customised, so you get to create a book with the characters of you choice. Enjoy!

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6 benefits of personalised book reading

Children can sometimes find book reading an overwhelming experience, particularly when they are given a target number of titles to complete within a fixed timeframe at school. Finding reading material that kids will find engaging and fun is the key to making sure they don’t see reading as a dull chore.

Reading a personalised storybook is a great way for parents to introduce children to highly relevant content that they will have an emotional attachment to. It can have numerous benefits for a young reader, as it is an activity that calls on past experiences.

Below are six of the principal benefits of personalised book reading.

1. A young reader can draw on his or her experience to make sense of the story. This in turn makes the events of the story more meaningful. The personalised book can also act as a ‘springboard’ for sharing other experiences – for example, a parent might ask their child related questions to check their understanding of the story, based on the child’s own experiences.

2. Seeing their likeness and reading or hearing their name in a story will motivate children to engage with the story to a greater degree than if they were reading about other unrelated characters.

3. Children’s attention spans are limited at the best of times. A personalised book, where they and their friends and loved ones are the ‘hero’ characters, is most likely to hold their attention sufficiently long for a positive learning outcome.

4. Reading a personalised storybook is an ideal way for a parent to bond with their child. Not only does it provide an opportunity to spend quality time together, but it also gives your child vital exposure to their most important teacher – you.

5. A personalised book is a great way to boost a child’s self-esteem. Seeing himself as the hero of the story will help build a child’s confidence, while familiarity with the story from repeat reading will almost certainly result in an improvement in reading skills.

6. If you are struggling to find a Christmas or birthday present for a young child,  a personalised book makes for an ideal gift that is slightly out of the ordinary. It will also become a souvenir for years to come.

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Getting your children to read

What tricks and techniques do you use to get your kids reading? Let us know!

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5 tips to help you become your child’s best teacher

According to a report released this week by the Center for Public Education, parental involvement in a child’s education can boost student achievement.
The study, Back to school: How parent involvement affects student achievement, focuses on setting expectations, helping with homework and engaging educators.

Below are five of our own hints and tips to help you, as a parent, to be your child’s most important – and influential – teacher.

1. Don’t worry that you’re not trained or don’t have enough knowledge. Simply reading together regularly with your children from early on in their development will engender an enthusiasm for reading that will stay with them for a long time after their school days are over. As a parent, you shouldn’t be worried about ‘messing it up’ when you read with your child. Just because you aren’t formally trained doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in helping your child to read.

2. Keep it cosy! We know that kids learn best when they are having fun, so a cosy, family environment will always be far more conducive to the development of your child’s reading skills than the classroom.

3. Ask questions as you read. It’s vital that your child understands what is being read, so be sure to ask simple questions as you go through the pages to check basic reading comprehension. Tailor the questions to the child’s age and ability, but don’t make them too hard. You don’t want to make it seem like an exam!

4. Make sure you have a stack of reading materials around the house. If your kids grow up in a home with a lot of books, magazines and newspapers, and they see you reading, they are far more likely to want to read themselves from a young age. They are also more likely to develop into enthusiastic readers and learners in their later years.

5. Use the local library and bookshop. This one can’t be emphasised enough. Library and bookshop staff are specifically trained to help with child literacy issues, and they can also recommend great titles to try out. Libraries also put on specific events tailored to kids’ reading, so be sure to go along and chat to the librarians.

So don’t feel that you are helpless when it comes to nurturing your child’s reading skills. You really don’t need to have a language or literature degree. Just a vested interest in your child’s development, an open ear, a loving approach and some words of encouragement.

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The older children are, the less likely they are to read

The older children are, the less likely they are to read, according to a survey carried out by the UK’s National Literacy Trust.  The researchers, who asked a sample of 8 to 17-year-olds about their out of school reading habits, found the following worrying results:

– While one in 10 children claimed to have read 10 books in the last month, 13% had not read any at all.

– Boys are nearly twice as likely to say they never read than girls.

– Only 29% of all children read every day.

