Foundations of reading- the final extract

We’re all happy its Friday but we’re also SO GUTTED that today is the last day of extracts from Carol Hayesnew book.


We’ve saved the best for last so enjoy!


When you are reading critically it is important to distinguish whether what the writer is saying is fact or opinion. Sometimes this is hard to ascertain but consider the following and try to decide whether it is fact or opinion.

LLC 1 extract 260216

This is more difficult and could fall into both camps, as it depends upon your definition of the word ‘good’in this context. If you are saying that Letters and Sounds  receive Government support as a ‘good’ way to teach reading, this may well be fact. However if you are saying that most teachers consider it to be good for their children, this is opinion.

LLC 2 extract 260216

You can see from this that critical reading requires a different approach to that of reading a novel or a magazine. You need to actively engage with the text in a sustained manner, to learn from it rather than simply be entertained by it.

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Development of Writing- the penultimate extract from Carol Hayes’ new book.


Oh Thursday has come around so quickly and it genuinely saddens me to have to say that this is the penultimate extract from Carol Hayes’ book ‘Language, Literacy and Communication‘.

Each chapter in the book is filled with diagrams, case studies and points of reflection to encourage and promote critical thinking- this extract is a good example of this.

Critical Questions

With a colleague consider the following.

LLC extract 250216

  • Look at the picture below by Lewis, aged 3 years 5 months. What do you think you can learn about Lewis’ stage of development from studying this?
  • Can you guess what Lewis feels is the value of having recorded this?
  • What kind of setting/environment do you think would encourage this type of communication?
  • What do you think this child understands about writing at this stage?


Lewis is at a pre-schematic stage, when there are connections between the circles and lines that make up the drawing. There is a clear attempt to communicate an idea. In this case he has gone beyond the basic ‘tadpole’ shape or ‘head-feet’ symbol. Interestingly in this case he has omitted the arms and this is common at this stage (Jolley, 2006). It could be that his preoccupation is still with the face, which is quite detailed, including ears.

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Receptive Language and Listening

Happy mid-week to all you of you! We have your third free extract from Carol Hayes‘ book ‘Language, Literacy and Communication‘.

In this lovely snippet, the text discusses the mechanics of the hearing process. Enjoy and please email with feedback!


Do we acquire language through the eye or the ear? 

When you listen to someone speaking, you are not only taking in information from your hearing and auditory processing, but you are also watching them, their physical gestures and mouth movements. Without this capacity to combine the visual sense with the auditory, you would be limiting your ability to understand the information from the receptive language. This combining of information across the senses is called ‘intermodal perception’ or ‘intermodal co-ordination’. One example of this is your ability to understand who is speaking when you hear spoken language.

Most humans are much slower than a computer at numerical calculation or recalling numbers or facts, but humans far surpass computers at language related tasks. Pinker (1994) suggested that the ear, as miraculous as it is, acts like an ‘information bottleneck’ constricting the hearing process. In the 1940s engineers attempted to produce a reading machine for blind and partially sighted people, but discovered that merely isolating the phonemes in words and then sticking them back together again in an infinite number of ways to form words, was completely useless. As real speech is understandable at between 10-50 phonemes a second, this showed that it was not possible for you to ‘read’ speech in this way, at approximately three phonemes a second, (approximately the same speed as a ship’s radio officer ‘reading’ Morse code).  To illustrate this, when we hear the tick of a clock we hear each individual sound, if this were speeded up to 20-30 ticks per second it would sound to the human ear, as a continuous sound, as the spaces between the ticks would be indistinguishable from each other.

Speech is a river of breath bent into hisses and hums by the soft flesh of the mouth and throat.                                                          

– (Pinker, 1994, p 163)

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Learning difficulties- free extract number 2

Enjoy the second extract from Carol Hayes’ book ‘Language, Literacy & Communication‘.


Case Study


Lewis was six years of age and the youngest of three boys. Two of them learned to read quickly and apparently effortlessly, but Lewis could not understand what all these shapes on the page really meant. In school the teacher was found him ‘hard work’ as he had become the class ‘clown’, distracting other children, noisy and inattentive. Lewis spent most of the day on his own with a craft or drawing activity (which was the only thing that he appeared to be good at). The other children were surged ahead, but as he found reading so difficult most of the traditional school subjects began to leave him behind. Colouring and craft kept him occupied, but really what Lewis wanted was to be able to read.

At night Lewis sneaked a torch into his bedroom and when his mother put out the light he would get out a book, and under the covers would surreptitiously try to make sense of the words in front of him. Often he ended up crying himself to sleep, having found the task just too difficult.

Critical questions

Lewis’ experiences are in line with many children that have dyslexia, now consider the following questions:

  • How do you think this made Lewis feel?
  • What effect do you think this had on his social / emotional development?
  • How could this have influenced his life choices and experiences?
  • What do you think would have helped Lewis and his family at the time?
  • How could the teacher have made Lewis’ experience in the classroom more stimulating and challenging?

