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November 2003Page 4REALBOOK NEWS Issue 14

be disappointed if the child replies ‘played a game’ in home language, as it difficult for the child to repeat odd new phrases in English that are not linked to an activity or some action that is going on.  

Participation is easier for a parent when it is based on some activity that is familiar to them and the child, like reading a picture book. A parent needs to be confident that he understands how to participate in the English activity that the child brings home. If a parent is unsure of what is expected of them, this can give the child negative feed back about his parent’s English ability and the place of English in the home. Where activities are new, parents need a note of explanation and suggestions of what English phrases to use.  

Activities to be shared should not be sent home until they have been well prepared in class and children feel confident enough to take the lead in sharing, so ‘showing off ‘their English ability. Success starts off a chain of praise that motivates and stimulates the child to go on. Any criticism can de-motivate and regaining confidence is not immediate.

Discussion about the activity can be in either English, the home language or in bilingual speech where the child speaks in home language and code switches to use English words he knows well or words he may not know in the home language. Look at dirty Bertie. Tu as vu his hands .Dirty yuk! As children become more fluent the use of the home language diminishes.

Parents should be encouraged and feel comfortable using some of the same innate parentese skills they used when they taught their children how to speak, like repeating back, stressing important words, speaking more slowly, and giving praise more generously.

Bringing home Realpicturebooks-

Picture books provide parents with a ready-made activity that is easy to share.

Selected picture books with short texts, that have been read and re-read many times at school, can be borrowed and brought home. By this time the text has generally been picked-up by heart and the child is ready to read it aloud to others and find satisfaction in reading it silently, too.

Each reading increases the child’s skills and confidence.

In sharing children can read the text in English and discuss the pictures in home language, broadening his visual literacy skills (Issues 6& 13).

Sharing a picture book bonds. Phrases in the text often become in-family English.

Children enjoy having their own time with the book to browse (Issue 10).

Having the book to themselves may result in creative extensions like copying the pictures.

Being proud to show the family a beautiful book and reading it to them can motivate.

Book borrowing can lead to making mini-home libraries of English books. This is more likely when there is a Class English Library Corner to act as a role model.


Allowing and encouraging parents to participate in natural ways should be a benefit for the teacher in that another older person is spending one-to-one time to hear the child use English, discuss his interests and encourage him. It also provides the parents with an opportunity to participate in something the child is doing at school and show him that they, too. like to learn English. Young children whose parents are involved in their learning make significantly more progress than those who are not.  Dr Maria Evangelou and Professor Kathy Sylva* The parent’s role model in sharing English picture books may do more than support; it may be inspirational creating a life-long love of English, art and books.

C Opal Dunn

*Bringing it home -  Farren and Smith  published by CILT ISBN 1-904243-19-3  £9.00

*The effects of Peers Early Education Partnership (PEEP) on Children’s Developmental            Progress - Evangelou and Sylva - Dept of Educational Studies, Oxford University

12 BOOKS for Nursery and Primary (front cover)

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