Enriching Children's Literacy Away from the Classroom
By Victoria Burrill
08 May

Victoria is the author of our English Key Stage 2 textbooks and a variety of books in our English 11+ revision range. She currently works at Newton Prep in Battersea where she is Head of English and specialises in teaching English to students in Years 5 to 8 with a focus on preparing them for 11+ and 13+ examinations. Victoria is driven by a love of words and really good stories, here she suggests ways to spark that love in your child. 

English is the cornerstone of any curriculum. It is the access key to every subject, the cipher for every exam. Yet, it is not every child’s favourite subject. If only there were a magic pill that would transform every reluctant reader into a bookworm! Sadly, there is no elixir for this but there are many things you can do to engage your children in the written and spoken word and to prepare them for the exams they will inevitably face.

As children prepare for 11+ and pre-tests, they practice writing short compositions in limited times.  Furthermore, the pieces often have a limited scope for imaginative responses as they may be story continuations or compositions with specific titles, first lines or themes. There are numerous resources available to prepare your child for English exams such as the Galore Park 11+ English Practice Papers 1 and 2, and Revision Guide, however this is not the only approach. To further enhance your child’s experience of English and to engender a love of literature, try some of the suggestions below. By introducing your children to the real world of fiction writing and wild imagination, you might spark in them something which simply cannot be gleaned from exam preparation alone. 

Literature Festivals
Attending a festival can be a great way to engage children in reading by hearing authors speak about their books, how they write and what they are writing next. Many authors will speak of their own experience of education and certainly not all of them excelled at school. This can be really motivating for those who find the mechanics of writing a challenge. They take place throughout the year and all over the country and below is a list of some which have great activities and talks for children:
Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – May
Previous speakers include: Cressida Cowell (How to Train Your Dragon), Lauren Child (current children’s laureate), Francis Hardinge (Costa Award Winner) and Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo).
Hay Festival – May
Previous speakers include: David Walliams (Demon Dentist), Andy Stanton (Mr Gum series), Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl), M G Leonard (Beetle Boy series), Michael Morpurgo (former children's laureate).
Bath Children’s Literature Festival - September  
Although this year’s line up has not yet been announced, previous headliners have included Michael Rosen, Francesca Simon, Chris Riddell, Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy.
Cheltenham Literature Festival - October           
Again, the 2018 line up is not yet complete but previously authors including Frank Cottrell Boyce, Robin Stevens, Harry Hill and Matt Haig have attended.
Oxford Literary Festival – March
One to bear in mind for next year! Previous speakers include: Anthony Horowitz (Alex Rider series), Phillip Ardagh (Eddie Dickens serie), David Almond (Skellig), Alex T Smith (Claude series), Katherine Rundell (Costa Award Winner)
Author Talks
Many bookshops host authors for book signings, talks and Q & A sessions. It can be really stimulating for a child to meet an author or hear them speak about how they wrote their book or what their inspiration was. It may inspire them to read that author’s books or to write stories of their own, or with any luck, both! Keep an eye on the windows of local book shops, especially children’s book shops for information. Waterstones publish author events on their website, as do Foyles
Theatre outings are a great way to encourage children to engage with a good story. There are several theatres around the country aimed specifically at children but there are also many touring productions and other venues offering appropriate theatrical entertainment for children. Look out for adaptations of children’s books, author such as Roald Dahl, Michael Morpurgo and Philip Pullman have had their work adapted for stage. Shakespeare is often specially adapted for children’s theatre too.

Although family friendly theatre can be found in theatres across the country, London has a number aimed specifically at children:

London Bridge- The Unicorn Theatre

Islington - Little Angel Theatre

Southgate - Chickenshed

Limehouse - Half Moon Young People’s Theatre

Wimbledon - Polka Theatre
A great way to hone your child’s writing skills, in preparation for an exam or just for their own enjoyment, is to enter a competition. It can inject real motivation and excitement into writing for children. The idea of having their work published is a great boost for young writers - they might even win a prize too. One real benefit of competitions is the freedom they allow that often classwork cannot. Learning to write for 11+ is quite different to writing truly creatively. Try entering some of these:

BBC Radio 2 500 Words Competition - an annual creative writing competition.  The name speaks for itself.

National Young Writers Award - judged in 2018 by David Walliams.

Go Ape Children's Writing Competition - an adventure story writing contest with great prizes.

National Literacy Trust run several competitions throughout the year.

The Young Walter Scott Prize is a competition for historical fiction writers.

The Canterbury Tales Writing competition encourages children to engage with Chaucer and to be inspired by his stories.

Wicked Young Writer Awards are run in conjunction with the musical of the same name and has both fiction and non-fiction categories.
Above all, any activity you engage in to encourage, enrich or enlighten your child’s experience of the written word should be fun. It is an effective way to help prepare children for exams without them realising. By talking together about your experience, by discovering new books or new talents, your child will be taking steps towards academic success but even more importantly steps towards a lifelong love of words, stories, books and more.

Once you've ticked some of these off your list, it might be time to head back to the English syllabus and go over the basics of what is required in their exam. Everything required will be covered by our English 11+ revision range.

English Revision Range



Tags: 11+, 11+ English, 11, 11 plus, 11plus, English, Exam Preparation, pre-test, pre-tests

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