CK9qg2AUAAAyuhBTe Reo Māori is a taonga – a national treasure – and yet it’s declining on a national level. The latest 2013 Census reveals only 4% of the national population can speak Te Reo well enough to hold a conversation. This shows the urgent need for Te Reo to be promoted and supported.

At present, 70% of Māori school students in Auckland are getting very little or no Te Reo, meaning the majority of Māori students are missing out on the social, economic and cultural benefits to be gained by learning Te Reo Māori.

Working alongside community, council and iwi groups, COMET Auckland plays an active role in discussing and advocating for the best strategies to promote Te Reo Māori in Tāmaki Makaurau, with an increased emphasis on quality, early childhood learning to support Māori learners and whānau.

Te Reo revitalisation has become an important topic of conversation at the Tāmaki Makaurau Education Forum, which COMET’s Māori Education Manager Hauāuru Rawiri leads and facilitates. The TMEF platform is used to discuss effective strategies to identify what is working in our communities and what can be developed further.

A TMEF hui held in November included over 20 iwi representatives, the Education Review Office, Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Education, Serco, Auckland Transport and Auckland Council, and it was agreed that Te Reo revitalisation is a community issue and is addressed more effectively with a single focus from across the sector.

The TMEF hui in May discussed government and community engagement strategies, language resilience and how policy can support Māori education.

The hui in May also identified four focus areas which were:

• Empowering communities – supporting community initiatives around Māori education.

• Speaking Te Reo – encouraging Māori to be comfortable in participating and speaking Te Reo in immersion environments.

• Best Learning – identify broad strategies that foster effective iwi cohesion.

• Te Ataarangi – maintaining Te Reo proficiency outside of immersion environments.

One further action towards supporting Te Reo Māori revitalisation this year has been support for a collaborative project led by Auckland Transport, with Kiwa Digital and Pukekohe North School, to develop a fantastic new resource that became available in Māori Language Week 2015.

He Rā Ngahau Mā Te Whānau I Runga Tereina, or Whānau Fun on the Train is a digital book available in both Te Reo Māori and English, and is a valuable resource for local Māori cultural history and Te Reo language.

The book is about a whānau from Pukekohe who go by train on a day trip to Eden Park to watch the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines. Along the way the whānau teaches us Māori history of Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) by sharing stories about sites of significance such as maunga (mountains), events and traditional names for train stops. The app can be downloaded free and is a wonderful resource for schools and kura, and also for families wishing to strengthen and celebrate Te Reo Māori with their children.

To read the full report, click here.


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 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:

Let’s Read Them a Story! The power of parents

All parents want to help their children learn, but parents sometimes feel unsure of the best way to help. New research shows that parents with relatively little time and no specialised knowledge can still support their children’s learning effectively.

Let’s Read Them a Story! The Parent Factor in Education, a 2013 OECD report shows that many parent-child activities linked with better reading performance among students involve relatively little time and no specialised knowledge. Key actions parents can take:

  • Reading books to children when they are just beginning primary school
  • Talking with teenagers about topical political or social issues
  • Reading themselves: When parents are interested in reading, children are more likely to be interested too.

The OECD research also highlighted that parental involvement in education is essential for the success of children throughout their school years and beyond.

Reading to children isn’t easy for everyone. Parents who are not confident readers may find it hard to help their children with reading; others may not know the importance of reading to children,particularly younger children. Growing Up in New Zealand: Now We Are Born (Morton S. et al, 2012), the second report in a longitudinal study of children born here in 2010, has found family differences in reading by the time the children were nine months old:

  • 16% of mothers and 38% of fathers in the study reported they seldom or never read to their babies at nine months of age, despite only 2% of parents saying they had no books in the home
  • 4% of mothers and 15% of fathers seldom or never sing or tell stories to their babies.

Helping parents develop reading confidence and skills is crucial if we want to break intergenerational cycles of low literacy.

What would it take to support all families and whānau to read, sing and tell stories more often to their children (including babies)?  Imagine what might happen if every child in the country had an adult read to them 10 minutes a day, every day of their preschool lives!  What would it take if we had storytellers and readers all over our communities so there was reading in parks, libraries, community centres, churches, marae?


Learning literacy outside

I had never thought about  outdoor learning as a medium for supporting literacy learning until I met an expert from Scotland the other day on the plane.

Juliet Robertson described how universal elements of children’s play outside – adventures, making trails, small scene setting (creating little words), taking on fantasy roles) – were all things that helped children learn what stories mean and how stories are constructed. She described how Scottish schools are taking children to their nearest urban space and making letters with sticks and leaves – and the rich oral language that comes with it.

