A child’s early experiences with books both at home and later in school have the potential to significantly affect future reading performance. Parents play a key role in building oral language and literacy skills in the years prior to school. But it’s teachers who are responsible for ensuring children become readers once at school.
While there’s much we know about how students learn to read, research on books used to support beginning reading development is sparse. Guidelines provided in the Australian Curriculum
and the National Literacy Progressions complicate matters further. Teachers are required to use two types of texts: decodable and predictable books.
Each book is underpinned by a different theory of reading, arguably in conflict. This contributes to uncertainty about when and how the books might be used.
The difference between decodable and predictable books
Predictable books and their associated instructional strategies align with a whole-language approach to reading.
In this approach, meaning is prioritised. Children are encouraged to draw on background knowledge, memorise a bank of the most common words found in print, and to use cues to guess or predict words based on pictures and the story. This method is not consistent with a phonics approach.
At the earliest levels, predictable and repetitive sentences scaffold beginning readers’ attempts at unknown words. Word identification is supported by close text to picture matches and familiar themes for children in the early years (such as going to the doctor).
While there is some evidence the repetitive nature of predictable books facilitates the development of fluency, the features contained within disadvantage young readers as they do not align with the letter-sound correspondences taught as part of phonics lessons. This is particularly problematic for children who are at risk of later reading difficulties.
In comparison, decodable books consist of a high percentage of words in which the letters represent their most common sounds. Decodable books align with a synthetic phonics or code-based approach to reading. This approach teaches children to convert a string of letters (our written code) into sounds before blending them to produce a spoken word.
When reading decodable books, children draw on their accumulating knowledge of the alphabetic code to sound out any unknown words. Irregularly spelt words (for example was, said, the) are also included, and children receive support to read these words, focusing on the sounds if necessary.
There is mounting evidence for the use of decodable books to support the development of phonics in beginning readers and older kids who haven’t grasped the code easily. Decodable books have been found to promote self-teaching, helping children read with greater accuracy and independence. This leads to greater gains in reading development.
The role of books in early reading development
Children need lots of opportunities to practise reading words in books. Given research demonstrates a synthetic phonics approach provides young readers with the most direct route to skilled reading, there’s a strong logical argument for supporting early reading with decodable books.
Until the most recent version of the Australian Curriculum, only predictable books were included in the Foundation and Year one English curricula. The addition of decodable books recognises the critical support they provide beginning readers. But this places teachers in a difficult position because the elaborations in the curriculum documents place more emphasis on the strategies designed primarily for use with predictable books.
Using different books in the classroom
While reading is an extraordinarily complex process, a model of reading called the Simple View of Reading is very helpful from an educational perspective. It explains skilled reading as the product of both decoding and language comprehension. This helps us understand what we need to do when teaching children to read, and the types of books they need to support early reading development.
Before they enter school, the majority of children are considered to be in the “pre-alphabetic” stage of reading. In this stage, children have little or no understanding the written code represents the sounds of spoken language. They would not have the skills to use decodable books.
Instead, they recognise words purely by contextual clues and visual features. For example, children know the McDonalds sign because of the big yellow arches (the M) or can read the word “stop” when they see the sign, but not out of that context.
Predictable books would help the pre-alphabetic reader gain insight into the workings of texts, especially with regard to meaning. In particular making the connection between spoken words – which they are familiar with – and written words, which they are not.
Beyond this stage, predictable texts become less useful because memorisation and meaning-based strategies aren’t sustainable long term. Once children have advanced to the partial and full alphabetic stages of reading, usually fairly quickly after starting formal reading instruction, they benefit more from decodable books which allow them to apply the alphabetic code.
So where to from here?
There is no evidence children benefit from the continued use of decodable books beyond the beginning stages of reading. In the absence of any empirical studies, we suspect it would be a good idea to move children on once they have sufficient letter-sound knowledge and decoding skills that they can apply independently. At this point, the introduction of real books would benefit students and provide access to more diverse language structures and vocabulary.
Given what we know about how reading works, it makes sense for children in the early stages of learning to read to be given decodable books to practise and generalise their developing alphabetic skills. At the same time, they will continue to benefit from hearing the rich vocabulary and language forms in the children’s books being read with (to) them.
It’s less clear what predictable texts contribute to beginning reading in schools when considering how reading skills develop. But there is evidence they might have a useful role to play in pre-school prior to the start of formal reading instruction.
