Children Read More Challenging Books in Lockdown


The link below is to an article that concludes that children read more challenging books while in lockdown.

For more visit:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/apr/29/children-read-longer-more-challenging-books-in-lockdown

Starting behind: more than half of young Australian kids living in adversity don’t have the skills they need to learn to read


Shutterstock

Sharon Goldfeld, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Hannah Bryson, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and Jodie Smith, La Trobe University

Around one in three (36%) Australian children grow up in families experiencing adversity. These include families where parents are unemployed, in financial stress, have relationship difficulties or experience poor mental or physical health.

Our recent study found one in four Australian children experiencing adversity had language difficulties and around one in two had pre-reading difficulties.

Language difficulties can include having a limited vocabulary, struggling to make sentences and finding it hard to understand what is being said. Pre-reading difficulties can include struggling to recognise alphabet letters and difficulties identifying sounds that make up words.

Learning to read is one of the most important skills for children. How easily a child learns to read largely depends on both their early oral language and pre-reading skills. Difficulties in these areas make learning to read more challenging and can affect general academic performance.

What are language and pre-reading difficulties?

International studies show children experiencing adversity are more likely to have language and pre-reading difficulties when they start school.

Language difficulties are usually identified using a standardised language assessment which compares an individual child’s language abilities to a general population of children of the same age.

Pre-reading difficulties are difficulties in the building blocks for learning to read. For example, by the age of five, most children can name at least ten letters and identify the first sound in simple words (e.g. “b” for “ball”).

Boy pointing out letters.
Most five year old children can name at least ten letters and identify the first sound in simple words.
Shutterstock

Children who have not developed these skills by the time they start school are likely to require extra support in learning to read.

1 in 4 children in adversity had language difficulties

We examined the language, pre-reading and non-verbal skills (such as attention and flexible thinking) of 201 five-year-old children experiencing adversity in Victoria and Tasmania.

We defined language difficulties as children having language skills in the lowest 10% compared to a representative population of Australian 5-year-olds. By this definition, we would expect one in ten children to have language difficulties.

But our rates were more than double this — one in four (24.9%) of the children in our sample had language difficulties.

More than half couldn’t name alphabet letters

Pre-reading difficulties were even more common: 58.6% of children could not name the expected number of alphabet letters and 43.8% could not identify first sounds in words.

By comparison, an Australian population study of four year olds (children one year younger than in our study) found 21% could not name any alphabet letters.

Again, our rates were more than double this.

Interestingly, we didn’t find these differences for children’s non-verbal skills. This suggests language and pre-literacy skills are particularly vulnerable to adversity.




Read more:
1 in 5 kids start school with health or emotional difficulties that challenge their learning


There are several reasons that could explain this. Early speech and language skills develop through interactions children have with their parents. These interactions can be different in families experiencing adversity, due to challenges such as family stress and having fewer social supports.

Families experiencing adversity may also have fewer resources (including time and books) to invest in their children’s early language and learning.

Why is this important?

It is really challenging for children starting school with language and pre-reading skills to catch up to their peers. They need to accelerate their learning to close the gap.

Teacher reading a book to young kids.
It is challenging for children entering school behind their peers to catch up.
Shutterstock

Put into context, if a child starts school six months behind their peers, they will need to make 18 months gain within a year to begin the next school year on par with their peers. This is not achievable for many children, even with extra support, and a tall order for many schools.

Early reading difficulties often continue throughout the primary school years and beyond. Sadly, we also know that the long-term impacts of language and pre-reading difficulties don’t just include poor reading skills, but problems which can carry into adulthood.

These can include struggling academically, difficulties gaining employment, antisocial behaviour and poor well-being.

What can we do?

These results should be concerning for us all. There are clear and extensive social costs that come with early language and pre-reading difficulties, including a higher burden on health and welfare costs and productivity losses.

These impacts are particularly worrying given the significant school disruptions experienced due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. School closures will have substantially reduced children’s access to additional support and learning opportunities, particularly for those experiencing adversity, further inhibiting opportunities to catch up.




Read more:
Victoria and NSW are funding extra tutors to help struggling students. Here’s what parents need to know about the schemes


Our best bet is to ensure as many children as possible start school with the language and pre-reading skills required to become competent early readers.

For example, ensuring all children have access to books at home has shown promise in supporting early language skills for children experiencing adversity.

We know which children are at greatest risk of struggling with their early language and pre-reading skills. We now need to embed this evidence into existing health and education services, and invest in supports for young children and families to address these unequal outcomes.The Conversation

Sharon Goldfeld, Director, Center for Community Child Health Royal Children’s Hospital; Professor, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne; Theme Director Population Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Hannah Bryson, Postdoctoral Researcher, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and Jodie Smith, Research Fellow, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The comfort of reading in WWI: the bibliotherapy of trench and hospital magazines


Australian War Memorial

Véronique Duché, The University of Melbourne and Amanda Laugesen, Australian National University

Modern warfare produces both trauma and boredom in equal measure. During the first world war, one way troops found solace was by writing and reading magazines created by soldiers, for soldiers.

