Tag Archives: personal

In the News

Multiple Benefits and Entertaining – Julia Donaldson: MBE


I was really pleased to see today that the incredible author Julia Donaldson has received an MBE. It is well deserved and reflects the enjoyment she has given children and adults around the world.

Julia Donaldson has written some of my all time favourite books – The Gruffalo, A Squash and a Squeeze, Monkey Puzzle, The Smartest Giant in Town, Room on the Broom – to name just my very, very favourites!

Personally I love the spoken rhythm, songlike quality of the words, which make the books such a joy to read aloud to any child or group of children. The colourful illustrations by Axel Scheffler complement the words perfectly. In addition the repetition encourages word recognition and phonological awareness.

Just recently Dunst, Meter and Hamby (2011) reported on the relationship between nursery rhymes and early literacy abilities. They found that not only nursery rhymes, but any rhymes supported phonological related skills. They also found that ‘Intervention studies of young children with disabilities indicate, regardless of a child’s particular disability, that rhyme-related interventions are associated with a host of positive literacy outcomes (e.g., Blondel & Miller, 2001; Glenn & Cunningham, 1984; Rogow, 1982)’ (p. 6).

But, for me, the reason why Julia Donaldson’s books are enjoyed so much by adults and children alike is the gentle humour in the stories. How mouse’s ‘made up’ Gruffalo actually appears, much to mouse’s surprise; how the witch is saved from the Dragon in a very unusual manner.

For preschoolers this opens up avenues of open questioning, which can demonstrate empathy, understanding another point of view, expressing feelings (surprised, scared, happy) and understanding right from wrong. For example:

Why were the other animals scared of the Gruffalo?
Why did the butterfly not know what Monkey’s mum would look like?
How do you think the witch felt all by herself?
Why do you think the Giant gave away his beautiful new clothes?
What was the little old lady happy about when all the animals had left?

These are the types of skills that underpin the vital area of personal, social and emotional development of young children.

So there are a multitude of benefits to reading the Gruffalo to your children, from phonics to personal, social and emotional development – and it is enormous fun! What is there not to like?

To paraphrase:

The mouse ate the nut and it tasted good

Blondel, M., & Miller, C. (2001). Movement and rhythm in nursery rhymes in LSF. Sign Language Studies, 2, 24- 61.

Dunst, C., Meter, D. and Hamby, D. (2011) Relationship Between Young Children’s Nursery Rhyme Experiences and Knowledge and Phonological and Print-Related Abilities Center for Early Literacy Learning reviews 2011 Volume 4 Number 1

Glenn, S. M., & Cunningham, C. C. (1984). Nursery rhymes and early language acquisition by mentally handicapped children. Exceptional Children, 51, 72-74.

Rogow, S. (1982). Rhythms and rhymes: Developing communication in very young blind and multi-handicapped children. Child: Care, Health and Development, 8, 249-260.

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Viewpoint

Are you a Sparkly Thinker?

At a recent conference about children’s thinking the presenter, the acclaimed author Marion Dowling, made a comment about why it is so important that we should understand children’s thinking processes and how we can then use this in our work. As she stated – “we can’t compel children to engage”. I’m sure every practitioner can empathise with this, having sat in front of a group of children with a book and knowing that not every child is listening!

Marion then went on to describe a situation she had observed in a reception class, who had been learning about Goldilocks and the three bears. When it was time to review their learning the teacher didn’t fire questions at the children but chose to dress up as ‘Mrs Locks’ who had lost her daughter ‘Goldie’.

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Recommended Resources

Young Children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development by Marion Dowling


This is the second edition of a book first published in 2000. What a lot has happened since then, with the Laming report, Every Child Matters and the EYFS. Despite this I think Marion Dowling has written an incredibly relevant book with the bonus of being in an easy to read format.

In this book she deals in detail with topics you would expect to find, such as confident children, becoming independent and emotional well being, as well as a refreshingly large chapter on outdoors and how this promotes all round personal, social and emotional development. All the chapters are well referenced and grounded in real experience of nurseries and early years settings. Each chapter concludes with a short summary, practical suggestions and professional questions. It is the latter which I found the most thought provoking. Some typical examples are: what aspects of my behaviour offer a positive role model for young children? How do I help all my children to adopt mastery patterns of behaviour? And what do I do to take care of my own spiritual life?

This last question comes from Chapter 7, entitled Young Children’s Spirituality. I was initially concerned when I saw this chapter that it would be about the deep and troubled waters of religion, but in fact it investigates “appreciating the journey through life in the deepest sense, particularly special moments and recognising our own inner resources to help us cope with the journey”. Something we could probably all do with from time to time! She explores feelings of transcendence; search for meaning and purpose; creativity and a sense of awe, wonder and mystery, with perception and conciseness.

The concluding chapter, however, is the one which raises this book from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Entitled Some Important Ingredients, the first half is about “powerful ways of supporting children’s personal development through book, storytelling and fantasy play”.

The second half of this chapter is simply entitled Yourselves. Most literature and research agrees that the practitioner is the most valuable resource, but how often are the qualities of this ‘resource’ discussed and detailed? Marion Dowling has been able to do this sensitively and realistically, discussing qualities such as flexibility, empathy and optimism. Anyone who has worked in early years settings will recognise the situations she discusses and what is required of the practitioner in these circumstances. For example, under ’emotional maturity’ she raises the issue of family break-up – “Natural  responses are to feel disturbed, upset, angry and frustrated. It is not easy to handle these emotions but practitioners need to learn the importance of remaining outwardly calm and in control, being able to cope with complexity”. Good advice indeed!

In this book Marion Dowling has captured the essence of what a good quality childcare provider should be doing to foster a child’s personal, social and emotional development. It is a well researched book which covers theory and then puts it into practice. The professional questions are thought provoking and captures the current move towards professionalism in early years. However, for me the most outstanding parts of this book are the chapters on spirituality and the qualities of a high quality practitioner, which makes this book essential reading for practitioners and those employing them.

** NOTE: Look out for the new, 4th Edition, published August 2014, reviewed here**

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