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Monday, January 26, 2009

Eleven Plus Excitement

It is pretty tough being a parent at times. Everything seems to conspire to making you feel guilty. Think back to when your child was five years old. Reading books were sent home from school day after day. Should you read them twice through at night or would once suffice. You hear, in the play ground, that George is on Level 7 while your child is only on Level 4. Should you do more?

You go to your year one teacher who says: “Oh no, everything is going well. Just keep in with his reading. Read to too when you have time. This always helps.”

When you were at school your parents would have been told not to help at all with reading as this was the preserve of the school. “Any help from you will lead to confusion.” Today schools are only too happy for parents to help. In fact if your child may not make the progress you hope you feel guilty because you have not done enough.

So mum and dad get a little anxious. They try to make sure that their child knows very single word every single day in every single book offered by the school. “We have done that word already. Surely you remember it? Sound it out again. No, don’t whimper. You did this word yesterday.”

The next day guilt really kinks in. Mum and Dad have talked it over. Dad will bring home some books from the bookshop. Mum will look for new reading books when she goes shopping. Mum and Dad will read more. Everyone will try to take the pressure off and make reading fun again. (Remember those days when you burst into tears the first time your child deciphered some squiggly bits on a page and you yelled: “He is reading. He can read.” You then called all your friends on Face Book and Twitter. “We have a reader in the house.” (A photograph of your child with a book in his hand was proudly displayed on the internet for all to see.)

Parents of five year old reluctant readers will face the questions “What can I read? These books are boring.” Parents of eleven plus child will face the same question. Parents by the time their child in the pre eleven plus year, are a little more wary. They will have offered their child books that are funny, scary, and full of adventure and packed with facts. They will have tried reading to their child. They will have bought new books for Christmas and birthdays.

Naturally parents will hope that the books they buy or borrow are going to stimulate the imagination. This should work very well if the whole point of reading is to stimulate. Children read for pleasure and for information. They might become obsessed by a particular author or book. Some children, and adults, will read and re-read a book.

Naturally parents and tutors hope that by reading their child or pupil will find those elusive words that may or may not appear on an eleven plus paper. The term ‘needle in a haystack’ springs to mind. That elusive word may have been in the last book read before the eleven plus – but could have been presented in a different context.

All parents can do is to continue to hope that their eleven plus child is still finding reading fun. All parents will be delighted to see their child reading. The words: “Get your nose out of that book,” are long gone.

Parents can’t blame themselves if their child won’t read at the eleven plus stage. The roots of the present frustration possibly developed the day the first reading primer arrived home. Try to recapture that early enthusiasm where you talked about reading to everyone. The days when you turned the television off and cuddled together on the couch capturing the excitement and pleasure of reading

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