The UK’s ASCEL (Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians) has several announcements:

 The big news this week is the launch of Reading Well for young people at the Wellcome Trust yesterday. The book list and resources can be downloaded from The Reading Agency website and follow on Twitter #ReadingWell.

School Libraries

 A teachers’ union has voted for libraries to be included in Ofsted inspections following a survey. 485 ATL members were polled last month and the results reveal that 22% of staff say their school library budget has been cut by at least 40% since 2010. Meanwhile, 21% say the budget does not allow their library to encourage pupils to read for enjoyment. Two-fifths of staff say their library does not have enough space for the number of students who want to use it. One teacher in a Cornwall primary school said the library has become “a wall of shelves in a corridor with two chairs.” Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, stressed that the “alarming stories” of schools cutting library hours and staff, or turning their libraries into classrooms and binning their books were “particularly worrying because reading for pleasure develops children’s literacy, educational attainment and ultimately their chances in life.” (6/4) SLA

 National Literacy Trust blog: Our Secondary Schools Adviser Catharine Driver explores the importance of equipping pupils with the skills they need to read across the curriculum. (6/4) NLT Blog


 A study is being undertaken to find out whether there are links between a child’s choice of “handedness” and language development in an effort to allow earlier interventions and therapies. Children typically settle on a preferred hand at around four years of age, around the same time they acquire proper language skills. Gillian Forrester, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Westminster, said that previous research has suggested that children who are strongly left- or right-handed have “typical” language development. However, children who have “mixed-handedness” – those who do not choose a dominant hand – are more likely to be “linked with atypical development of motor and language abilities.” According to the academic, around 3 to 4%of the general population is ambidextrous, but this figure jumps to between 17 & 47% among children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs).(7/4)  TES

 A US scientist believes she has found a way to boost language development in children by 18 months. It’s a robot called AABy, and its creator, April Benasich, believes that it might accelerate language development in young children by up to 18 months. Drawing on previous research with rats showing that it’s possible to influence and even reprogramme the animals’ responses to sounds, her idea was to find a way to train babies to set up more effective language maps in their brains. Benasich is professor of neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey and a specialist in early language development. She and other scientists around the world have made significant progress in the past five years in learning about how children acquire language. TES
 “Reading with my toddler might not look like what I thought it would. We rarely read a book cover to cover. His choices and favourite books might be ones that I am less keen on. But what I’ve learned through all of this is to give him the control and independence he’s looking for. I let him choose (though I still try to persuade and interest him in books I like). I let him turn the pages, I let him read to me. He loves it. And most importantly, he’s developing a love of books.” (12/4)  Scottish Booktrust blog

The speed of change in the publishing industry has led to the revolution of old technology existing with new, Penguin Random House chair Barnoness Gail Rebuck has said. In the keynote speech at the Quantum Conference today (11/4) she championed the “power of the book and the importance of the author.” She maintained that despite the “incredible revolutions” of the past 20 years, “nothing has changed at the core of our industry, it’s still stories and the people who create the stories, the authors, that underpin everything.” “YouTubers write bestsellers with a unique capacity to connect directly with their audience of millions of online followers which includes 75% of under 25 year olds”, Rebuck said. “Interestingly, the majority of Zoella, Alfie Deyes, Dan & Phil books were sold in physical form as if the e-phenomenon of vlogging was given substance by physicality. The Bookseller


 Controversial baseline assessments of four-year-olds will no longer be used to measure progress and hold primary schools accountable, the government has announced today. The decision comes after a study found that the three different methods were not comparable. This change to the infant assessments means pupils’ progress will now only be measured from age 7 to 11. The government said that schools have the option to use the baseline assessments, but the results will not be used for accountability. The baseline assessments are designed to be used in the first six weeks of reception class, to assess children’s communication, literacy and numeracy skills. All of the assessments also measure personal, social and emotional development. Critics said that they had led to children being grouped by ability at a young age and added to teachers’ workload while giving them little useful information. (7/4) press release

 Education Minister, Huw Lewis has approved over £70,000 for Pupils in Welsh schools to take advantage of unique educational opportunities this year’s Hay Festival. On the Thursday and Friday before the main festival begins there will be an all schools programme of workshops that will give pupils and teachers the chance to meet and work with a range of writers, scientists, explorers, historians and award winning novelists, including the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Equality & Diversity

 Booktrust author interview: “Dwarfism, dyslexia and discovering the world through books” Booktrust

What’s the point of having another shoddily-realised feisty girl or two-dimensional token wheelchair sidekick to add to the massive pile of rubbish attempts at diversity? Author Ross Montgomery on why it’s hard to write diverse – but that’s no excuse not to. (12/4) Guardian

 ShakespeareMe, an initiative from BBC Learning, will take Shakespeare into the digital world by delivering exact quotes from the works of the Bard direct to smartphones, enabling his language to be enjoyed in a new way. The ‘quote generator with a twist’ will present lines of Shakespeare to match the emotions of users, which they will express by choosing from a series of specially designed emojis reflecting how they are feeling. ShakespeareMe