Hi, I’m Thomas Russell. I’m a primary school teacher, husband to Emma and parent of two little girls aged 5 and 2. Here at Grow A Bookworm I’ll give you straight forward tips so that reading can become an enjoyable part of family time again.
As a parent I know how hard it can be to find the best way to help your child with their reading. I also know that when your child struggles with their reading you can worry that they‘ll fall behind their classmates or switch off from reading altogether – and now’s the time to make a change.
I’ve been a teacher for just over 8 years and during this time I’ve built up several effective strategies for reading support in the home and would like to share them with you. I believe that reading together and hearing your child read can be at the heart of quality family time. However, it can very easily become a time of stress and pressure, believe me I’ve been there. Grow a Bookworm is here to help you and your child successfully navigate the challenges of learning to read and have some fun doing it.
My beliefs about reading and how children learn best are the bedrock that I’ve built this blog on.
These are the key principles of Grow a Bookworm:
1. For children who attend school, an informed and collaborative relationship between home and school is essential. In this partnership both home and school bring different sets of expertise but the full involvement of both is essential to inspire lifelong readers.
2. Building a love of reading should be at the heart of any reading journey and is just as important as learning sounds. Sometimes, this can mean taking the pressure off children who are struggling and allow them to rediscover the joy of reading again.
3. Parents are experts in their children and it is crucial that they aren’t made to feel guilty about making brave choices for their child. If you know that reading is going to be a struggle this evening don’t do it. Choose from a range of other activities that will give the same results but with a different approach. Follow this link to find some alternatives for days when reading is a struggle.
4. Independent choice is by far the best way to find an appropriate book for your child to read. Book bands will narrow your child’s reading experience and a book that your child has chosen them self will bring them a joy that Biff and Chip never will. Follow this link to find out how to help your child learn to choose books themselves.
5. The most effective way to grow a bookworm is to be a bookworm.
This bookshelf is me on so many levels. It’s all over the place and messy but there is so much joy right in there, you just have to start reading. I’m going to open up some of the books that make up my metaphorical book case and give you a glimpse of what makes me tick and why I’m here.
Firstly, I’m a reader, you have probably already worked that out, and I love digging into a good book. I’ve found joy in books since I was very young and my wish for as long as I can remember was to own a second hand bookshop. With this blog, I want to do for you what I will do for the customers of the bookshop that is waiting for me just around the corner: Impart some of the things I’ve learnt along the way and learn from you in return.
While I find it hard to believe now I haven’t always been an avid reader. In fact 30 years ago, while at primary school, I was really struggling to read anything at all. My parents, teachers themselves, were stumped with how to help me progress. They spoke to my school and came up with a range of strategies but they really began to worry that I just wouldn’t get it.
One book week Allan Ahlberg came to my school and read his new book Bye Bye Baby. Looking at the book now I honestly couldn’t tell you what I was so enthralled by but I was totally captivated by that story. I was hooked and I absolutely had to have that book!
During book week there was a book sale at the school and Bye Bye Baby had pride of place. I snuck my pot of pennies into school in my PE kit and counted them out one at a time, much to the delight of the waiting teacher, but I didn’t have enough. I was devastated but eventually I put it out of my mind.
Later on in the year it was my sister’s birthday and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was also a present for me! I tore it open and there was Bye Bye Baby! Joy! I immediately sat down next to my baby sister and read it to her from cover to cover! My parents stood and watched in amazement. I’ve not stopped reading since!
Now something that I want to get out of the way early on is this: I love phonics! That’s right I absolutely adore phonics! I know that sounds incredibly strange but I’m afraid it is totally true. It’s not something that I was really aware of myself until recently when I discovered my self getting over excited about this resource for teaching split vowel digraphs.
Now in my opinion phonics generally receives a bad press. It is often mentioned in the same breath as pseudowords, words made up to allow children to demonstrate the ability to segment and blend without needing to recognise the whole word, which are generally looked down on. However, from being very dubious when I approached phonics early on I now realise that it is a set of rules that guide the most common building blocks of our language.
Once you get to grips with that they can be an incredibly powerful to tool to allow children to unlock language. I’ve seen children totally confused with words suddenly find a sound that they recognised and use it to decode and read whole words. Like any tool though it should used correctly and as one strategy in a teacher toolkit rather than as the only one.
This is my story bag. This bag has the ability to stop a class dead in its tracks. It gives me so much joy to carry it in to a classroom and watch the expectant eyes begin to stare at it begin to wonder what is inside. I find that a practical and active approach to telling an experiencing stories adds so much value to learning to read but is also just genuinely good fun.
My mum made this bag for me and it goes with me into every class that I teach in. I recently used it on our school transition day as an All About Me bag and stuffed it full of clues about my life and interests.
One of the stories that I tell during this activity is when, as a fourteen year old, I mentioned to my Granny that I really wanted to work in a bookshop. Five minutes later I was being dropped outside of a local, an utterly excellent, second hand bookshop with the instruction of ‘go and get a job then’.
I really loved this place, it had corridors of old books that you could disappear in. I asked to see the owner and said (I promise that these were my exact words) “I really love books, please can I’ve a job?” Unfortunately the answer was ‘no vacancies’ but it was ok because I left with two Biggles books and one of James Herriot’s vet series.
I’m going to leave it there for now. Hopefully I’ve given you a good look at who I am and why I’m here. Stick around and get to know me. While your here feel free to leave a comment or send me a question or two.
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