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SLA Blog » November 2007RSS Feed RSS

The SLA blog contains news about the SLA and topical information of general interest to our members. The blog has been running since 2004. An RSS 2.0 feed and information about how to subscribe to the blog are available.

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Ed Balls announces more National Year of Reading book gifting as new PIRLS results released

little girl and boy enjoying book with dadSecretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, called today for all parents to get their children to read more at home as they grow up, and announced £5m for libraries to give free books to local nurseries based on a new booklist drawn up by the School Library Association.  He also commented on an international study of children's reading which showed that England's ten year olds are reading fewer novels and stories outside of school than in 2001.

PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) 2006, and the PIRLS report for England, Readers and reading: the national report from England, by the independent National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) were both published today.

PIRLS highlights:

  • that the amount of reading overall outside school has fallen;
  • that 37 per cent of our ten year olds play computer games for more than three hours a day. This has increased since 2001 and is one of the highest proportions internationally;
  • the link between high use of computer games and lower attainment in PIRLS; and
  • that children in England read for pleasure less often than their peers in other countries. There is a strong link between the amount of reading for pleasure and their achievement in PIRLS tests.

The PIRLS report for England shows that while our score is still well above the international average, it has fallen since 2001. It says "it is lower achievement among the better readers that has contributed most to the overall fall rather than the small increase in the proportion of weaker readers".

The Secretary of State said:

"Today's PIRLS reports tell the same story as we're hearing in our consultation on the Children's Plan. Parents are worried about striking the right balance between play, reading, TV and computer games at home.

"This study shows that our highest achieving children are reading less, with children's busy days leaving less time for books at home. As parents we have to get the balance right and as a society we have to send the right messages about the value of reading to our children.

 "Today's ten year olds have more choice than in 2001 about how they spend their free time; most of them have their own TVs and mobiles, and 37 per cent of our ten year olds are playing computer games for three hours or more a day - more than in most countries in the study."

Building on schemes which already exist to encourage reading, such as Booked Up (which provides free books for Year 7 pupils) and Boys into Books, Ed Balls also announced today that under a new scheme, Book Ahead, Schools Library Services and public libraries will be given up to half a million free books to make up book boxes for local nurseries, as part of a £5 million drive to get more under 5s - especially boys - into reading early.

Book Ahead means that School Library Services and public libraries will be able to choose free books from a brand new list drawn up by the School Library Association. Libraries will prepare special book boxes to loan out to local nurseries. The boxes will be full of bright new picture books, classics, stories to read aloud and tips for parents to help their young children become familiar with books.

On Book Ahead he added:

"Our programme of free books for secondary schools has been a huge success. That's why we have decided to extend this. We must get young children into reading as early as possible - particularly boys and their dads.

"Early exposure to books affects early learning. A child from a deprived home has heard just 13 million words by the age of four, compared to 45 million in a more affluent home. What starts as a problem with vocabulary rapidly turns into a problem with reading, writing and comprehension, leading to poor exam results.

"Book Ahead will kick off the National Year of Reading. It's just one part of our drive to change the reading culture in this country for the long term."

Full DCSF press release

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Jane Nissen wins Eleanor Farjeon Award 2007

Jane Nissen with flowersThe winner of the Eleanor Farjeon Award was announced this week at the Unicorn Children's Theatre in London.

Jane Nissen is seen here with Anne Harvey, representing the estate of Eleanor Farjeon and Jamila Gavin who was the guest speaker.

Jane Nissen, the founder of Jane Nissen Books, has been hugely successful in bringing some of the best-loved children's books of the 20th century back into print and enabling a new generation of readers to discover for themselves high-quality, timeless titles that should not be lost.

The Eleanor Farjeon Award is made for distinguished service to the world of children's books and is given to someone whose commitment and contribution is deemed to be outstanding. The spirit of the award is to recognize the unsung heroes who contribute so much to every aspect of children's books.

The SLA is delighted that our Chair, Eileen Armstrong was among the nominees for her work supporting reading and school libraries.

The other nominations:

The Polka Theatre - The Polka Theatre is one of the few venues in the UK which is dedicated to producing and presenting work for young audiences. Since the doors opened in 1979, this unique venue has been entertaining children with resonant, engaging and exciting theatre.

Eileen Armstrong - Eileen is a huge advocate of children's literature in schools and libraries. She is currently chair of the School Library Association, which aims to highlight the need for school libraries across the country.

Seven Stories - Seven Stories is where our rich heritage of British children's books is collected, explored and celebrated. Books are their inspiration for all kinds of exhibitions, activities and events that encourage and inspire children.

Jo Williams and Marianne Adey - Jo and Marianne are volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the last 10 years to organise the FCBG Red House Children's Book Award. The award is given each year and the winner is voted for by their readers.

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URGENT NOTICE re SLA email problems

Due to circumstances beyond the SLA's control, resulting from problems with our email provider, we have not received all the messages sent to us between Thursday 8th November and Tuesday 13th November.

If you have sent us a message and have not yet had a response, please do send it again.  Not everyone has had a response to tell them that their message has bounced.

We are so sorry for any inconvenience caused by this.  If you message was urgent do feel free to phone us on +44 1793 791787.

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Happy Birthday to The Reading Agency

As the National Year of Reading approaches, The Reading Agency (TRA) is celebrating five years of inspiring more people to read more.

The Reading Agency was founded as a charity in 2002 by merging three smaller agencies. It has grown very rapidly and is revenue funded by the Arts Council. In its first five years TRA has developed a series of experimental projects into major national reading programmes and partnerships. Just two examples are:

  • The Summer Reading Challenge, which now reaches 650,000 children a year, is run throughout the library network and inspires children to read three million books over the summer holidays. Research shows it improves their reading range, confidence and enjoyment.
  • The Chatterbooks network of reading groups for four to eleven year olds, which started in three trailblazing library authorities in 2001. It now runs in 160 authorities, and involves 6,000 children.

Other work will be built on and developed in the 2008 National Year of Reading, which The Reading Agency is helping to run with the National Literacy Trust. This includes partnerships with publishers, the Richard & Judy Book Club, Orange, BBC Learning and BBC Radio. Plus family reading programmes in prisons, work to stimulate the formation of new reading groups and to transform the reading experience teenagers get in libraries.


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