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Helping children to develop their language skills and reading ability by working with families, has been the aim of a successful new scheme led by Professor Cathy Nutbrown from the University of Sheffield.
Professor Nutbrown shared her approach to family literacy with Early Years practitioners including nursery workers, teachers, child-minders and family support units to help them plan and evaluate their family literacy work.
Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC),researchers from the University of Sheffield planned to help around 60 families but discovered that closer to 6,000 had actually benefited.
To develop the project, the Sheffield research team developed their 'ORIM Framework in the Raising Early Achievement in Literacy' project from the late 1990s.
ORIM stands for the four key elements the framework is based on: opportunities, recognition, interaction and models.
The framework highlights parents’ roles and offers ideas for how they can help their child.
• Opportunities - included resources for engaging with literacy such as books, writing materials, and use opportunities to see and discuss printed work.
• Recognition - showed parents the small steps in literacy progress their children were making to encourage their efforts.
• Interaction - outlined situations where parents could positively involve themselves in literacy activities - writing birthday cards, saying nursery rhymes, reading stories or spotting print images in the neighbourhood.
• Modelling – involved parents leading by example and their children could see that they were using reading, writing and print in everyday life.
To develop the programme, around 20 practitioners learned the theory behind the practical work they do and how it can benefit children's literacy.
The practitioners agreed to adopt the framework and report back on its application, how they adapted it, and impact.
Most said that it helped promote many activities including enhancing parents' recognition of the reading behaviour in three and four year-old bilingual children, encouraging talk in two year olds and encouraging young, reluctant boys to begin communicating with writing.
Professor Nutbrown said: "We have been excited to see how the Early Years practitioners involved in this project are taking our ideas and developing them further to work with parents who have young children, so that they can help develop their interest in literacy from an early age.”
She was delighted to discover that the initial 20 practitioners had shared the approach with 300 colleagues which was far more than anticipated and added: "This has greatly exceeded our expectations and by the end of the project the new approach reached over 6,000 families."