Book sharing with parents fosters under-threes' communication skills

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New research, due at the end of the month, will examine the success of a programme aimed at giving early years practitioners a better understanding of how babies and toddlers’ language and literacy develops.

The HELLO (Helping Early Language and Literacy Outcomes) programme, which is run by the National Literacy Trust, aims to improve the communication of children from birth to three, and support parents with developing this at home.

The programme has been funded for a year, but the aim is for settings to continue sharing practice with each other after this ends.

HELLO is being run by five nursery schools and two local authorities - Middlesborough Council and Reading Borough Council – who have linked up with with more than 70 early years settings in their local area to share ideas and practice.

At St Edmund’s nursery school and children’s centre in Bradford, practitioners have met four times a year, and used a self-assessment audit tool to look at how they work with parents, practitioners’ skills, and how the settings ‘enabling environment’ helps to foster children’s learning.

St Edmund’s was one of the first teaching schools and is also a school centre for initial teacher training.

The nursery school has been working with 14 early years settings, ten private and voluntary sector nurseries, two nursery schools and two schools on the HELLO programme.

Sarah Gordon, assistant head of school SENCO at St Edmund's, said, ‘They also visit other nurseries and discuss things that do and don’t work.’

Projects include the sharing stories project with parents. Ms Gordon said, ‘We’re introducing room libraries and will provide books and book bags for parents to take home and encourage parents to change the books to go to libraries. We’re using see-through book bags because we found that parents of younger children were put off by school-type book bags.’

One setting has created an outdoor willow chair area for storytelling. The books used are simple picture books with few words.

Ms Gordon added, ‘We want parents to talk about the books in their first language. It’s about sharing books, that really good ethos of sharing stories.’

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