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Feb 10

The use of “textisms” can improve literacy among pupils by giving them extra exposure to word composition outside the school day, it was claimed.

The conclusions come despite fears that the use of abbreviations such as “CU L8R”, “Gr8” and “innit” can undermine children’s reading and writing.

Critics have suggested that text messaging can blur the boundaries between colloquialisms and standard English, with some teachers claiming that slang is now creeping into children’s school work.

But academics from Coventry University said there was “no evidence” that access to mobile phones harmed children’s literacy skills and could even have a positive impact on spelling.

In the latest study, researchers recruited 114 children aged nine and 10 from primary schools in the Midlands.

The pupils, who did not already use a mobile phone, were split into two groups.

Half were given a handset to use for texting over weekends and during the school holidays over a 10-week period. The remaining pupils formed a control group.

Academics then gave pupils a series of reading, spelling and phonological awareness tests before and after the study. Pupils’ reading and spelling was also monitored week-on-week.

The research, to be published in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning next month, found evidence of a “significant contribution of textism use to the children’s spelling development during the study”.

This study, which took account of individual differences in IQ, found higher results in test scores recorded by children using mobile phones after 10 weeks compared with the start of the study.

According to the report, the association between spelling and text messaging may be explained by the “highly phonetic nature” of the abbreviations used by children and the alphabetic awareness required for successfully decoding the words.

“It is also possible that textism use adds value because of the indirect way in which mobile phone use may be increasing children’s exposure to print outside of school,” said the report, funded by Becta, the Government’s education technology agency.

Prof Clare Wood, senior lecturer in the university’s psychology department, said: “We are now starting to see consistent evidence that children’s use of text message abbreviations has a positive impact on their spelling skills.

“There is no evidence that children’s language play when using mobile phones is damaging literacy development.”

By Graeme Paton

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8272502/Text-messaging-improves-childrens-spelling-skills.html

May 17

Adults sometimes forget what reading means to children. Patsy Aldana of Toronto, publisher of Groundwood Books, who was named a member of the Order of Canada last week, has made children’s reading her life’s work. Reading is healing, she says. Reading is a window into oneself and others. Reading is a bulwark of democracy. And we don’t do enough, she says, to nurture our children’s love of reading.

IBBY talks about the right of every child to become a reader. Each child, Ms. Aldana says, should have access to books that are right for him or her. She is distressed that, in Ontario surveys, children and teenagers report that they are getting less pleasure from books than they used to. She blames that on an education system that in her view puts too much emphasis on literacy as a skill for future workers, and not enough emphasis on reading pleasure. Reading “talks to you about who you are, or it tells you something about who the other is. So they’re windows and mirrors.” And it’s essential to becoming a free person in a democratic society. “If you become a reader, you have a chance to become a critical thinker, to be a person who has some power over your life.”Children who have experienced natural disasters or the fallout of war know what she’s talking about. In Haiti, for instance, there are 60 reading points in camps, where children are read to, or encouraged to read, to help them to come to terms with the trauma they’ve experienced. There is a similar program in Gaza, under the auspices of IBBY – the International Board on Books for Young People – a non-profit group with representation in 71 countries, of which Ms. Aldana is the past president.

It is hard to imagine Ms. Aldana’s life without books. Born and raised in Guatemala, Ms. Aldana was only nine when her mother – a Boston intellectual – read Dickens and Shakespeare to her. Later, as an immigrant to Canada, she noticed that this country had little tradition of a children’s literature, outside Lucy Maud Montgomery, and started Groundwood (now part of Anansi Press) in 1978, publisher of Brian Doyle, Marie-Louise Gay and Deborah Ellis. And her late husband, Matt Cohen, won a Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction.

Children’s love of reading is inherent and therefore timeless and universal. Adults can’t kill it, but they should heed Ms. Aldana’s message and do more to nurture it.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/

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