Don’t under-estimate the power of a game of catch!

Even with all the fabulous online learning tools available for children today, handwriting is still a core skill for children to acquire. There are many factors that can affect your child’s ability to form letters from the actual grip on the pencil to poor visual perception meaning children are unable to discriminate between different letters (e.g. b & d).

Children with poor handwriting may be disadvantaged if teachers cannot mark their work accurately. A less obvious disadvantage is that a child may struggle to write creatively if it takes all their concentration to just form the words. You can imagine the frustration this would cause a child.

There are a few simple ways you can help which we discuss below. However, if you identify significant issues and challenges with your child’s handwriting and reading and are concerned this should be followed up with an Occupational Therapist who is a specialist in this field.

Good hand-eye coordination is necessary to guide the pencil but simple garden games can help develop this key skill:

• Basic throwing and catching a ball with a parent or friend. Start to add variation in height and pace to gauge improvement
• Use a bat and ball and see how long your child can keep the ball in the air
• Swingball is a great game and very good at helping coordination
• Throwing a ball against a wall and catching it, increasing the height and pace for variation

When the weather is not so friendly then use worksheets or books with mazes or follow the path exercises inside.

Another important element in handwriting is a child’s fine motor skills or dexterity. This is the coordination of the movement of small muscles in the hands and fingers and synchronising them with the eyes. You can work on these by encouraging lots of scissor cutting, using playdough and lego to improve dexterity and your child’s ability to manipulate a pencil successfully.

Visual perception is an element that has been found to have a significant effect on handwriting. Visual perception enables children to understand what they see, for example to recognise the difference between an ‘n’ or a ‘h’. Poor visual perception may mean a child doesn’t realise an ‘o’ which is not joined at the top is actually a ‘u’.

Visual perception games can be incorporated into your child’s day like ‘seek and find’ books or bingo games, any games that required the child to notice, and act on small visual difference.

Playing the games is one part, putting the writing skills into practice is also necessary.

So make the most of your time in these early years to provide lots of opportunities to give your child a great start, and you can have a lot of fun doing it too!

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Moon Dogs Phonics Series


The eagerly awaited Moon Dogs Phonics Series for older, struggling readers has just been published by Phonic Books.

Moon Dogs Series Set 1 is a set of 8 books for older ‘catch-up’ pupils who would benefit from starting a phonics series from the very beginning (interest age 8 to 14, reading age Key Stage 1). A series of decodable books that introduce the sounds of the alphabet to older readers. These high quality books have 1 or 2 lines of text to a page to help build confidence in the early stages of reading with phonics.

Moon Dogs Series Set 2 is a set of 8 books that build on the sounds learnt in Set 1 – they have 2 to 3 lines of text to a page to help continue building confidence.

The books are designed to appeal to older reluctant readers with clever, motivating Manga-style illustrations.

Moon Dogs phonics books are now in stock – further details can be found on the website here

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Dandelion Launchers and Dandelion Readers

Dandelion Launchers and Dandelion Readers are designed to launch children into reading. They introduce new sounds very gradually and provide plenty of opportunity for practising reading the sounds in words.

Dandelion Launchers are ideal for children who are at the very early stages of learning to read and need extra support when blending sounds to read words. Each page has just one line of text with simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words to read, enabling children to gain confidence and build self-esteem.

Dandelion Readers follow the same phonic progression as the Launchers, but offer more text to a page as the series progresses. The length of text in the stories increases very gradually to keep pace with the child’s developing reading skills. The Readers go on to cover more complex parts of the English phonic code.

Dandelion Readers Levels 1, 2 and 3 and the Split Vowel series cover the vowel sounds and introduce the concept that the same sound can have alternative spellings:

 

Book

 

Level  1 Level  2 Level  3 Split Vowel Set
1

 

ai ai, ay, a ai, ay, a, a-e, ea a – e
2

 

ee ee, e, ea ee, e, ea, y e – e
3

 

oa oa, o, ow oa, o, ow, oe, o-e i – i
4

 

ur ur, er, ir ur, er, ir, or, ear o- e
5

 

ea ea, e, ai ea’ as, ae, ee or e u – e
6

 

ow ow, ou ow’ as ow or oe All spellings
7

 

oo oo, ew, ue oo, ew, ue, u-e  
8

 

igh igh, i, y igh, I, y, ie, i-e  
9

 

oo oo, oul, u oo’ as in boot or look  
10

 

or or, a, aw or, a, aw, au, al  
         

Dandelion Readers Level 1, 2 and 3 books can be used in two ways:

  • Children can read all ten books in Level 1, which will introduce them to one spelling of each vowel sound. They can then read Level 2, followed by Level 3, which will offer alternative spellings of the sounds learnt in Level 1.
  • Alternatively, children can read Book 1 from Levels 1, 2 and 3, followed by Book 2 in all three levels etc. This will introduce children to alternate spellings for each sound before moving on to the next sound.

The Workbooks that accompany the Launchers and Readers provide fun multisensory activities linked to the stories and characters in the books.

For more information on the sounds covered in the books and discounts available, these books can be found on the website here.

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Alba Series – Phonic books for reluctant readers aged 8 – 12


 

Alba Series is a brand new phonic reading series for girls and boys aged 8 – 12 who are reluctant readers. The series runs parallel to the very successful Totem series, and is designed to appeal to older readers with exciting and motivating stories and illustrations.

