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I need to chill out!

(50 Posts)
dontcallmehon Tue 25-Sep-12 09:46:57

I know I need to relax and that this is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Help me to see sense! dd1 was able to read when she started school. School immediately assessed her and put her on to green band reading books. By the end of reception she was on gold band. In between we moved schools, but the new school kept her on the same band as she was on previously.

Now dd2 has started reception at the same school dd1 is now at. She is a natural reader and has been taught phase 2 and phase 3 phonics at home (I am a teacher and have some knowledge of how to teach phonics). She is as good as, if not better, as dd1 at the same age. She can read Naughty Amelia Jane books at home.

School have spotted that she can read. Yesterday, though, we had a reading meeting for new starters' parents. I was not impressed. They explained that all the children would start on wordless reading books, then move on to the pink books. Some might be on red and possibly yellow band by the end of the year. I felt as if all children were being expected to start at the same point, regardless of whether or not they could already read. I did ask about it, but didn't get a clear answer.

Now I don't want to be one of THOSE parents. I know there is much more to reading than phonetic decoding and we do work on this too. However I don't see the point of wordless reading books. I think they encourage children to look at picture cues later on, rather than using their knowledge of phonics to break down words. I particularly don't see the point of them for children who can already read. dd is also already well past the level they expect children to be on by year 1. I am worried they'll want all the children to be at the same stage.

How can I chill out and stop worrying? dd2 will be fine, the school will teach her in their own way I know. She can read - this isn't going to change anything. I do worry though!

steppemum Tue 25-Sep-12 09:59:11

firstly 'I think they encourage children to look at picture clues'

well, yes they do, because using other context clues is one skill in reading, and is useful for longer/non phonetic words.
But their main purpose is to encourage the children to tell the story. It fostery understanding of the shape and formatt of a book, and that stories have beginning middle and an end, etc etc.

having said that, as a parent whose child has been massively exposed to books and whose children were doing wordless stories years ago, for my kids I find them a waste of time

I think that I would back off for a few weeks if I were you. Let her settle in, see what the school does, see if they accelerate her through the books etc. The talk is the general talk for the majority of children/parents and it doesn't mean that they won't take your child's needs into account.

You will probably have a parents evening early on. You could take in a book that she can read well, and gently show it and ask if she can whizz through the scheme faster, or maybe jump ahead?

My dd 1 started school not reading, but was so ready that by end of reception she was reading short chapter books at home, and still on baby books at school. It took a lot of convincing for the school to try her on the harder books. In retrospect I came over as pushy parent who know best. If I had approached it better, they might have listened sooner.

KTK9 Tue 25-Sep-12 10:05:32

I would be concerned, but would also wait and see what happens.

Give it a week, see what she comes home with and then query it. In the meantime do your own stuff. I am sure the teacher will soon realise the futility of not progressing them to their ability.

dontcallmehon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:05:57

Thanks steppemum, yes I am worried about seeming too pushy, so I'm trying not to. I have to say, I don't agree that 'context cues' such as pictures should be used alongside modern phonics teaching. dd can read longer words without needing a picture cue to help her, because her knowledge of phonics is good enough to allow her to actually read the word. I think if you don't have the ability to read those words yet then you should be reading phonics based books at an appropriate level, not relying on picture cues. I think this comes from schools relying too much on old 'look and say' reading schemes. Yes, some words are irregular, or more difficult to decode - but I don't think that means looking at pictures for clues is a good idea.

dontcallmehon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:07:41

Thanks KTK9. I will see what she comes home with this week. At home she reads orange band books with 100% accuracy and fluency and is able to discuss the story - so I feel a bit frustrated that school are starting so slowly.

Haberdashery Tue 25-Sep-12 10:12:44

I imagine if your DD's decoding skills are good and she is continuing to read at home she won't be set back by a few weeks of very easy or even wordless books. You could maybe use them to play at telling stories as a pre-writing activity? Having said that, I also don't really see what the point of them is.

Also, the meeting would have been aimed at most parents. I imagine there will be only a very very few children in the year who can actually read anything at all bar their own name. There is no point in saying 'oh, and for those who can already read, we are hoping they'll be on X band' or whatever because it only applies to a tiny minority (who are all starting at different points anyway) and will just make some of the other parents panic and feel like their kid is behind when actually it is completely normal for children to start Reception not reading and some of those children may well catch up pretty fast.

