Mrs Beasley's Blog

Learning from a tutor's perspective

Why doesn’t my child read books?

Book asking Read Me?I heard it, yet again, last night! “He’s got shelves full of books, and he never reads any of them!” accompanied by the accusing stare (at the child) and the expansive gesture!

When are parents going to learn that ten year olds, who have never read a book for pleasure in their lives, will not be transformed into readers by buying them nice new books?

Parents – PLEASE – you have to take charge! Reading habits begin in early childhood when you look at books together, talk about the pictures and enjoy the stories. If you don’t do this, how do you expect a ten year old to suddenly become an interested reader? It just doesn’t happen.

I hear this over and over again. “I’ve bought him all these lovely books and he never opens one of them!”

Well try this – sit down with him and READ TOGETHER. You read a bit, he reads a bit. You get to the end of a chapter – or even the end of a page – and you talk about it.

“Hey, I enjoyed that, did you?”
“Why do you think Mr Fox did that?”
“What do you think Farmer Boggis will do now?”
“Which bit did you enjoy the best?”
“Who’s your favourite character?”
“Why do you like him best?”
“What do you think happens in the next chapter?”

Also, read stories TO them, just as you would do when they were a four year old. Read stories that are just a little bit too hard for them to read for themselves. Put on voices for the characters. Put expression in when you are reading and generally make the world of literature SO exciting that they can’t wait for the next night when you read a bit more (always stop at the exciting bit!).

This is how you create readers, NOT by buying them loads of books, placing them neatly on a shelf and expecting the child to work his way through them!

The great Times Tables debate

The great Times Tables debate rumbles on! Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, has decreed that, from now on, children must know their tables up to and including the 12 times. Shock horror amongst all the trendy educationalists!

“Thank God” say the traditionalists. At long last, common sense is returning to the classroom.

I count myself fervently in the second group. I have seen too many examples of the ‘alternative methods’ of learning tables in my own tutoring. I have students, some as old as fifteen and doing GCSE maths, who don’t know their tables, and who are still counting on their fingers! (I kid you not!) These students are at a great disadvantage when it comes to exams, because not knowing your tables holds you back in so many ways. Long division and long multiplication becomes very difficult, as does simplifying fractions, recognising equivalent fractions and changing denominators, to name just a few, all become much more difficult if you don’t have instant recall of your tables.

Not only that, but not knowing your tables slows you down considerably in exams or tests. You lose so much time trying to work out the answer, which is not good when you only have so much time in which to complete the whole test or exam.

So many children have been let down in the past by these ‘new’ methods, which are always hailed as being so much better than the ‘old’ ones.

“It is important that children understand what they are doing,” thunders a reader’s letter in a national newspaper today (which is what inspired me to write this rant!) “Learning by rote is not the way to develop this understanding!”

Nobody is suggesting that all maths is taught by rote, but knowing one’s tables off by heart is so important, and can be taught from a very early age, so why is there so much angst about it? I sell a Times Tables CDs in my on-line shop, and all the times tables are set to music in such an engaging way that you can’t help singing along. Why can’t all Key Stage 1 children do something like that? They could sing their tables for just 10 minutes a day, and I guarantee that they would very quickly learn them. Just think how quickly they pick up the words of songs when they hear them on the TV or radio. It’s a simple and effective method – sing along, have fun and LEARN!! Then you won’t end up at the age of 16, struggling to cancel down fractions!

So, I don’t care what others may say. I repeat – ‘Thank goodness for Michael Gove’!