Climate change – or global warming – is a term we are all familiar with. The warming of the Earth’s atmosphere due to the consumption of fossil fuels by human activity was predicted in the 19th century. It can be seen in the increase in global temperature from the industrial revolution onwards, and has been a central political issue for decades.
Climate scientists who moonlight as communicators tend to bombard their audiences with facts and figures – to convince them how rapidly our planet is warming – and scientific evidence demonstrating why we are to blame. A classic example is Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and its sequel, which are loaded with graphs and statistics. However, it is becoming ever clearer that these methods don’t work as well as we’d like. In fact, more often than not, we are preaching to the converted, and can further polarise those who accept the science from those who don’t.
One way of potentially tapping into previously unreached audiences is via cli-fi, or climate-fiction. Cli-fi explores how the world may look in the process or aftermath of dealing with climate change, and not just that caused by burning fossil fuels.
Recently, I participated as a scientist in a forum with Screen Australia, looking at how cli-fi might communicate the issues around climate change in new ways. I’m a heatwave scientist and I’d love to see a cli-fi story bringing the experience of heatwaves to light. After the forum, Screen Australia put out a call for proposals for TV series and telemovies in the cli-fi genre.
We absolutely need and should rely on peer-reviewed scientific findings for public policy, and planning to stop climate change and adapt to it. But climate scientists should not expect everyone to be as concerned as they are when they show a plot of increasing global temperatures.
Cli-fi has the potential to work in the exact opposite way, through compelling storylines, dramatic visuals, and characters. By making people care about and individually connect to climate change, it can motivate them to seek out the scientific evidence for themselves.
The term “cli-fi” was coined at the turn of the millennium, but the genre has existed for much longer. One of the earliest examples is Jules Verne’s The Purchase of the North Pole, where the tilt of the Earth’s axis is altered by human endeavours (of the astronaut, not industrial kind), bringing an end to seasonal variability.
More modern examples of cli-fi take their prose from real-life contemporary issues, imagining the effects of human-caused climate change. Some pieces of cli-fi are perhaps closer to the truth than others
Could the thermohaline circulation (which carries heat around our oceans) shut down, bringing a sudden global freeze, as The Day After Tomorrow suggests? There is evidence that it will, but perhaps not as quickly as the film imagines.
Is it possible that fertility rates will be affected by climate change? The television-adapted version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale blames pollution and environmental change for a world-wide plummet in fertility, thus giving a cli-fi undertone to the whole dystopian series. While there is no scientific evidence to currently back this scenario, as a new parent, it struck a chord with me personally. The thought of a world where virtually every couple is unable to experience the joys of parenthood, particularly due to climate change, is quite distressing.
Cli-fi also underpins the highly acclaimed Mad Max movie series. In a dystopian near-future, fossil fuel resources have depleted and the social and environmental impacts are vast. Australia has become a desolate wasteland and our society has all but collapsed.
Although such a scenario will be unlikely to occur in the next couple of decades, it is not completely unrealistic. We are burning fossil fuels far faster than they are forming, with some predictions that accessible sources will run out in the next century.
And some of our famous ecosystems are already very sick thanks to climate change.
And then there is Waterworld. Yet another dystopia, where there is no ice left on Earth and sea levels have risen 7.5km above current levels. Civilisations exists only in small settlements, where inhabitants dream of the mythical “dry land”. While the movie overestimates exactly how much water is locked away in ice (sea levels can only rise by up to 60-70 metres), many major global cities would be inundated and no longer exist. And while it will take thousands, not hundreds of years for complete melting to take place, sea level rise is already posing a problem for some coastal settlements and small islands. Moreover, Arctic ice is predicted to completely melt away well before the end of this century.
Sure, the scientific evidence underpinning these storylines is embellished to say the least, But they are certainly worth deliberating over if they ignite conversations with people that mainstream science fails to reach.
The power of fiction
In the long run, cli-fi might encourage audiences to modify their everyday lives (and maybe even who they vote for) to reduce their own carbon footprint.
From personal experience, some audiences tend to disengage from climate change because of how overwhelming the issue may seem. Global temperatures are rising at a rate not seen for millions of years, and we are currently not doing enough to avoid dangerous climate change. Understandably, the scale and weight of climate change likely encourages many to bury their heads firmly in the sand.