Throughout the war, these magazines were produced in trenches, on troopships, in camps and in hospitals. Some were written by hand; others produced on makeshift printing presses soldiers came upon in war-torn towns of France and Belgium.

They could be simple pencilled sheets reproduced with carbon paper or made using jelly or spirit duplicators. Others were more sophisticated multi-page publications, often featuring illustrations.

Men work on a makeshift duplicator.
Some magazines were reproduced using jelly or spirit duplicators.
BNF/Gallica

The Australian War Memorial holds 170 troopship journals and over 70 trench magazines. Many other trench publications have disappeared; some can’t be read anymore because their ink has faded.

Our research focuses on how these magazines cared for soldiers, considering their significant psychological and emotional benefits.

Bran Mash and Aussie

One of the first Australian magazines was the Bran Mash, created by the 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment on Gallipoli.

Written in pencil on two leaves of official typing paper, and duplicated with carbon paper, there was only a single issue. It included a selection of the rumours, or “furphies”, circulating on Gallipoli.

Many trench journals published a single or limited number of issues. They were often forced to stop production because of troop movements, the loss of an editor or printing press, or lack of paper.

Phillip L. Harris, editor of trench magazine Aussie: the Australian Soldiers’ Magazine, once wrote he had made “a fortunate discovery in the cellar of a printery at Armentiéres”.

There, he found ten tons of paper, with which he printed 100,000 copies of the third issue of Aussie. With Harris at the helm, 13 issues of Aussie were produced in the Western Front trenches through 1918 and 1919.

A purple sketch
Evening in the basement, from the French trench magazine L’Argonnaute 1916.
BNF/Gallica

These magazines all reflected the humour, sentiment and preoccupations of soldiers and soldier-patients. The handwritten The Dinkum Oil, produced at Gallipoli over eight editions in 1915 was a place to express national identity — not least through the use of Australian slang.

These magazines offered therapeutic value through their reading, and writing. Stories, verse and jokes were all welcome, alongside items airing complaints: a much-needed release valve for the disgruntlements of military life.

Humour runs through them. A cartoon in Aussie, captioned “Polling Day in France”, showed two officers talking. “In what State did you enlist?” asks the senior officer. Private Jones replies: “In a state of drunkenness, sir”.

Cartoon, as rendered in body text.
This cartoon was published in the first edition of Aussie.
Cambridge University Library

Other anecdotes captured misunderstandings between the Australian soldiers and French civilians, with “bon soir” misheard as “bonza war!”




Read more:
Peter Weir’s Gallipoli 40 years on: deftly directed and still devastating


Bright and light

The editors called for “bright, short contributions”, as The Rising Sun, an Australian magazine produced from December 1916 to March 1917, put it.

French trench magazine Le Poilu (“The Hairy One”, a slang term for an infantryman) stated its ambition as being “simply to entertain you for a moment, between two heavy mortar shells, or even between two fatigue-duties.”

The Harefield Park Boomerang, published at the No. 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield House in Middlesex, England, committed to having a “cheery tone”, despite the sometimes grim content of their publication.




Read more:
Friday essay: do ‘the French’ care about Anzac?


Alongside news of activities in the hospital and updates on sports news, it included mentions of men who died (“our fallen comrades”) and their funeral details, as well as updates on donations to the “headstone fund appeal”.

Alongside the grim realities, black humour is very apparent. A poem in Mountain Mist, a magazine produced by soldier-patients at the Bodington sanitorium in the Blue Mountains for returned soldiers suffering tuberculosis, played on the popular soldier song Parlez Vous with words changed to reflect the experience of the tubercular soldier:

Digger had a little cough

It wasn’t much you know

Yet everywhere that Digger went

His cough it had to go.

Sentiment also figured strongly. Poems praising mothers and sisters were common, and there were many invocations of home.

In 1917, J.J. Collins wrote a poem “To my mother”, published in the Harefield Park Boomerang, comforting her he was not defeated by his wounds:

I’ll bring home marks of a German shell.

But what does it matter, mother dear?

Dry from your eye that glistening tear.

Let your heart rejoice at the pain I’ve borne.

These magazines were also sent home, giving loved ones a glimpse of war life.

Hospital magazines could provide some reassurance to loved ones, but the picture they painted was incomplete. Soldier-patients were typically presented as stoic, cheerful and able to cope with whatever was thrown at them – as the poem by Collins shows.

But the reality for many returned soldiers who had been wounded would be a legacy of ill-health and early death.

For soldiers wounded in ways that would forever change them, this was perhaps how they preferred to be seen — still men, still warriors. These magazines reworked the traumas of war to try and make the experience palatable for the men, and for their loved ones.




Read more:
Telling the forgotten stories of Indigenous servicemen in the first world war


Ongoing bibliotherapy

These early trench and hospital magazines played an essential psychological function. In providing entertainment and in keeping soldiers’ minds occupied, they were a much-needed form of therapy and mental comfort in difficult times.

