BRINGING OUR OBJECTIVES TO LIFE: TALKING MATTERS

Alison Sutton - Winner 2015

Oral language skills are an important part of learning, and yet research has shown that roughly a third of young people lack the necessary language skills needed to make a great start on reading.

COMET Auckland and Learning Auckland are sponsoring Talking Matters, a collaboration of representatives from more than 30 organisations in teacher education, health, early learning, family services, child development researchers, parenting programmes, family literacy and government.

Talking Matters is raising awareness of the importance of early oral language and will explore ways to encourage and upskill families and educators to provide the richest oral language environment possible.

Two forums have explored the importance of early oral language and school readiness and considered strategies that are effective in growing the communication confidence of children in their first few years. Already some of the participating organisations have made small changes to their practice as a result of the information shared.

Talking Matters is drawing on insights from Alison Sutton’s Winston Churchill Fellowship early in 2015 when she looked at city-wide literacy initiatives. Enhancing oral language in families and in early learning and family services emerged as a key strand of action in the cities Alison visited in England and the USA. Alison has been active in the media, advocating for more attention and action on children’s oracy. We are encouraging adults to talk, sing, read and tell stories to their kids as much as they can – simple, free and easy strategies that make a big difference.

NEXT STEPS: Talking Matters has been in a scoping phase this year. More network meetings are planned for 2015, a work programme is being developed and we are applying for funding to support this collaboration.

If you’d like more information on Talking Matters, please contact Alison Sutton, COMET Auckland’s Manager, Literacy, at alison.sutton@cometauckland.org.nz

Why Fathers should encourage their kids to read

books_blue_photography_pink_abstract_hd-wallpaper-1879901COMET Auckland manager for literacy and family learning Alison Sutton spoke to Stuff.co.nz about the gender gap in literacy and oracy, and how we can help combat it this Father’s Day and Tuesday’s International Literacy Day.

In Auckland primary schools, 81% girls are reading at or above the standard level for their age, compared to 72.6% of boys who are reading at the same level.

These figures are significantly lower down in South Auckland areas captured by Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative programme, with only 58.9% of boys reading at or above the standard for their age.

“Those figures are really worrying, because the gaps in literacy between girls and boys widen as young people go through their education journey,” said Alison.

As these boys grow into adulthood, this can result in a lack of the basic literacy skills needed for adults to do their jobs, said Alison, and can have a negative impact on their children’s reading.

“We need to build the literacy levels of parents and caregivers so that our young people can get the best start in school, and adults can thrive in their work,” she said.

There’s a call for an increased focus on literacy for boys and men across the country, so in keeping with the Father’s Day and International Literacy Day theme, COMET Auckland is encouraging fathers and father-figures to spend more time talking, reading and singing with their kids.

If you’re interested in reading the full article click here, or if you want to know more about oracy programme Talking Matters, click here.

Help promote Talking Matters this International Literacy Day

Talking MattersSupporting parents to help their kids learn is the key to getting more children reading successfully and getting the best start in education.

Oral language is the foundation for literacy, so we’re using International Literacy Day – Tuesday 8 September – to promote the importance of talking, singing, storytelling and reading to children.

Before we can read and write, we have to speak, listen and understand, so children need to be exposed to an abundance of language in their everyday lives.

A great way to grow children’s brains is through conversational turns – where the conversation goes back and forth between the adult and child at least five times (this is more than asking them questions).

Here are seven things you can do to support literacy and oracy on International Literacy Day:

  • Dedicate the day to storytelling – invite a couple of parents to tell stories about their lives, or to tell the legends of their families and cultures
  • Read aloud – read to your own kids or have them read to you or each other. Have every class read at the same time
  • Create a random act of reading – grab a pile of books and take your children to read in the public such as the park, a café, or even on the footpath
  • Spread the word – tell parents a couple of simple, free and easy ways to help grow their children’s brain by talking, singing and reading to them. One great idea is to make a collaborative digital book with your children
  • Have a book swap next week – bring in books from home, ask other parents to do the same, and have a book swap
  • With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, ask all the Dads or father-figures you know to read to their children, and post a photo of it on social media
  • Spread the word to your staff at work by having a short training session about the importance of oral language and consider how as an employer you might help improve literacy for your own staff

Keep up with us online

We will be posting facts, stats and updates about International Literacy Day and Talking Matters on Twitter – you can follow us here.

If you’re on Twitter, use #TalkingMatters in your tweets to help get our message across.

If you want to know more information about Talking Matters click here, or check out the links below for some recent interviews and articles on oracy and literacy:

LEARNING AUCKLAND: FOCUS ON ORACY

The Learning Auckland Leadership Table met for the second time on February 26. The Table endorsed continuing membership in Strive Together, the network of 53 cities in the USA working to create effective ‘cradle to career’ education and skills pathways for all young people.  Membership of Strive enables Learning Auckland to draw on experienced collective impact initiatives focused on education change.

Table members reported back on ‘100 conversations in 100 days’, conversations each of them had with families, young people, educators and community leaders about what people believed to be the urgent issues for Auckland to address.

There were some powerful conversations that showed the lack of coherence in parts of system, and the enthusiasm and passion many people have for ensuring all young people succeed.  Over the next few months, we will use those conversations as the springboard for action.

On the basis of these conversations, plus the data and their own knowledge and experience, the Leadership Table identified early oral language (oracy) and school readiness as their first focus area for action towards Learning Auckland’s wider goals.

Early oral language underpins success in literacy – and oral communication is a fundamental life skill.  A focus on oracy and school readiness brings together families, early learning, health, child development, family-facing services and parent education.

Over the next few months we will be bringing together a cross-sector action group to plan and drive a systems response to support early oral language development for Auckland’s children and their families.

To learn more about Learning Auckland or the oracy work, please contact Alison Sutton Alison.Sutton@cometauckland.org.nz

For the full March 2015 newsletter, please click here.