To this audience, cli-fi also has an important message to deliver – that of hope. That it is not, or will it be ever, too late to combat human-caused climate change.
Imagining a future where green energy is accessible to everyone, where global politicians work tirelessly to rapidly reduce emissions, or where new technologies are discovered that safely and permanently remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere are absolutely worth air time. Cli-fi can act as prose for science. And on the topic of mitigating climate change, there is no such thing as too much prose.
I am a big fan of the Jason Bourne movies (the first three anyway). I don’t know what the fourth one (The Bourne Legacy) will be like without Matt Damon, but I’m still keen to see it. So it was having watched the movies that I decided to read the books. Wow, what a massive difference between the movie and the book. There are obvious similarities, but they are quite different from each other just the same.
‘The Bourne Identity’ is action all the way and is a great read. It is a book that is always on the go and suspense carries you foward through the book. You want to read on and see what happens to Jason Bourne next. Will
he be able to rise to the next challenge that is thrown in his way, especially given that he is trying to figure it all out as he goes along, as well as trying to figure out just who he himself is – while also seeking to protect a woman he has picked up along the way.
This is the spy book of spy books. It is an action read at the top of its game. Jason Bourne is the master spy relearning his craft as the memory of who he is and what he is returns to him with each thrilling piece of the jig saw that is ‘The Bourne Identity.’ Once you start, you want to keep on reading and as the pace quickens you find yourself seemingly reading with an increased tempo, as you’re right there with Jason Bourne every step of the way.
An excellent first read in the Jason Bourne series. I am very much looking forward to the next volume with great expectancy. I highly recommend this book.
Buy this book at Amazon:
I am doing a little experimenting here, just trying to get a good format together for a new post I’ll be doing here on a regular basis (I hope). I thought I might start to do a regular reading progress type post, or something like that. It will probably be a weekly summary of what I’m reading and other book news ‘From My Armchair.’ There you go, that can be the title of the regular post. That is, book news from my own reading experience and exposure to books on a personal level, including updates from my personal library – that sort of thing.
Now to work out just what I’ll include in the post – it could be something like a newsletter I suppose. So straight up, there can be this sort of preamble blurb thing going on. Just a bit of a ramble about book stuff from a personal perspective. Then I can put down a few sub-headings with some structured content, relevant information and comments. Sounds like a plan I think. It will probably take a couple of weeks to come together and look presentable, at least to me anyhow. So it will be a work in progress for a while.
Something else I’m going to do is clear my reading list at Goodreads and have a new start there also. That way I can tie everything together and have a continuous and consistent story as far as my experience with books is concerned. That way, when I do this weekly post, ‘From My Armchair,’ I’ll be able to pass on a summary of my reading activity as recorded at Goodreads.
Social Networks, Web Applications & Other Tools
Under this head I think I can provide a summary of what I’m involved in as far as social networks and web applications are concerned. I use quite a number of social networks, web applications and tools in the area of books and reading, with a variety of applications and functions. All useful in their own way I believe. I think they provide a good means to not only glean useful information, but to also maximise the benefits of my books and reading for a whole range of activities that I am involved in. I like to see my books not only as entertainment and an escape from the world for a while, but also as tools for accomplishing many things within the world.
I currently use Goodreads as my social network for books/ebooks. I once also used Shelfari, being torn between the two, but now that Shelfari has closed the better of the two networks has continued as far as I am concerned. I am trying to use Goodreads as my online catalogue for books, so slowly I am adding them all to it. I also use a database on my own PC, which I am trying to sync with Goodreads, though I enter the information to both manually. It will take some time to get all of that done as I do have a large number of books.
I like to read and prefer reading to television viewing. I don’t like to waste my time and prefer to use my time in worthwhile pursuits. I do watch a small amount of television, but that is usually to further my intellectual development, so I watch documentaries, news programs and the like. I do watch the occasional program to wind down from time to time, but prefer to watch a DVD for that purpose as most of the stuff on the Idiot Box is just a lot of rubbish lol.
I usually have several books on the go at one time, but have found in recent years that I tend to not finish a lot of books also. That hasn’t always been the case, but it seems increasingly so now. I’ll be cutting down on the number of books I’m reading at any one time in the future, to try and ensure I finish what I start more often than not.