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‘Language, Literacy & Communication’- a word from the author


Hello everyone. We have decided to do yet another week of extracts from Carol Hayes book ‘Language, Literacy & Communication‘. This book has received of positive feedback and is commonly credited with being accessible, interesting and necessary, so we thought WHY NOT SHARE a few snippets with our followers!

Just to give you a taster of the kind of feedback this book has received, here is what Dr Amy Palmer from the University of Roehampton thought:

“I really do like the way that key ideas are explained in an accessible way, while drawing on the research literature.  There are also some useful case studies/observation material which could be used.”

To begin the week, we have an entry from Carol Hayes the author.

There are of course, many books written about language development and sometimes students complain that there are too many and that they are dealing with an overload of information. This book however, is written to help to guide students through this and to point them in the direction in which their research can take, by breaking the area down into manageable “chunks” and then drawing these together into an understanding of the holistic and political nature of language development.

Learning more than one language is of particular Importance, in particular to the children of Wales, where a culture of bilingualism has been enshrined in the Early Years Foundation Phase. Students in the Principality often complain that appropriate texts to accompany their courses do not directly refer to education through the medium of Welsh. This book tries to address their particular concerns and integrates this with a general discussion of bilingual and multilingual learners.

Critical thinking is vital to students in higher education and is certainly the difference between a pass and a first class degree or post graduate acceptance. Yet this is an area that students struggle with and tutors find hard to teach. I frequently hear tutors bemoaning their student’s lack of ability to move beyond the descriptive stages. One intention of writing this book was to offer carefully structured activities to guide readers through this complex area of academic development and encourage them to use their practice knowledge to relate theory to practice. These pedagogical features within the book help the reader to go beyond using the text as a ‘gospel’ of information and encourage them to question the unquestionable, thereby enhancing their capacity for critical thinking through a subject specific framework.

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Observing Children: Free Extract Numéro-Deux

So today I have another snippet of Gill Butler’s ‘Observing Children and Families’ book. For those of you that haven’t seen yesterday’s post, we will be giving you some exclusive extracts throughout the week just to share with you why this text has received an ample amount of great feedback.

In this chapter Gill discusses four main perceptions of children: children as victims, children as incomplete adults, children as a threat, children as redemptive. These perceptions can be problematic to practitioners.

This next extract discusses the first perception (children as victims) and shows how the text encourages the reader to be interactive and responsive with the text through the use of activities.


Similarly attitudes to children working have also changed, so within the framework of the law, there is now a ‘protectionist discourse’ (James, James and Prout 1998) that regards the employment of young children as intrinsically problematic. Cunningham suggests that this has had a problematic impact:

So fixated are we on giving our children a long and happy childhood that we downplay their abilities and their resilience. To think of children as potential victims in need of protection is a very modern outlook, and it probably does no-one a service.  (Cunningham 2006:245) 

My tendency to view children in this way was vividly illustrated when I was visiting South Africa some years ago.  I saw a young girl, at most six years old, carrying a baby (approximately 9-12 months) on her back, purposefully making her way along and across a busy road.  She did this carefully and competently. The baby on her back had his arms curled around her; he looked chubby and alert.  The image has always stayed in my mind, as it was a sight that did not fit with my view of children’s competence and the level of responsibility that they should be afforded.


Do you agree with Cunningham’s view, stated above, that it is unhelpful to see children as potential victims? Compile a list of the possible advantages and disadvantages.

For more on the book, click here. Please contact us if you have any queries, and keep an eye out for tomorrow’s extract.

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A Free Extract of our New Book!


Usually Mondays aren’t something to be celebrated.

BUT today is.

It’s a brand new year and to commemorate this wonderful milestone we have a week of extracts from Gill Butler’s ‘Observing Children and Families’.

We have received nothing but positive and inspiring feedback so stay tuned this week! We’ll be sure to keep you intrigued by picking some exciting, but not too exciting (you’ll have to buy the book for the really good stuff) snippets from this awfully good text.

In this first extract, Gill explains the importance of understanding how we see others.

In order to be fully attuned, we also need to have some understanding of ourselves and, most importantly, the ‘lens’ through which we see others. This ‘lens’ describes the way we each see and understand the world; it is made up from our conscious and unconscious experiences; our values, beliefs, memories and expectations. The ‘lens’ is the filter of our assumptions about others and how we think they should behave based on our own experience and individual view. When we observe others we expect to see them behave in certain ways and we measure their experience by our own. For example, observing a young baby crying may be experienced by the observer as a reaction to their presence in the room; the assumption being that the baby’s behaviour may be linked to them. There could be all sorts of other reasons for the baby to cry and careful reflection and analysis may help the observer to understand this behaviour; just like understanding why the birds are singing. It is important to note that sometimes this ‘understanding’ of others can be elusive and we are left not knowing (Bion 1962) why a certain behaviour or feeling has been experienced. As we saw in the previous chapter, this state of not knowing and uncertainty is an important part of the process of understanding children’s experience.

Her approachable and accessible tone is only one of the few reasons this text is so worthwhile.

See our website for details and we’ll be posting tomorrow with another extract for you.

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