Alba Series provides an exciting, fresh start for older pupils that builds up their reading skills from CVC (consonant/vowel/consonant) level through to vowel digraphs (Phases 2-5 of Letters and Sounds). This highly-structured, cumulative series includes 12 books which cover the essential phonics foundations that a ‘catch-up’ reader will need.

Take an adventure with Alba, a tiny hero in a huge world. 

Alba is a smart, empowering heroine who has to use her wit to overcome literally HUGE odds. Alba’s dad is a scientist. A breed of superbugs is destroying all the apple trees in the world and Alba’s dad is working hard to save them. He has the last apple pip left in the world safely at home in his flat. Max, from the lab, sneaks into the flat and tries to steal the pip. Alba escapes with it but Max shrinks her to 10cm tall! She has to get the pip to her dad in the lab and save the apple trees. She will need to dodge Max who is following her. 

Will she succeed in crossing the city and getting the pip safely to Dad? Will she ever be a normal size again?

The  books include the essential phonic foundations that a ‘catch up’ reader will need.

Features of the series:

  • clear phonic focus in each book
  • 3-4 lines of text for reluctant readers
  • cream backgfound to make text reader friendly
  • dyslexia-friendly font
  • strong female character
  • exciting and motivating story and illustrations
  • multi-syllabic words chunked for the reader
  • comprehensive workbook complements the series

These exciting new books can be found on the website here.

 

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Wordless Picture Books

At this time of year, many children will be very excited to be taking their first book home from school. Depending on the school, this may be a book for you to read to your child, a book with simple words that your child is expected to read to you, or a wordless book for you to share together.

Before starting school, some children will already have started on the road to reading – they may know lots of letter sounds and be able to read simple words or books. For others, this will be the very beginning of their journey on the road to reading – for some even their first introduction to books.

Realistically, if you have taken the time to read this blog, it is likely that your child is one of the former and you may be disappointed that the books that are appearing in the book bag are wordless picture books as this may seem like a step backwards. You are not alone – many parents struggle with the idea of wordless books and what to do with them.

Learning to read involves reading the words on the page (through decoding by phonics) and understanding what has been read (comprehension). 

Wordless picture books can help develop these important comprehension skills and they are particularly useful for children with language problems. Whilst looking through the book and taking time to discuss what is happening in  the pictures, there is no pressure to focus on trying to read the words. It is a perfect time to develop vocabulary, follow up on questions, and encourage your child’s own storytelling. It is a useful way of learning about story structure and sequencing of events.

One of the potential problems with using wordless picture books is that once books with words are introduced, children may have more of a tendency to rely on picture clues which in turn may lead to guessing words rather than actually reading them. This will tend to happen when reading schemes are used that are not decodable (i.e. can be read by sounding out the letters and blending them to read the words) but include lots of high frequency words so children have to learn to read them by sight. So when your child moves on to books with words (hopefully from a good phonically decodable reading scheme), they need to realise that they must sound out all through the word to read it, rather than looking at the first letter and guessing what it might be from the picture.

Many heated discussions routinely take place between those who teach purely with phonics and those who like to encourage children to use all the clues available to work out what words might be. On the face of it, it sounds a logical argument that children should use every clue available to read words, but the reality is that children then get distracted from actually developing an independent strategy for reading the words – something that becomes more important as they progress when there are no longer any pictures to help.

Your child’s teacher will no doubt be assessing their new class in the first few weeks to find out what skills they do have. Meanwhile, try to make the most of having the chance to have some stress-free time helping your child develop a love of reading books.

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Magic Belt Series – Phonic Books

We have just added the latest series of Phonic Books to the website. The ‘Magic Belt’ is a series of 12 books for older pupils who would benefit from starting a phonics programme from the very beginning, providing a prequel to the very popular ‘Totem’ series.

Starting at CVC word level, it progresses in small steps to CVCC, CCVC and CCVCC word levels and then introduces one consonant digraph at a time (ch, sh, th, ck, ng, wh, qu), allowing practice and consolidation at each level.

A fantastic reading resource for older beginner readers – more details can be found on the website here .

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Decodable Reading Books

 

Why are good decodable reading books so important for early readers?

Decodable reading books are books used in the early stages of teaching children to read with phonics. They contain only (or mainly) text that can be ‘decoded’ (or sounded out) based on the letter-sounds the child has already been taught. This encourages children to sound out words and blend sounds to read words, rather than guessing words from pictures or context.

This recent thread on Mumsnet is a good example of how frustrating it can be for children who are given the wrong sort of reading books when they are in the early stages of learning to read with phonics.

If a school is teaching a certain phonics programme such as Jolly Phonics, Read Write Inc., or Letters and Sounds, then in an ideal world the children would all be given decodable reading books that follow the same sequence as that particular scheme. Unfortunately, many schools still have large stocks of the Oxford Reading Tree ‘Biff and Chip’ style books. These use predictable, repetitive text with illustrations that are deliberately designed to provide clues to the text content. They also use many ‘sight words’ that cannot be decoded so the child who has been learning phonics gets very frustrated when presented with lots of words that contradict what they have been taught.

Children using these books soon develop a bad habit of guessing what the words might be rather than reading them. This may not be a problem whilst their reading books contain lots of pictures but eventually their memory for sight words will reach overload and if they haven’t learnt how to read the alphabetic code properly they will struggle to read more complex texts as they move on in school.

If your child brings home books that they are unable to read based on the phonic sounds they already know, the best advice is to share the book with them and help with any words they are unable to work out, to avoid them struggling and guessing words.

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