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Thursday 11 September 2014

Everybody Learns

I've recently become aware of a company called Everybody Learns and I have to say that I really like that company name. It is so true, everybody does learn but they just might do it at different rates and in different ways.

This is what Everybody Learns says about themselves on their website -
The Everybody Learns website is the work of teachers who believe we can make a difference. It attempts to present an accurate picture of education in this country, in so far as it is relevant to reading. In addition we provide advice on how to prevent or overcome the problems children will encounter in our schools.We are a learning support business based in North Yorkshire in the UK. We offer reading software solutions and other resources to help children learn. We have customers across the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.
As far as I can tell the biggest product that Everybody Learns supplies is their online reading software Lexia, This is a subscription based service that I've not had any experience with. They also sell reading and writing workbooks suitable for first readers and both younger and older readers. These can be used alongside the Lexia reading course or independently. We had received some of these workbooks for review with my daughter Miss E, but it turns out that right now I can't use them with her. She has just gone into KS2 and as she has dyslexia she is overwhelmed with the change in learning styles that KS2 has bought. Her homework has tripled and thus we need to allow her time to settle and to feel happy in her education, I won't be one of those pushy Mums, her well being is far more important to me than her educational attainment level.

We received the complete set (8 books) of Lexia reading and writing workbooks for younger children. As a parent I found it quite hard to know what level I should be buying for my child as I could not see any indication of age or school year that might help guide me.

There is a full list of what is covered in each of the levels and it looks something like this "Level 4 Skills: Blending and segmenting vowel digraphs and vowel-r words, reading and writing two syllable words, reading and writing sentences, reading stories and answering comprehension questions, reading and spelling sight vocabulary words, learning word meanings." but actually that did not help me at all as I'm not a teacher and not aware what my children should be doing at what age.

Each workbook is between 45 - 49 pages long and they are printed on thick folded A3 paper so they do start to look quite dog-eared pretty quickly but I suppose this is not a problem as they will be short lived and moved through fairly quickly. Also at £24.99 for a set of 8 workbooks (including postage) that is only about £3.10 per workbook so they are a good price.

At the beginning of each workbook there is a key explaining what the child needs to do within the book and this gives good visual clues and is nice and clear. Then at the top of most pages you see those signs helping the child be aware of what they have to do. There is no colour or stickers to the workbooks so they are much more school like and lack the fun of something like the Gold Star books, but your younger child can colour in the pictures and they might enjoy that.

Here are a few sample pages from the books. Some of them do look quite wordy as you can see in the bottom right image -

We were also sent the set of workbooks for older children, called Strategies for Older Students and I can honestly say there are pages in those that I have no idea about; it feels to me as if they were designed for teachers/ tutors to use with students rather than parents. It does mention a Teachers Notes but I was not sent that and maybe that is the key to understanding those books.

After having a good look around the Everybody Learns website I was a bit saddened to see statements such as this -
* If you are a parent who is concerned about your child’s reading progress you are almost certainly right to be so. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. The truth is that if your child struggles with reading, you cannot trust the schools to help them overcome their difficulties. Overwhelmingly, they fail to do so.
* If you have been told by your child’s school that his or her reading progress is satisfactory, check it out. This might not be the case.
* The standards set by the UK government for our children are much too low and, even so, too many children fail to achieve them.
It does feel a bit like scare mongering to me and I don't like that. I'm not saying our UK schools are perfect but equally I don't feel making children spend hours at home (in the style of the Japanese or Chinese education systems) is right either.

The free reading assessment did seem quite useful and I had a go myself at both year 2 and year 6. It was simple and easy to work and I might get Miss E to try this out as it will give me an idea what level she is at. I won't be doing it with my other two as I can see from their interaction with me and home learning that they are age appropriately developing in their reading skills.

On the left is one of the pages of the year 2 test and it audibly asks me to click on words. Then on the right is the assessment from my year 6 test.

The Everybody Learns blog is worth checking out and there are regular posts recommending books for your child's reading age, this is great for me as my JJ (aged 11 years) is an avid reader and I never know what to buy him as he has devoured most books I know if already. I also read a feature about helping your pre-schooler with phonics and actually some of the tips are probably still really applicable now for me to use with my Miss E who is still struggling to master reading.

I think if you are the kind of parent that is interested in your child getting in some extra reading and writing practise at home then you might enjoy these workbooks.

Disclosure: We were sent the workbooks free of charge for the purpose of a review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

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