There is no better start to a life of learning than a love of books! This is what we hope for all of our children. Story time shouldn't be a chore and it should not be an exercise in crowd control. It should be exciting and motivating and engaging and above all, something you would choose to do! Our children can access our Library at all times of the day and either choose a book to read elsewhere, or settle down in one of our cosy spaces to look through a book independently, together with their friends or a practitioner or even ask for it to be read to a large group. The practitioners in the room as ready to read story after story, again and again, and for them, there is no better reward than to see children's growing passion for literature.
Kirsty Wright is leading our Literacy Curriculum and as an Early Years Teacher, she is well versed in supporting children's pre-reading and pre-writing skills. We do not focus on writing or reading by rote or through endless practice and repetitive activities that often turn children away for their usually unstoppable thirst for learning! Instead we focus on supporting children's effective listening and communication skills and their control over their arms and fingers to enable the fine motor movement it takes to form letters with a pencil. We want children to want to read the words to understand the story and to want to form words to communicate their ideas to others! We aim to wave goodbye to our children as they go to school, safe in the knowledge that they are ready to learn to read and write effectively and successfully.
Our children even have books written about them! Our Learning Story folders live in the Library alongside all the other stories and as just as important (or actually even a little more important) than the stories written by others, because these are the stories your children have written! These are all their experiences at OMC so far and have been put together by the Key Person. These stories include photographs, descriptions about your child's play and learning and even what we now know they want to learn next. These stories are about their own personal experiences and often become firm favourites as they remember and discuss their learning achievements with their friends and practitioners... in fact anyone who will listen!
These books help children to recognise and retell stories about themselves and support them to understand the structure of a story and how to tell a story to others, remembering that their listener was not part of the original experience. All these skills are vitally important when children start to write information and stories down themselves. In fact, experience and ability with narratives (stories) is one of the key indicators in long term success in literacy in schools as rote learning will only take you so far. When you start having to understand, analyse and retell the story or information, understanding how stories and written information works is vital for children's academic success. So our stories aren't just stories... our stories are children's passage into the world of written communication, our only way to communicate across time and space and record our thoughts and ideas forever! This isn't just Letterland or Jolly Phonics... this is helping understand the purpose of written communication and supporting them to develop a love for this form of communication that will hopefully be lifelong.
As well as the Learning Stories written by the Key Person, your child can make up their own stories using a story board, photographs or pictures to make a story and turn it into a book using our writers corner. All our children can contribute and love to see stories that include them and even include their own words and stories from their role play or games. Watching a game about Spiderman and Batman being saved by Elsa on a treasure island and then flying home on a carpet and then recording that using photos and videos allow us to create a book explaining the story they have created with their own words and 'film stills'! This may include figuring out the structure of the story, the main characters, writing the words down, creating an ending and even thinking about the 'Author' and 'Illustrator'. All this while dressed as Spiderman, Batman and Elsa and diving about the centre 'just playing'!
Another key area of our Library is our non-fiction section where children learn that they can learn anything using books and the internet! Most of us 'Google' daily for a whole host of reasons such as opening times of shops, to locate a nursery or to find out how to do something new. Most of us don't visit the library now and although we need to support our children to use technology, there is a depth of knowledge and understanding that can be gained from a book that is difficult from Google. Our books are readily available for our children all day as they experience growing butterflies from caterpillars and want to understand how and why it happens or exploring the name of the new dinosaurs they have seen in a Youtube video. Using books can prompt questions and detailed conversations as one topic leads to another and the next page prompts further questions. Using books to learn and explore the world around us is an important skill for academic success and without the ability to access the written word, school will be a difficult place. We start this early focused on a child's motivations and interests - you wouldn't want to read a book about penguins if you really loved motorbikes! You would learn so much more watching or reading information about the topic you are passionate about and so will your children. We are helping your child learn how to learn, not what to learn and this has to be our focus in these early years.
To ensure all our children have access to opportunities to develop their pre-reading and pre-writing skills, all of our practitioners are supported to work with the Letters and Sounds Programme (National Strategies Phase 1). This helps children to develop effective listening and communication skills by identifying environmental and instrumental sounds and being able to discriminate between the smallest sound differences. This ability helps children to hear and recognise the individual sounds within words. Then it focusses on children's ability to follow language and hear the rhythms within language and follow songs and actions within songs. From that it starts to focus on the sound elements in words moving from syllables (the largest component) to rhyming chunks and then down to alliteration (the smallest component as the initial sound). Once a child can hear, identify and use these components in words they can start to take words apart (decoding) and blend them together again (coding) which are the basic principles of reading. All our children are supported to develop these important pre-reading skills to allow academic success when they move to school. All children develop at an individual rate and your child's progress through the skills will depend on their own personal journey but wherever they are in their journey when they leave us, the school will know just where to step in and continue the support effectively. These skills cannot be rushed and the more naturally they develop, the more embedded they will be and therefore the more effectively they will move on to the next stage. Each stage is as important as the next and time and experience will be the most important support you can offer your child.