Books and Stories: How Early Years Reading has Long Lasting Impacts
Imran Hafeez, Manager of the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford, shares how reading stories can help with early years development.
One of the happiest memories of my childhood is lying down at night with dad, who was just the best story-teller in the world. The stories were in Punjabi, and he would put me in the story, which really excited me and made my imagination wonder. As a parent, I try and do the same for my children and keep them excited about stories and language.
Before my current job as Hub Manager, I worked for eight years in the Family and Community services team at St Edmunds Nursery School (where 50 Things To Do Before You're Five is based). This is where I nurtured my passion to support father-inclusive practice which I subsequently have taken into the work I'm doing now. It all started at St Edmunds!
Enhancing our home learning experience using 50 Things
As Manager of the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford, it has been a delight to see the development of the 50 Things initiative over the past three years. This campaign is helping to level the playing field for our most vulnerable families through enabling and supporting them to discover everyday learning opportunities that are within reach. It is supporting interaction in the early years through unlocking the conversations and language which can be linked to each of the activities, thereby enhancing the home learning environments for our youngest children.
How sharing books and stories can have positive long lasting effects
In 2019, 175,000 five-year-olds in the UK left Reception without the literacy, communication and language skills expected for their age. This is a representation of those vulnerable families where children start Reception with a word-deficit compared to their more affluent peers. Unfortunately for many this can have a lasting impact throughout their lives affecting prospects for further education, employment and even health and wellbeing.
Amongst these damning statistics comes a glimmer of hope in the emphasis and importance placed on the home learning environment. The mitigating factor which can give resilience, regardless of parental education or social background. An environment where sharing stories, books and conversations are part of normal interactions for children and helps them to develop their language and interaction, and gives them the confidence to enable a great start in life.
Involving dads in storytelling
Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in order to make sense of the world and communicate effectively. The 50 things initiative helps our children to make sense of their world and experience literacy in a variety of wonderful activities. My favourite has to be sharing books and stories. Encouraging interaction with books and stories from an early age creates the building blocks for a life-long love of reading. As a parent you can engage with this regardless of your own confidence or literacy level, by talking through the pictures and even sharing oral stories in your mother tongue.
One of the areas of focus for the Literacy Hub has been father engagement in children’s learning. As part of a campaign to get dads reading with their children we invited dads from across the district to send in reading selfies and awarded prizes. Bradford famous faces- Robbie Pau and Adil Rashid helped launch the campaign and we got some lovely entries. This is a part of the annual calendar of events with the message that dads can be great story-tellers and resources to their children. Early years settings and schools can access support in building father-inclusive practice through the Hub.
Imran Hafeez is the Manager of Bradford Stories, the National Literacy Trust Hub in Bradford. His background is in community development, specialising in parental engagement. Imran has strong connections across the district and is responsible for bringing together schools, community organisations and businesses to improve literacy. He is an advocate of creating access and inclusion through literacy by giving people a chance to tell their stories and hear and understand the stories of others. His favourite 50 Things activity is #10 Sharing Books and he recalls the lasting effect of his own father and the stories he shared when he was a child.