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Why Early Literacy Matters: An interview with Ian Warwick of Growhouse Education Centre

LearnPost Category - LearnLearn - Post Category - SchoolsSchools

What’s the concept behind Growhouse Education Centre, In Association With London Gifted and Talented?
The goal of Growhouse is to allow all students the chance to be challenged and stretched at a pace which will be most beneficial to their individual development. By combining the right stimulating resources with effective teaching, the students will be able to discover their gifts. To do this, we ensure that resources offered to kids are intrinsically low threshold but high challenge. In order for students to properly discover their talent, they need to be given genuinely investigative tasks where outcomes are not fixed or limited, and given the chance to show what they are capable of achieving by asking questions as well as answering them.

In your opinion, why is strong literacy important for kids?
Developing reading, writing and spoken language skills bring obvious advantages to a student’s schoolwork. Developing critical thinking skills will help a student become more empowered to take ownership of their learning behaviour and education. This is because, as learners AND as individuals, they will become more independent, empathetic, self-directed, strategic and pro-active. Many students lack the motivation to read. Researchers have described motivation as the “skill and will” to learn. Students who reported reading more frequently for fun have higher reading proficiency scores than those who reported reading less frequently. Interestingly, a positive correlation also exists between the amount of time children read for pleasure and their math and science achievement. The growth of literacy skills is a vital part of any child’s overall development.

What can parents do to help inspire strong literacy in their kids?
Children need to be given meaningful choices in their learning – creating questions and hypotheses to explain increasingly complex ideas, spotting patterns and testing their ideas to see if they work. This comes from discussion. Turn off the TV. Limit your family’s television viewing time. Teach by example.  If you have books, newspapers and magazines around your house, and your child sees you reading, then your child will learn that you value reading.

How can families read together?
Reading with your child is a great activity. It not only teaches your child that reading is important to you, but it also offers a chance to talk about the book, and often other issues will come up.  Books can really open the lines of communication between parent and child. Hit the library or bookstore. Try to find books about current issues or interests in your family’s or child’s life, and then reading them together. For example, get some books about seashore life after a trip to the coast, or if your child is obsessed with dragons, ask your librarian to recommend a good dragon novel for your child.

What are some of the best teaching methods and tactics?
Research has conclusively shown that the quality of dialogue and questioning is a key element to outstanding teaching and learning. Formative assessment that is focused on identifying a student’s strengths and weaknesses is vital, as well as encouraging greater independent learning, effective questioning, higher order thinking and critical and creative thinking. Keep a focus on developing intellectual curiosity with a clear focus on seeing education as expertise in development.

What about when kids are too young to read?
Learning to use language and communicating with the written word are critical skills that children acquire as they grow and develop. Reading aloud to children at an early age is the most effective way to help them attain these skills. Reading also stimulates children’s imagination and expands their understanding of the world. By helping our children develop strong reading skills at an early age, we are laying the foundation for their success in school and in life.

What are some books you recommend for kids?

  • Ages 5-8: “Flotsam” by David Wiesner, “George’s Marvellous Medicine” by Roald Dahl and “Maps” by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielisnki
  • Ages 8-11: “Street Child” by Berlie Doherty, “Cloud Busting” by Malorie Blackman and “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan
  • Ages 11-13: “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” by John Boyne, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and “Why Don’t You Dance?” by Raymond Carver
  • Ages 13+: “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time” by Mark Haddon and “Pig Heart Boy” by Malorie Blackman

How did you become interested in this field, and what inspired you to teach kids?
I saw many students with strong potential whose potential was wasted because the resources used in the classroom were not adequate and their abilities were not recognised by anyone. I saw their expectations of themselves being seriously damaged. Too often I saw students scared to get things wrong but learning happens when students get things wrong. Learning is supposed to be hard. It is also about making mistakes. Mistakes can and should be useful.

Any last recommendations for our mamas?
Discuss what matters to you with your children. Talk about the big issues of the day with them and participate actively in collaborative conversations, initiating and responding to comments or thoughts that your kids have. Participate in discussions about books that they are reading and build on their ability to debate and challenge views courteously. Ask your children to explain their understanding of what they have read and seen. Forget the idea that there is an easy short cut to good understanding of an issue, and show them that you take the idea of life-long learning seriously.


GROWHOUSE offers an exclusive learning programme for learners aged 5-13+ to immerse themselves in the world of literacy through Fiction texts, Non-Fiction texts and Films. Using proven strategies and methodologies from London Gifted and Talented, GROWHOUSE nurtures the potential of learners at all reading levels through purposeful guided teaching and learning activities. Trial Classes are now available for the Fiction, Non-Fiction and Film programmes. See for more details.

Lead image via Shutterstock

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