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The Books

The Hidden Keys

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By Stephan J Myers FCIPD, MSc., Oct 8 2017 06:00PM

It’s funny how we find ourselves on a particular train of thought. And today as I was rummaging through old notebooks I found myself reflecting on my love of books. No one encouraged me to read, in fact quite the opposite, but throughout my life, I have always thought of books as one of my closest companions. Silent yet reliable, and the one constant that defies life’s ups and downs no matter the kind of mood I find myself in. A source of calm and comfort when troubles taunt a restless mind, but how many of us take time to reflect on the great influence authors come to exert on us? I suspect that for you, like me, they fall into the minority but whether for good or bad, they seem to find us when our minds are most eager for escapism and respite from the doldrums of everyday living. And through the pages of their books they give us endless ways in which to grow and reflect on what we read.

I wish I could go back and count how many books I've been privileged to lose myself in but in reality, the only books that count are those that leave a lasting impression on us, shaping our perceptions and understanding and even our beliefs. I wonder then how many writers are really aware of the influence their words can bring to bear on their readers and it seems more than a little sad that those who have most influenced me I will never get to thank.

To me, each word I write reveals a little more of myself, but I wonder if this is the same for all authors. For whilst one may dig deep into themselves and place their innermost emotions on their pages, another might write as casually as pulling a rabbit out of a hat!

Looking back on my own childhood, I consider myself most fortunate for the opportunity to read as I desired, both in variety and content. To me, those were days of discovery and high adventure. For though sitting safely in my own home, in my mind I was the central character, living and exploring through the pages of my books, as a pirate, spaceman, gunslinger and dragonslayer, shaping my imagination, and so my life. Reflecting on how my love affair with books has influenced my life and brought magic to my world, I wonder now if books are in fact the most marvellous and dangerous of enchantments.

By Stephan J Myers FCIPD, MSc., Oct 4 2017 01:30PM

Assisting with school readiness in your child is a subject widely considered in educational forums. Parents seek the best nursery provision for their children, hoping this will give them the best foundation for school.

However, there seems to be an even more effective 'grass roots' approach that proves even more effective in preparing your childs cognitive ability for school learning. These interventions require no great intellect or training, and are within virtually every parents capability.

Unsurprisingly, research indicates that reading to your child every day increases brain activity. It it essential for good cognitive development because the connectors in the brain become stronger and more efficient through repeated use, developing a pattern for later learning. So rest assured that when you are reading the same book to your child for the tenth time that day, you are greatly assisting in their development and preparation for learning. Rhyming books, with their natural repetition of words, sounds and rhythm are ideal choices, improving cognition.

Studies also confirm that more informal types of repetition are also extremely valuable in preparing a child for later learning. In one such study examining children's continued progress at school ( Hart, Risley, 1995), researchers wanted to ascertain whether language exposure in preschoolers had an affect on ability from school start, and into junior education. Their investigation centred on conversation within the home between preschoolers and their parents, measuring an approximate difference of 300 words per hour, making an accumulative amount of around 30 million more words spoken by the time the child was four years old. On investigation, the children whos' homes benefitted from more conversation made rapid progress at school start, and according to follow-up studies, were generally still ahead at age nine. This indicates that regular and repetitive interaction between parent and child will indeed make their young brain more receptive to learning.

Interestingly, this concept can also be built on by deliberate and pro-active help from a more experienced individual, such as a parent. This is a key ingredient for cognitive growth, with guided participation essential for a young child to learn most effectively. This involvement does not mean the parent should do everything for, or with their child. Vygotskys notion of the Zone of Proximal Development explains how this works, with the child being more successful in collaboration with a more competent individual, but making their own individual and independent steps in cooperation with this approach. A literal example of this type of learning would be how a parent assists their child to ride a bike. Assistance is given up to a point, but then the parent must let go so the child can continue their journey to success alone. In this way, the child is given the chance to scaffold, or build on their own learning. It is easy to see how this can be applied to more academic platforms, such as reading.

It is clear then, that a parent can indeed provide valuable assistance in the home to their childs educational outcomes. The key seems to be to introduce regular routines and repedition, with consistent interaction and help, but also to allow time for the child to build on their knowledge independently. This positive and reliable support with both give their future cognitive development the best chance, and will foster a close and supportive relationship between parent and child.

Till next time and wishing you the very best of dreams.

By Stephan J Myers FCIPD, MSc., Oct 3 2017 02:31PM

If you love to read, you will likely want your children to share the same joy as you do. You will also be aware of the value of both reading to your child, and them reading themselves, in terms of their cognitive development in other areas. However, if your child doesn't seem to be drawn to books, or be a natural reader, how do you get them excited about books?

The first important point to consider is whether the books you are choosing are right for your child. This is important both at home and in school. Children develop differently and their attainment level may not be that same as books pitched at their age range. It's up to you, maybe with input from a teacher, to know your child well enough to judge their reading ability. Correctly choosing the right difficulty of book for your child will allow them to engage with the story, whilst at the same time not being bored.

Also important is to allow your child to find their chosen genre. Your child has their own personality, and likes and dislikes of their own, and your favourite childhood stories may not be theirs! Experiment with different books such as non-fiction, poetry, and different styles of illustration. Your child can then make their own choices about which books fire their imagination. Visiting the library for instance, is a good way to expose your child to many different types of books.

If you are an avid reader, you will likely have your current read readily available in your home, maybe face down on your bedside, or coffee table. Do the same for your child. Make sure books are visible and within reach, maybe choosing a particular place in your home. This way it is easy for them to have independent access to reading. This is valuable even before your child can read, as it makes books familiar to them.

However, never underestimate how enjoyable it is for your child to be read to. Reading aloud to your child, especially with enthusiastic delivery, is a great way to inspire passion, as your child on this occasion is not distracted by reading the words, but can immerse themselves in the story. You may want to develop their interest by allowing them to tell parts of the story. Building on this, why not suggest they write their own story, which will further immerse them in the joy of words. In fact, why not write them a story yourself?-You will be well rewarded by their response!

Above all, try not to make reading a chore. Of course, they will need to read for school homework, but if you have encouraged reading for pleasure and a love of books from a pre-school age, they will likely view this in a more positive light.

Make your home a place where books abound and are part of the furniture, both yours, and theirs. Let them see you read, read to them, listen to them read, and above all immerse yourselves together in the love of literature.

Till next time and hoping you find the very best of words.

Welcome to my blog pages........


The funny thing about writing and illustrating children's books is that people rarely take you seriously but I've come to find that I do my best thinking with a pen in my hand. Writing or doodling I'm often drawn to a train of thought which I just have to get down on paper. Most of the posts here are inspired by discussions with parents, teachers and young readers and I hope you find them interesting. More importantly, I always value the comments you care to leave.

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