If you are interested, here are some idea.

Scotland has an national play strategy – what a wonderful idea.

APril 14 – Literacy Leaders day- new thoughts

As it happens, the 14th of April was Leaders in Literacy.    Andreas Schleicher Director, Directorate for Education and Skills blogged about the findings of the OECD survey of adult skills and what nations might do about the findings. It made me think about the outcomes I would want from a nationwide strategy on adult literacy.  Many things would be pretty standard

  • Making sure people knew what provision was available, via a national campaign
  • Continuing to  build and support a capable workforce
  • Informing our practice, policy and investment from data; data on programmes
  • Ensuring learners in programmes make progress and are equipped to transition to higher levels of study
  • Working with stakeholders to ensure quality programmes across the system, fit for the diverse purposes of adult lives
  • Developing a research programme that informs practice and policy
  • Growing uptake from most vulnerable and high risk or high need learner

What we don’t have yet is any cross-sector commitment to making a difference. Imagine if a national strategy included:

  •  Working with partners to ensure all government departments and services know about and respond appropriately to the literacy needs of their constituents or clients
  • Working across sectors to reduce the pipeline of young people leaving school with insufficient literacy
  • Commitment to raise the early oral language and school readiness of all our children.

 Thought leaders for literacy in the USA were commenting also, primarily on the schooling system. Their comments resonate with my observations from the Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowship

  •  Low literacy and poverty are inextricably linked
  • Cross sector partnerships and collective impact thinking is needed if we are going to make a difference
  • The adult literacy world needs to support and contribute to community-led reading improvement initiatives
  • We all need to think inter-generationally – school reading initiatives or tertiary programmes for individuals are insufficient in themselves to tackle the cycle of intergenerational literacy

My UK experience

In two fast-moving  weeks I went up England twice – London to Glasgow return and back up to  Leicester, then Barnsley in Yorkshire. I also crossed the country – up to Middlesbrough and  Teeside port on the east coast and across to the west, to Liverpool and the Mersey, on the  west. So much lovely countryside and so much history.

What had I hoped to learn? What’s the experience of UK towns and cities to join up literacy action, across families, early learning, schools and adults.  What stands out from these two weeks:

  • the powerful link between health and literacy that in NZ we have hardly begun to make. The National Literacy Trust, NIACE, the Middlesbrough Literacy Hub and The Reader Organisation are making that connection  and funding from health is enabling and driving a significant amount of literacy action.
  • the time it takes to build a shared language and programme of work; every organisation has to make some progress toward their own objectives while also working to the common goal. Getting to the common goal is hard, not helped by competitive systems that mean institutions want to hang onto their own learners.
  • The importance of planning for sustainability.  Partnerships are fragile when funding shifts. The most sustainable initiative seemed to be  ORIM, the framework for working with parents, because the framework has become embedded in teaching and learning practice by a whole raft of organisations. A major factor in that take up was adoption of the Aorim framework by a key national partner. 
  • The  research evidence on the importance of reading for pleasure that underpins work at the National Literacy Trust,  the Hubs, Whatever it takes and the Reader Organisation. Reading for Pleasure has  moved up my agenda
  • the need for strategic champions who understand and resource the coordination required to join things up and who stay around long enough to see results; this is not quick work. It’s taken nearly 20 years from the first project in one school to get substantial take up and policy change for ORIM.
    • how the adult and family learning landscape has changed and shrunk in recent years as a result of the skills agenda.  Its a harsher environment with on-going funding cuts. On the other hand, there is still space for innovations – The Literacy Hubs and the Reader Organisation are new models. 
    • How public transport makes literacy visible! There was so much time on buses and trains. House plans, health and safety training manuals, newspapers, books, e-readers, homework assignments, bill paying, newspapers.

Who did I see?  I’ve gained  strategic and operational level insights from the people who have been generous enough to meet with me:

    • Project  leads from  Leicester’s Whatever it takes and the Middlesbrough Literacy Hub, two organisations focusing on city-wide action that involves both early learning and schooling improvement
    • The service manager and family learning coordinator from Learn Barnsley, a local authority endevouring to operationalise family learning in a wider remit of adult education and skills
    • Senior staff and project development leads from NIACE (the National  Voice for Adult Learners) and the  National Literacy Trust,  national organisations supporting place-based literacy  and family learning
    • An academic at the University of Sheffield who has lead the development of a parent-focused framework for raising literacy  Sheffield REAL (raising early achievement)
    •  The development manager the Reader Organisation from a relatively new  and rapidly growing reading programme that is community focused, 
    • draws heavily on volunteers and is promoting reading for social inclusion and wellbeing.