The magazines – by and for the soldiers – were often lovingly self-deprecating, as seen here in Aussie.
Cambridge University Library

The place these magazines held in soldiers’ hearts was perhaps illustrated in the reprinting of all the wartime editions of Aussie magazine in 1920.

Phillip Harris subsequently revived the paper, now to be a general newspaper that would transfer the “splendid spirit of comradeship, enthusiasm and patriotism” of the Australian soldiers to the Australian population at large. It lasted until 1931.The Conversation

Véronique Duché, A.R. Chisholm Professor of French, The University of Melbourne and Amanda Laugesen, Director, Australian National Dictionary Centre, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Three ways museums are making classic literature more attractive to young readers


Engaging young people is a challenge for museums.
Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

Heather Green, Nottingham Trent University

For many lovers of classic literature, opportunities to devour the works of undiscovered authors can be enough to make people’s eyes light up. For those who aren’t as keen on the genre, the appeal of these titles is a little less obvious. In fact, it’s one of the reasons museum professionals are running into issues when it comes to inspiring new generations to read such works.

Engaging young people is a challenge for museums and the traditional approaches that literary heritage museums take when dealing with classic authors is becoming a problem. This is because literary heritage museums usually focus on presenting the biographical story, personal effects or archival collection of an author. Relevant and interesting perhaps to those already familiar with an author’s works, but perhaps less successful at engaging would-be readers. The language of some of these authors can also be a barrier to new readers, as can the difficulty of reading “a classic” – which might be seen as irrelevant or out of touch with the modern world.

As the community, learning and engagement officer at Wirksworth Heritage Centre in Derbyshire, my role is to engage audiences of all ages with the local history of Wirksworth. A key element to Wirksworth’s heritage is its literary connections to writers (including George Eliot, DH Lawrence and Daniel Defoe) and the inspiration they took from the people and the landscape of Wirksworth. My PhD research considers how literary heritage is presented in museums throughout the country. I have a particular interest in Nottingham, which was awarded the Unesco City of Literature bid in 2015 due to its rich literary heritage, but also has some of the lowest literacy levels in the country.

Since COVID-19, finding new ways to share our literary heritage both inside and outside of museum walls has become incredibly important. So how should museums show that these authors remain relevant in the 21st century? Literary heritage museums are doing this in a whole host of ways, but here are the three examples of approaches I believe are particularly successful.

1. Retelling stories

From the Austen Project to the many graphic novel retellings and classic novels reimagined as text messages, retelling stories with a contemporary twist is a well-trodden (if not always well-reviewed) path. It’s also a method of interpretation that literary heritage museums are beginning to embrace.

Using new and creative formats can remove some of the barriers to young people wanting to experience these stories and can inspire them to try the “real thing”. As part of my own curatorial work with Dorking Museum, I wrote a book entitled Forster in 50 which accompanies the exhibition Forster at 50. The book provides visitors with an overview of five of Forster’s novels in only 50 words with illustrations, providing more of an accessible introduction to EM Forster’s work.

2. Using technology to draw audiences in

Technology and literature may have seemed like a mismatch once upon a time, but more and more museums are using different technologies to engage audiences with their collections. Before its closure in 2016, the DH Lawrence Heritage Centre presented the 1915 censorship trial of Lawrence’s The Rainbow through a series of Twitter posts in their exhibition No Right to Exist: The Rainbow and Other Books Which Shocked. This condensed the complexities of the trial into a series of 140 character posts, allowing younger audiences to explore the debate in a familiar format and go on to consider what we consider scandalous in literature today.

My own work has included the co-production of Walking with Lawrence, a digital walking tour written from Lawrence’s perspective which allows the listener to connect the author with the city they see today. The use of a creative narrative which is listened to rather than read provides a format that’s easier to understand, removing some of the barriers created by large amounts of text.

3. Collaborating with creative partners

Working with creative partners such as artists and writers can help museums to reach new audiences, providing more approachable information for younger generations in particular. Graphic novels and comic books are incredibly helpful in this respect. I’m working with Wirksworth Heritage Centre’s writer in residence Helen Greetham, who’s currently producing a graphic novel about the literary heritage of George Eliot in Wirksworth.

A similar project is underway in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, working with young people to produce their own Lawrence-inspired graphic stories. The Eastwood Comics project aims to engage “700 further young people (who) will learn about the author and his birthplace by taking part in activities inspired by the young writers’ research”. Here, participation in creative projects and reading new stories help new generations to connect with Lawrence’s heritage in more meaningful ways than regurgitating information about the author.

The pandemic has provided an unprecedented challenge to the heritage sector, but the closure of our sites doesn’t mean we can’t continue to connect people to our history. These new and innovative ways that museums have engaged and inspired younger generations can continue regardless of whether physical buildings are open. In the months ahead, I hope more buildings take similar approaches.The Conversation

Heather Green, PhD Candidate, Literary Heritage, Nottingham Trent University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.