Oxford Reading Spree 2017: part 1!

Today, I went to Larkrise Primary School in Oxford to join others at the Oxford Reading Spree. It has been a wonderful day; spending time and sharing ideas with others who are passionate about reading has been a joy- and there was cake!

From the moment I arrived, everyone was so welcoming and friendly. Having managed to not get lost for once, I was there in good time and able to browse the amazing 'Roving Bookshop'- a real treasure trove of picture book delights. I bought some fabulous things which I look forward to sharing soon!

Once settled, the day began with Simon Smith sharing his passion for reading. He showed us books that had mattered to him growing up.

'Make sure you make books important!' was his message. There should be a 'no excuses' policy about reading to a class every day and teachers need to find things that fire children's enthusiasm and imagination. It was satisfying to hear someone saying things that I believe so passionately!

Next, Mary Myatt, making the case for demanding texts. She claims her research shows that children are 'crying out' for more challenge and must be exposed to more demanding reading material- 'we are a challenge seeking species.' 

'Reading to children is a very efficient way of exposing them to complex vocabulary and the lexical complexity that can only come through reading.'  Mary talked about exploring etymology and the joy of language- something I feel very strongly about! 'Tell the children to pick a word they like the sound of ...'

Andrew Moffatt spoke about the 'No Outsider' approach and shared some wonderful examples of what this looks like in his school. Using a selection of carefully chosen picture books to open and encourage discussions, the children at his school are taught how wonderful it is to be different and how we should all respect each other. I believe most schools do this, but he certainly seems to have developed an approach that is highly successful! Inspiring stuff!

We then had an introduction to the picture book code with Mat Tobin. 'Picture books allow children space to think...Understanding of pictures can be above and beyond... Allow a landscape for language to blossom...'

Mat used 'Rosie's Walk' and 'Granpa' as examples of how the text and illustrations work together. He talked of finding 'new ways of exploring the secret dance between words and pictures'. He then looked at 'The Journey', exploring how the illustrations interact with the text and add clues to the story. Fascinating and inspiring, the session gave us all a lot to think about!

And all this was before lunch!  Part 2 tomorrow!