Talking Tents are a winner

Catherine Gaunt
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Encouraging a love of language, stories and reading among pre-school children and their families has won a Norwich nursery a National Literacy Trust award.

Magdalen Gates Pre-school was named Early Reading Connects Setting of the Year, winning £300 to spend on literacy resources.

The pre-school uses various means to boost parents' involvement, including holding a Rainbow Cafe every half-term where parents can meet each other, get tips on reading to their children and borrow storysacks.

It has also started a Talking Tents scheme to encourage fathers to read with their children.

Assistant manager Vicky Wilson said the nursery was inspired by reading about a study that used pop-up tents to get fathers involved with their children's communication.

She said, 'The idea was to make it like a den. We have quite a few dads who were staying at home while the mums were at work.'

With the help of a National Lottery grant, the pre-school has assembled six Talking Tent packs, which include a book, a torch, a fleece blanket and a suggestion card.

The pre-school is involved with the Every Child A Talker (ECAT) scheme and has visits and training several times a year from support teachers and speech and language therapists.

It also takes part in Bookstart's Rhyme Challenge, where children learn a new rhyme with different actions each month.

'This is particularly helpful for children with English as an Additional Language,' said Ms Wilson. 'We send the rhyme with the actions home to parents. The children are always asking if they can do the rhymes!

'Having the resources to send home to parents and get them involved creates a strong a partnership and it really makes a difference.'

Childminder Debbie Raheem from Walsall, who also runs a playgroup and is a lead practitioner for ECAT, is the runner-up in the competition.

Ms Raheem said, 'I've always said the most important thing is getting children on board. It's easier for them to learn when they trust you and feel happy.

'I love storytelling and I try to bring stories to life. For example, last summer I decorated my living room to look like a jungle and the children dressed up as explorers with hats and sunglasses and we told jungle stories.'


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