– 19% had never been given a book as a present

– 12% had never been to a bookshop.

– 7% had never been to a library.

Materials read outside of class

These results contrast starkly with the statistics for reading websites and email.

50% of respondents said they read emails and websites at least once a month, while 27% read comics.
Magazines have overtaken both fiction and non-fiction books.

Some might argue that as long as kids are reading something, then the medium isn’t really that important. Indeed, comics and cartoons can be an effective lead-in to fiction books. However this doesn’t address the issue that a large portion of pre-teens and teenagers just aren’t reading at all.

Earlier this year, the UK’s education secretary, Michael Gove, said children aged 11 should be reading 50 books a year, in line with the objectives that had been laid out for the charter schools in the US. We know that these issues are not just limited to the UK, though. They are present in the entire English-speaking world. It remains to be seen what governments will do to solve the problem. Clearly something needs to be done, and now.

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Six useful activities for child literacy success

Below are six of the most useful activities you can carry out to help your young child to literacy success. Give them a try, and do let us know how you get on.


Read to your baby

This may sound like a strange recommendation, but experts claim that reading to your baby has all kinds of benefits. These include promoting listening skills, developing attention span and memory, helping to learn the sounds and rhythms of words, and promoting bonding and calmness for both baby and parent.

You may feel a bit self-conscious doing it, but the benefits of reading to your baby make it worthwhile. It can stimulate a baby’s imagination and senses, and boost critical learning skills in your baby.
Be seen reading by your child

As a parent you are your child’s most important role model, and she will always mimic what you do. Take advantage of this natural affinity and make sure your child sees you reading frequently. She will want to do the same.

Your child will start to see reading as part of the everyday routine, and will accept is as the ‘norm’. Because of this it is far more likely that your child will want to pick up a book and start reading it, and ‘reading together’ time will be something that she adapts to easily.
Have lots of books around the house

It’s a good idea to have as much reading material in the house as possible. An environment rich in books translates to a child who is more likely to read both earlier and later in life. Simply being used to having reading material around is a great starting point on the road to literacy development.

A study published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility found that just having books around the house correlates with the number of years of schooling a child will complete. Children living in homes with as few as 25 books completed on average two more years of schooling than children brought up in homes without any books.
Join the local library

As soon as your child is old enough to be eligible, register him for a library card. This ‘passport’ will allow access to the treasured world of the local public library. Introducing your child to this vital resource really is one of the most important and valuable things you can do – it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say it’s an investment in his learning future.

A children’s library is the perfect place to visit for a wide range of free children’s books that you and your little one can borrow. Make it a regular outing, and one to look forward to. These days they are bright, colourful places with lots of activities like story readings and kids’ plays.
Read with your child every day

It’s vital that you set time aside with your child every day to read together. It doesn’t have to be for a long time, but as long as you can do it regularly you will start to get your child into good habits. At the very worst it will give you and your child some much-appreciated bonding time, at best it can set your young reader off on the fast track to literacy success.

Reading together gets a child used to the formalities of reading; the fact that you start on the first page and read from left to right, the rhythm of words, pictures illustrating the plot of the story. Children pick up more than you would imagine when they are sitting on your lap and following the text of a storybook.
Remember – it’s never too late to start

You may well be thinking that you have never done anything like what’s listed above, and that it’s too late to start. Apart from anything else, it’s all very hard and you have to have qualifications to be able to do it well, right?

Absolutely not! The main thing to bear in mind is that anything you can do to help your child to develop better reading skills is beneficial, and is – unfortunately – more than the vast majority of parents do. So give it a go… and good luck!

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Etsy, Squidoo, Facebook… and more

Phew, last week was a busy one for us at My Own Adventure. On Thursday we launched our Etsy page, and shortly after that we went live with our first Squidoo lens Personalised Books for Kids.

But we didn’t stop there. Yesterday we launched our Facebook promotion, where we are offering a 10% discount on our personalised children’s storybook The Mystery of the Missing Letters – simply go to the Facebook promotion page and ‘Like’ it to be eligible for the discount!.