Just let her keep reading at home and make sure she has plenty of interesting books; she will be fine.

dontcallmehon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:18:26

You are totally right, Haberdashery. I will try to relax. I will give them a few weeks to see what happens. It's not as if she will suddenly lose the ability to read!

IslaValargeone Tue 25-Sep-12 10:27:46

Maybe they will actually put her on a scheme suited to her current level, but kept yesterdays meeting pretty general rather than singling any particular kids out.
There is much fretting in the early stages, so perhaps they didn't want any parents thinking "oh my god my dc can't read and so and so is on platinum band.
If she is on picture books in a few weeks I would definitely be talking to the school, to hell with being one of those parents.

redskyatnight Tue 25-Sep-12 10:32:59

I think if your elder DC has already been at the school you know that "all" children do not finish the year on red/yellow.

I always find that school meetings seem to be aimed at the average child - and particularly at parents who know nothing about the school system. I've sat through many a meeting where the school has explained that they will cover something with all children - that the most able children can already do, and the least able are nowhere near. A meeting can't cater for individuality.

I'd give it a week or 2 and see what actually happens. Then raise with her teacher.

dontcallmehon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:35:44

Yes, it was very much aimed at the 'average.' I found it a bit patronising - things like we should read to the children and have books around the house. Letters have both a name and a sound etc - but I suppose not everyone will know these things and the meeting has to cater for everyone. I didn't learn anything new, but I go to show my support really.

Haberdashery Tue 25-Sep-12 10:36:25

Also, I think it's quite normal for school reading books to be somewhat easier than a child can manage at home. DD started school able to read some simple words and with a basic idea of blending. She knew all the single letter phonics sounds and sped through the lists of 'tricky' words. She still really really enjoyed her phonics lessons and guided reading (it is very enjoyable to be good at something) and she ended her Reception year reading chapter books at home but still on ORT Yellow band at school. The easy school books are great for practising reading with expression as she can read them more or less without thinking about the actual words (when she can be bothered, which is a separate issue!) and it hasn't made her lose enthusiasm for her own books.

Technoprisoners Tue 25-Sep-12 10:39:59

dontcallme - I'm in the same situation with DD, also put on picture and pink band books along with the rest of the class, when her reading skills are several levels above this. For me, it's not so much the pink books themselves that are a worry at this early stage - it is all practise of high-frequency words after all, plus getting into the habit of having a book brought home every day etc - it is more the blanket approach to the class which I find concerning. I did ask, and was told "they will move on to more challenging books later on in the term". What if they're not ready to? What about DD who needs more challenging books now? Apparent total lack of differentiation.

I am also sceptical of over-reliance on picture cues and sounding-out the first sound only when attempting a word - it leads to lack of confidence when attempting unfamiliar words. Could you ask the teacher more general questions about how they teach reading?

Keep reading with your DD at the level she has reached at home, and give it a few weeks. What sort of comments do you write in her reading log? I am making a point of noting things like "can easily cope with more content", or "can read these words with ease and needs the next challenge" etc. I would expect, by half term latest, they should all be reading at their own individual levels and if you're still getting the same old thing, query it more firmly.

dontcallmehon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:40:18

Yes that's true. Also, we may avoid the issues we've had with dd1, who flew through the books and ended up bringing home unsuitable books that were aimed at much older children and frightened her! So there is something to be said for taking it at a slower pace.

dontcallmehon Tue 25-Sep-12 10:42:48

Techno, dd hasn't had a book at all yet - they are sending the wordless books home this week, along with word cards like 'to' and 'the.' dd can read the word 'unfortunately' - so I don't really know why they insist on sending exactly the same thing home for every child. I might get her to learn the spellings or something, or learn to write them.

Nottigermum Tue 25-Sep-12 10:47:40

I think that the entire issue with books from school is often taken out of proportion. You can go to the library and choose books that are right for your child. I'd say that with both my children, the choice of books from school is poor, they don't change the books often enough, the books are ancient, not interesting, not fun. I have two DSs and one of the has just finished reading a 68-page book with chapters, but what he gets from school is level grey. He's no genius, but he likes the books that he likes, and it's impossible for a school to know exactly what books are a perfect match for each child.

