Encouraging children who struggle with reading

Guest post from Rose-tinted World – a parent of a family affected by Irlen syndrome and dyspraxia. She blogs to raise awareness of these condition and to share information with others affected.

World Book Day is an annual celebration of books and reading. This year World Book Day falls on 7 March. World Book Day offers a great opportunity for children – it allows everyone to find something to enjoy about literature. This seems quite obvious but it is a point worth making. Not every child is a natural reader and all develop as confident readers at their own pace. Some, like my daughter, have to contend with a learning difficulty that makes independent reading more difficult.

How wonderful to have day where everyone can talk about their favourite books and fictional characters. At my children’s school the children are allowed to dress up as their favourite character for the day. This makes all the children equal. Nobody has to read out loud, or show how slowly they read or even say how many books they have read themselves. They only have to share their love of their favourite book with their peers.

We have always read to our children. This proved particularly helpful when my daughter’s problems with reading started. We were able to read her far more complicated books than she could read to herself. This enabled her to listen to chapter books and to develop an understanding of more complex narratives and extended character development. This also allowed her to continue to build on her love of literature.

Come World Book Day two years ago she chose one of the characters from the books we had been reading to her. This was one of the fairies from the ‘Rainbow Fairies’ series of books by Daisy Meadows. She loves these books and has collected many of the series over a number of birthdays.

Son dressed as dinosaurLast year my daughter dressed as the witch from the ‘Worst Witch’ by Jill Murphy. My son dressed a dinosaur from ‘Dinosaurs and all That Rubbish’ by Michael Forman. We also attended the book fair that was put on at the school. My children love this event – All the children love this event and it is always a pleasure to see children so excited by books.

Last year both my children chose books and we went off to meet a friend for dinner. Our friend was running a little late and my daughter took out her book and asked if she could read it. At this point she had only managed to read picture books but I didn’t point this out as she happily held up the chapter book she had chosen. My friend arrived and we started nattering not really noticing how quiet my daughter was being. My daughter read all through our visit with our friend and then went off to her room when we got home. The next morning my daughter announced she had read the book and it was great. I was amazed that she had managed to do this and a bit confused about where this sudden breakthrough had come from. So I asked her how come she had read the whole book and she answered quite simply – because she had picked it up from a shelf that said ‘read it yourself’.

"Read alone" sign

I always remember this moment with warmth. We had had so many struggles in the years before this – fraught home work sessions and frustrated reading practices. We had also had uncertainty about where progress could come from. It made me laugh that my daughter had taken a sign so literally and that this has enabled her to take a massive leap in her own development.

We are always happy when World Book Day comes around. We have always had the belief that the joy of literature can communicate itself and that there are many ways to appreciate books (listening, dressing up, drama etc). We enjoy World Book Day because it gives us the perfect opportunity to remember all of these things.

Find information on World Book Day
Ideas on World Book Day costumes

Will new health duty benefit all families with disabled children?

Edward Timpson, the Children and Families Minister, has announced that he will strengthen the special educational needs (SEN) provisions in the Children and Families Bill by placing an additional duty on the new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). This will force them to guarantee health care services agreed as part of the new Education, Health and Care Plans (EHC Plan).

So does this mean that parents will no longer need to battle to get the health support their child needs?

Not exactly – although it is certainly a big step towards removing some of the battles that parents tell us they face in getting the right support for their child. It should mean that any child or young person who has an EHC Plan will be guaranteed access to health services such as speech and language therapy if it will help with their education and it is included in their Plan.

But, as is always the case, it is the detail that is important. We have yet to see exactly how this new duty will be included, but as this part of the Children and Families Bill remains education focused, the duty will only be enforceable if health care is needed to support learning. So the battles over deciding such things as whether help to eat lunch, or occupational health to improve posture are health or educational needs will remain.

Currently 87% of children with SEN do not have a Statement. They are unlikely to be eligible for the new EHC Plans. A quarter of disabled children have health or social care needs but do not have special educational needs. They will not be eligible for an EHC Plan either. So how will the duty on CCGs help this group – which contains the vast majority of children, young people and their families, all of whom will be reliant on universal services for support?

Parents have told us that they battle to get specialist services, or a Statement for their child because local provision such as childcare, leisure facilities or schools do not meet their needs.Or because it is the only way they can access health care such as physiotherapy. Neither the new duty on CCGs, or any of the existing ones in the Bill will change that – the Local Offer is simply a directory of services that a local authority ‘expects to be available’ in the local area. It is the equivalent of a SEN Yellow Pages. It will not guarantee help for families.

In other words, the battles that most parents face now will remain, even with the additional duty on health.

Scope is working hard to improve the Local Offer through our Keep Us Close campaign. We want all disabled children, young people and their families to benefit from the Children and Families Bill. We are asking the government to ensure that local authorities promote provision of inclusive and accessible universal services that all families can use. We are also fighting for enforceable duties on local agencies to improve the Local Offer where it is just not good enough and where families still battle to get the support they need.

Visit our Keep Us Close campaign to learn more.