And last but not least, in the next couple of days we will be starting our PR campaign – so watch out for more coverage of us and our products!

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Reach Out and Read’s new breed of advocates

How fantastic, I thought, that the Los Angeles chapter of the Reach Out and Read intitiative has its very own Medical Director, whose role is to help co-ordinate organisational plans, outreach goals and provider training. Just as impressive was this Medical Director’s commitment to the importance of critical literacy and reading development, which was made evident in an interview with Earl Martin Phalen, CEO of Reach Out and Read, and Founder of Summer Advantage USA.

35-year-old pediatrician Dr Katie Swec was awarded the Medical Director role back in April. She has firm and passionate views about the benefits of reading, and advocates shared reading activities between children and parents/caregivers, with the view that children who are successful in reading ‘are going to be successful in school — and eventually in life’.

Introduced to the program in 2006, as an active-duty pediatrician at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Swec was invited by her department to apply to become a Reach Out and Read volunteer. And it didn’t take her long to get into it. So impressed was she, that she offered her services at both the main Naval Medical Center Clinic and at a satellite location.

Traditionally, early literacy has been the domain of educators and librarians, but this new breed of pediatricians like Swec are showing that books are just as vital to pediatric care as the thermometer and stethoscope. Reach Out and Read has a range of guides and resources that help doctors to evaluate a child’s development and introduce suitable reading material into families where levels of literacy may be below average.

As you might expect, Swec has firm views about how critical it is that parents read to their children, and also of parents ‘modelling’ reading – that is, being seen reading by their children.

Asked about the reading rituals in her own home, and how she encourages her own daughter to spend time with books, she said:

“My daughter loves to read. I started reading to her as a young infant before naps and bedtime — and throughout the day. I also had baskets of books on the floor for her within reach. Now as an older toddler, she has her own bookshelf! We also have books for her in the car, and she loves story time at the library.”

It just goes to show that the tried and tested techniques for getting kids into reading are still the best.

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10 easy tips to help motivate a reluctant reader


Although most children love nothing more than reading stories or having stories read to them, there will be times when reading will seem like a chore to them, and they really won’t want to read at all.

There are other kids who, for a variety of reasons, may struggle with reading and early literacy, and therefore will do anything to avoid having to read a book.

Below are 10 easy tips to help motivate a reluctant young reader. Hopefully you will find them useful – please let us know of any you have tried that have worked!

1.Focus on topics that interest your child. If your little boy loves football, get hold of a match program and read it together with him.

2. Be seen to read books, newspapers, magazines and any other reading material you can think of. Your child will naturally want to emulate you.

3. Rather than treating reading as ‘homework’ or something related to school, try to present it to your child as a treat for her. So much of it is perception, so allow her to associate reading with fun and pleasure.

4. Don’t be a ‘snob’ about what your child reads. Remember that anything is better than nothing, and it doesn’t matter if he’s captivated by a comic book rather than a work of literature – it’s still beneficial.

5. Read your child a bedtime story each night. This is something that will become a ‘ritual’ for both you and your child, and a time that she will look forward to and cherish. Research suggests that being read to can help soothe a child’s anxieties.

6. Take your child to see a movie based on a book, then buy the book and read it together. Your young reader will treat it as a pleasure rather than a chore, as he will be able to relate what happens back to the movie.

7. The next time you go on holiday, find books that relate to the place you visit and read them with your child. It’s often better to read the books after the holiday, as your child will have a mental record of what those places were like in reality.

8. Play word games and have contests on car journeys. The licence plate game can be great fun, and is a good way to get your child used to the appearance of letters.

9. Choose a recipe from a cookbook. Ask your child to read out the ingredients from the book and write them down on a shopping list. Then, at the grocery store, encourage her to read the product labels and ask her if there are any new ingredients that she hasn’t heard of.

10. Print off lyric sheets of your child’s favourite songs and encourage your child to sing along with the CD! This is a great way to learn new words, and to appreciate the rhythm of words.

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