Anyway, in my house, we love non-word books, and I still use them with my kids even though they are in year 1 and 2 and can read fluently. Non-word books are great to help a child understand sequencing, make up their own stories in their own words.

DS2 could read before starting school and the school was very quick on picking up his skill, and by Christmas the teacher was giving him more challenging books. But they all started at the same point. He had to do phonics, simple words, etc. which in my opinion, not only ok but it's the right method of teacher.

Nottigermum Tue 25-Sep-12 10:49:54

I meant the right teaching method...

ByTheWay1 Tue 25-Sep-12 10:54:24

Reception is all about LITERACY - not reading....

picture books are not there to teach reading, but to help children weave a story - to help them notice things , to help them work out what is happening and to make up their own scenario - "why does she look sad", "look there's a bird in that tree - why was it hard to see.. " etc.. literacy is not just about reading...

all kids benefit from the picture book stage - even those who can read.

I would be doing their own books at home anyhow if they are good readers - just remember to keep asking the questions - that is why they start on the easy stuff - it is not a competition on who can read what level the quickest, but a journey through literacy, building full understanding of a story, how to write it as well as read it , how to understand what is being said, and the nuances of how grammar is built up from scratch - not just reading the actual words...

steppemum Tue 25-Sep-12 11:32:22

tbh when I was struggling to get school to recognise her reading level, we just made sure she was reading at her level at home, so her reading didn't suffer and backed off from arguing with the school.

We often forget how much emotional energy it takes to adjust to school, and so I wouldn't push the reading agenda yet, but give her and them time.

And yes, the meeting sounds patronising, but then as a teacher i can tell you that many of the things they said are not common knowledge or practice among parents. It is most important to get those parents involved and on side.

steppemum Tue 25-Sep-12 11:34:57

and with ref to good readers and poor book choice, my ds is 9, he hasn't read a school book for more than a year. He chooses books from the library, and takes them in in his book bag. he reads about 3-4 novels a week, and orders them through the library. There just isn't that choice at school.

dontcallmehon Tue 25-Sep-12 11:43:29

Yes, dd1 is in Year 2 and has just gone on to library books at school, as the scheme books are not suitable now. I also send in my own books.

I suppose steppemum, it is more important to involve those parents who perhaps don't know much about the process than it is to direct it at those who do. I would be involved anyway, regardless.

steppemum Tue 25-Sep-12 12:00:53

yes don'tcallmehon, and you would be amazed at some of the misunderstanding sparents have about reading and school etc. If your dd is reading and you understand the process then TBH the meeting isn't aimed at you. If you want more info, then you need to talk to teacher. But give it a few weeks, give her a chance to sort them out.

dontcallmehon Thu 27-Sep-12 20:42:49

Hmm, well, she hasn't come home with wordless books - but I'm not at all happy. She has brought home two pink band reading books with about three words a page. One just contains the words 'Biff, Chip, Kipper etc.' She knows these words. She read it in about 5 seconds flat. She is honestly a very very good reader who can read Orange Band books with 100% accuracy.

Haberdashery Thu 27-Sep-12 20:53:30

Perhaps just put a note in her reading diary? Something along the lines of 'read these all easily - could she have something a little more challenging next time?' and see what that produces. Probably, what has happened is that she's 'read' the wordless books with someone who saw that she knew how to turn the pages, that the story progressed left to right, that there was a sequence of events that made sense to her. More than likely she will take the pink band books back to school and someone will listen to her and she'll be on the next level next week and the next the one after that. If she still gets the very easy books after a few weeks, make an appointment with the teacher and explain the problem.

If it only took her a short while to read the books, you can then let her read something more interesting. Honestly, this is the first few weeks of Reception. Your daughter isn't going to forget how to read. Really, it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. As long as she's still enjoying school, that is the main thing. A child with quite clearly tons of support at home and with the ability to make use of that is going to do well at school, no matter what happens.

dontcallmehon Thu 27-Sep-12 20:58:30

I have written a note to say she found it very easy and I'll see what comes back.

3duracellbunnies Thu 27-Sep-12 21:06:11

I would put in her record, 'read in 2 minutes so went on to read x pages of Naughty Amelia Jane too', then you are showing willing with their plan while keeping her reading going and highlighting to them the type of books she can read.

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