See how easily you can use children’s picture books to improve your child’s reading and memory

My son is five years old. It is amazing to watch him learning to read. He is one of the lucky ones who has a natural aptitude for reading. He loves books and his reading growth, through the use of phonics, has been really noticeable. Now he tries to decipher every piece of written text he sees – from signs at the side of the road to screening notes which his teacher sends home from school to decide whether to hide them or not. Story time has changed at night time now. He wants to read the stories to myself and his little sister.

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I recently read an article from the Guardian that says that between the ages of six and eight children like my son turn their backs on picture books. In it Elaine Moss stated that children themselves sometimes found it hard to think themselves “good readers” if they were looking at pictures as well as text. This would be a shame for children like my son. Although he is very good at reading he, like his Dad, struggles when it comes to following instructions. Something in me finds it really hard to focus when listening to others. I guess it must be the same for my son. Maybe its a male thing.

One method to help him concentrate that the teacher recommended for him is to use the pictures after he reads a story as an aid for him to retell the story after he has read it. This is a great way of focusing a child’s mind.

As a special educational needs teacher I know that the use of stimuli can aid short term memory and the processing of instructions, making them more memorable. This is why picture books are so important for children of all of ages. I encourage all of my students, whether they have special educational needs, or not, to use the pictures and headings in their books to help them, more easily, memorise the content. One method is SQ4R. This stands for Survey, Question, Read, Record, Recite, Reflect.

Survey: The student should first look at the pictures and headings and guess what the content is about.

Question: The student should write a couple of questions that spring to mind about the text that they would like to find out. One easy way to do this if no questions come to mind is to turn the headings into questions: E.g. The Water Cycle: “What is the Water Cycle?”

Read: Read the text with the purpose of answering your questions.

Record: Take note of your answers to your questions in your own words.

Recite: explain in your own words to your partner, or the teacher what the main ideas were in the section.

Review: Critically examine the main ideas of the text the following day. Asking yourself questions like how can I use the information I learnt yesterday gives the student a deeper understanding of the main ideas and commits the text to long term memory. According to dearteacher.com children forget 80% of what they read within two weeks if they don’t follow the review step.

The ideas here can be used for children of all ages but is more useful for older children who need to memorise more things. It is a more efficient, and enjoyable method of learning.

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Picture books also provide safe opportunities to talk about sensitive subjects. Bunny Pulls It Off springs to mind. My daughter has an obsession with plasters. She often feigns injury so she can get a princess plaster. Bunny Pulls It Off is the story of the Bunny who gets a plaster on his knee after falling off his bike. Being a furry rabbit he avoids getting the plaster removed for fear of the pain. This nicely illustrated story provides an opportunity for us to discuss the folly of wearing plasters.

But most of all Picture books are made for children of all ages, are fun to read together, or on their own.

Turbo charge your inventory management system

What system do you use to manage your inventory? What do you use to collate orders into picking lists? How do you manage goods inwards? I’d like to tell you about how we manage our inventory.

Over the last year I have been learning how to use FileMaker Pro. It is a program that has huge potential. This is one of its drawbacks. It takes a long time to master. But once you do you can use it to make a bespoke system tailored to suit your company’s needs that can grow and evolve with you allowing you to add features as you need.

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One of my favourite features is that I can access and update our stock on my iPhone. Our database is hosted on a server. So all information is always up to date. When I am in the warehouse, where we don’t have computers or broadband, I can receive an order on my phone, check its location, mark it as picked. This allows us to update stock levels. Filemaker Go for iPhone/iPad offers lots of potential. The container fields allow us to photograph book jackets and feed them to the websites where we sell our stock. You can see that containers also allow the user add audio, signatures and PDFs. Siri allows the user to add text using the phones microphone. I have CNS Barcode Reader integrated with our database. This nifty feature allows us to scan our books’ barcodes on the iPhone. It is a pleasure to use.

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FileMaker Pro is great for adding goods to our inventory. We programmed it to scrape information about our books from amazon. So when we add a new book we type in the ISBN and press a button. The rest of the information is scraped in a couple of seconds. The scraping feature is one of my favourite features. I’m developing our database to scrape our orders from amazon and our other market places automatically and getting it to push the orders to us. Isn’t this just the same as email? No. When I mark the order as posted FileMaker Pro will tell Amazon that the order has been shipped. Depending on where the order ids going I can get FileMaker Pro to email the customer just after the expected date of arrival of the shipment asking him/her for feedback – timely and effortlessly. It creates a really professional impression on the customer.

I’m also in the process of developing our database to scrape prices from bookfinder.com. I’ll use an algorithm to competitively price our books. You may say that what I am doing here can already be done by fillz or monsoon. The beauty here is that I can change how our price is worked out and I don’t have to pay a commission for the privilege.

I can send customers a snapshot link of our inventory based on a find according to my their preferences. The customer will receive this smart find in the form of an app.

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The interface is absolutely gorgeous especially after Filemaker introduced new themes last year. It is also easy to produce charts, from live, updating data, showing your best sellers, customers, regions etc.

Please let me know what your favourite features are of your inventory management system.

A Significant Irish Educationalist’s views on education are relevant to this day

Padraig Pearse

Padraig Pearse

I was listening to Marian Finucane’s podcast interview with Mark Patrick Hederman, the Abbot of Glenstal Abbey, this morning. As I’ve mentioned before I’m a teacher and I find the topic of educational reform quite interesting. The Junior Cert is being reformed by the Department of Education and Mr Hederman had some comments to make about it.

He was lamenting the fact that to this day the primary focus of secondary education is rote learning.

He recalled Patrick Pearse’s description of the education system – a murder machine: a machine that creates fodder for industry and kills creativity in children. Its ironic that the economy is now calling for creative individuals to step forward and help us find a way out of this recession – while at the same time students are being rewarded with college places for their ability to memorise.

A significant Irish Educationalist

Pearse’s progressive writings on education

This debate has been going on for a long time. From Dickens’ critique of the education system in Hard Times to Pearse’s writings on education as shown in A Significant Irish Educationalist – The Educational Writings of P.H. Pearseto the current debate. In this book you can see the devotion Pearse showed to the topic of

educational reform. He was a progressive thinker and prolific writer. Pearse will always be remembered for his leadership of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin. But primarily Pearse was an educationalist.

What would he think now of today’s reforms of the Junior Cert? Would he laud Ruairi Quinn’s efforts

to boost literacy? Or would he see the compromise in the Junior Cert reform in the same way as Mark Patrick Hederman – doomed to failure?