Currently, I am reading two books – well one actually, but about to start another. These are listed below:
– The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum
– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher
I did have a few books underway and these were all listed at Goodreads, but I cleared these a little while ago and gave myself a fresh start. One book I completed recently was ‘The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy. I read the Jack Ryan series of books by Clancy some time ago and recently decided I’d read them again. I also watched the film again to see how close to each other they were – there was quite a difference between the book and the film. I have a post about this which I’ll link to below.
For more visit:
Purchased & Added to Library:
I have recently acquired a large number of ebooks, many for free from Amazon, including the following books:
– Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology from the Inside, by Greg Dutcher
– The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness, by Jerry Bridges
– Beyond Belief – The Real Life of Daniel Defoe, by John Martin
Some time ago – probably back in 2007 – I bought a book called ‘365 Ways to Change the World,’ by Michael Norton. I wanted to make a difference in the world in which I live – to give something back as it where. As a Christian there are many ways for me to do so, but I also wanted to make a difference in more mundane matters and ways also. Of course I know that Christians are able and currently do make a difference in a variety and plethora of ways. I was looking for something a little different to the norm I guess.
Anyhow, I came across this book and thought that this would be a great book to read one day at a time – as the book suggests one action/theme for each day of the year. This book would give me plenty of food for thought and there would have to be many things that I could do or participate in to make a difference.
Not long after I bought the book my world was turned upside down and became something totally different to what I had up till then been living. Totally is probably not the right word, as some things didn’t change – but it was certainly life-changing.
I chose to leave my job in an organisation for which I had worked for nearly twenty years, the last few of which I was a manager. My health was terrible, with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome causing absolute havoc. I moved from the area in which I was living to a totally different location and under different circumstances, and that without a job. Life had changed tremendously for me and all of my belongings were locked away in a storage shed until I could sort my life out and start afresh.
I got another job which was completely different to the one I had before. My health seemed to improve dramatically and the dreaded illness which had plagued for two decades seemed to finally disappear. Then I had a terrible car accident which almost killed me and prolonged this transitory period of my life.
Now finally, I have recently been able to get all my belongings out of storage – including this book by Michael Norton. It is therefore now time to start again what I had originally planned to do and had begun back in 2007. I will read the section of the book marked out for each calendar day and consider what I shall do with the actions/themes for that day. It may be that there will be days that I will not take up the suggested action or activity, while on other days I may very well throw myself into the suggested action or activity. What I am hopeful of is finding at least one action or activity, though I am fairly sure there will be far more than one action or activity that I will participate in to some extent.
I will probably report my attempts or at least my resolutions to engage in actions and activities here, as a way of showing whether this book is useful for assisting people in making a difference. After all, its subtitle is ‘How to make a difference – one day at a time.’ As I set out on my journey with this book, I am quite excited by the prospect of making that difference and becoming more engaged with the world in which I live – in a positive manner.
I think the book is a brilliant idea and something that most people would find helpful – even if they do everything that is suggested in the book. It is certainly packed with ideas and suggestions.
There is also a web site to use along with the book:
All of the ideas in the book are included in the web site and many more according to the book. There is also an ‘ideas bank’ on ways of changing the world for the better – which also seems to be a brilliant idea I think.
OK, I will now look at today’s idea.
My copy of the book (paperback) is by Penguin Books ( www.penguin.com.au ) and was printed in 2006.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars.
Based on a true story, ‘The Noticer’ tells the story of a mysterious old man known simply as ‘Jones,’ who seems to have the ability to turn up when needed most. In the midst of a crisis, Jones is there to provide ‘perspective.’ Jones is ‘the noticer,’ an individual who notices what is happening in the life of ‘the other’ and provides a little bit of perspective, thereby helping ‘the other’ to understand, grow and move on.
‘The Noticer’ is an easy read that warms the heart. It leaves you thinking how easy it can be to provide a little bit of perspective and make a difference in ‘another’ person’s life. It certainly encouraged me to identify opportunities for looking out for ‘the other.’
However, when viewed from my own Particular Baptist perspective, as heart warming and encouraging as the book is, it is unable to provide that spark that will enable a person to be an effective noticer – that is the realm of the life changing gospel. Yet, in the hands (and mind) of a renewed believer, this book may very well be a vehicle on the road to greater usefulness in being more other-centred than self-centred.
You may also find it useful to check out ‘The Noticer Project’ online at:
This book was provided to me for review as a member of the ‘Book Review Bloggers Program’ at Thomas Nelson: