‘No child should be expected to caste off the language and culture of the home as he crosses the school threshold, nor to live and act as though school and home represent two totally separate and different cultures which have to be kept firmly apart.
‘ (DES, 1975)Responding to the Bullock report should not be a problem in today’s multicultural Britain, which consists of diverse culture and colourful languages. These diverse communities allow the occupies of Britain to become knowledgeable of different societies in the world. According to Blackledge (2000, p.1) one of the major tasks for schools in the twenty-first century is to teach all students to be literate. But what does it mean to be literate, in a society that consists of many cultures and much diverse literacies which hold different meanings for different groups and individuals. The National Curriculum cited in McWilliam (1998,p.
1) explains that in order for children to participate in public, cultural and working life, pupils need to speak, write and read standard English fluently and accurately. But what the curriculum fails to address is the importance of maintaining the home language in order to succeed in effective acquisition of the dominant host language.Coming from an Asian background, the different meanings regarding literacy is something which I can understand and relate to. I came to Britain at the age of 5, I had no knowledge of the English language but was unconsciously aware that it was important to learn and understand the English language if I was to accepted by the wider British society. To become fluent in English I had to do what the Bullock report condemns, and that is to leave my home language and at the threshold because the teachers were all predominantly white and could not understand what I was saying when tried to communicate in my home language.These language barriers according to Chomsky (1987) cited in Cummins (2000, p.
10) occur when schools and individual educators refuse to play their preordained part in the social order. I felt my home language was something to be ashamed of and which had no value in the school system. Conteh (2003, p.32) explains that this cultural and linguistic divide between teacher and pupils was one of the main underlying causes of the underachievement of the children. Until educators recognise and accept that every child is unique, their home language, culture and social class are part of the package, only then can real teaching and learning take place. But recognising and removing these barriers is a challenge for any teacher let alone white teachers because in British education and the care systems being bilingual is still often perceived as something the children should grow out of(Siraj-Blatchford and Clarke 2000,p.117).
In my 3rd year of QTS, we were asked as a group to produce a book or text which can be used in a primary setting to meet the learning and language needs of all pupils, including learners of EAL. After a lot of thought we decided to produce a book which will raise awareness of Domestic Violence (from here on D.V.
) because there is not enough educational awareness in story books within primary schools which provide support to young children. The problems faced by these children is that, they are unsure of what is happening to them and therefore do not know who or how to talk to anyone about what they might be experiencing at home.Mullender (2000 online) explains that children learn that the abuse of their mother is something that isn’t talked about, either at home or outside, this makes it harder for them to seek explanations about all the confusing things that are happening and much harder to ask for help. Although research on children’s experiences of D.V. has increased, the experiences of children from ethnic minorities still remains a taboo. This is because some cultural beliefs can act as barriers to seeking help – for some Asian families these include izzat (honour) and sharam (reputation) which play a role in controlling women and children’s behaviour, just as stigma and shame prevent many seeking help. Thiara and Breslin (2006, online).
This book will hopefully educate and equip all children with a voice which they can use to ask for help.Educating awareness of D.V. like all good education should start from an earlier age if it to be effective in the long run. Every school pupil in England is to be taught that domestic violence against women and girls is unacceptable, as part of a new government strategy. Under the plans, from 2011 children will be taught from the age of five how to prevent violent relationships (BBC 2009,online). Therefore, to enable effective teaching of D.
V. teachers’ first need to understand the impact D.V.
has on children in order to effectively educate and support and help them. According to Mullender (2000, p.9 online), children can be effected in many different ways…they may have physical, emotional, learning, behavioural or development problems, and their educational performance and achievement may also be effected. These symptoms can easily be misdiagnosed or wrongly assessed as illness, permanent learning difficulties or naughtiness.
Good storybooks allow complex issues to be taught in a meaningful away to all children, therefore it seems only natural that awareness of D.V. is through the literacy hour.
Literacy, according to Wray (2004, viii) is about texts: readers read texts, writers write texts. A text is a piece of connected language that serves a function in social interchange: it has purpose, it is constructed and exists within a social context and it implies dialogue. Research studies by Conteh(2006, p.34) highlight that awareness of difficult issues such as bullying, deprivation, immigration etc can be effectively taught using stories such as Elmer by Bernard McKee, Farmer Duck and Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Psister.Even though there is a wealth of books available to use when tackling vulnerable issues, there is a shortage of books which are designed especially for young children which highlight the issues surrounding D.V. To combat this shortage, ‘My Secret Diary’ is specifically designed to educate and alert all primary children to the issues of domestic violence.
As the title suggests the book is written in the form of a diary, belonging to Sally the Squirrel. Through her diary Sally writes about her experience of domestic violence, how it makes her feel, and how she deals with it. The idea of a squirrel being the main character ensures all children are able to relate to the story – there are no culture or race barriers to overcome. Whitehead (2002, p.43) explains:The range of books that we provide for our children should enable all of them to feel at home in the world of literature. Powerful signals about who is; invisible’, who is not competent or who is not valued can be given by themes, characters, language and illustrations.To allow every child to participate in the learning, My Secret Diary is designed as a ‘Big Book’ this would allow all children to see the illustrations and the dialogue which is written in first person narrative in the form of diary entries. The diary entries are purposely written in everyday dialogue using children’s font, this would allow the children to connect with the character and also understand that this could happen in real life.
Furthermore, children will be able to see that language and literacy cannot be separated. Put another way, both spoken language and written language are language. Cummins (2000, p.108). A good starting point would be a speaking and listening activity, as this is hot on the education agenda and simply because most children enjoy speaking, to writing down their ideas and thoughts.
In addition, according to Wray (2004,p.28) talking to the children about the book will allow the teacher the opportunity to test out their ideas about the meaning of the story and also allow the teacher to develop these ideas as they encounter those of other.To portray that D.V. can occur on and off over a long time span, the diary entries are in the form of a calendar. Within the calendar some months are blank with no diary entries, some months are positive and some months are negative.
This highlights that sometimes there may not be any abuse for months, sometimes there may be constant abuse. Children who are victims of domestic violence will be able to empathise and relate to this as they know the abuse is not always constant – there are often happy times as well. Meek 1988:10) cited in Horner and Ryf (2007) explains:To learn to read a book as distinct from simply recognising the words on the page, a young reader has to become both the teller (picking up the author’s view and voice) and the told (the recipient of the story, the interpreter). (p.
29)Each month is themed with what happens at that time of the year, for example, in February the page is decorated with hearts and flowers for Valentine’s Day, daffodils in March and so on. This provides opportunities for discussion about the purpose of a calendar, the order of the months of the year, and what happens in each month. This will provide teachers with endless opportunities to motivate and include all children regardless of race, religion or ethnicity to take part in discussions and activities. A good starting point for an activity can be celebrations, because celebrations such as; Christmas, Passover, Ramadan, Eid and Diwali, are celebrated by children of different cultures throughout the school year. Children can share their special day, by bringing in different foods, photos,celebration cards, or simply telling everyone what they did on their special day.
These photos can then be incorporated into a class book which can be shared by everyone in the school. This activity will provide the children with an opportunity to bring all their cultures into the classroom rather than simply replicating the almost inescapable dominant cultural messages offered by the choice of texts from publishers( Inge Cramer 1997 cited in Smekal.etal 2000, p.140).My Secret Diary is also translated into Urdu, as the majority of the children come from Urdu speaking homes.
Conteh (2006) highlights;Besides being useful resources for those pupils who may be new to English but have literacy skills in other languages, duel language books can be used with all pupils to promote language and cultural awareness. (p. 71)In addition, when children see a text and it’s symbolic contents as belonging to and reaffirming their cultural identity, it is more likely that they will become engaged in the learning task, and meaning will be derived (Ferdman,1990 cited in Conteh 2003, p.123). The learning task can either be the comparison of the two texts. Invite a parent to come in and read the Urdu translation and then a parallel reading of the story can be done where a small group of children can follow the two scripts simultaneously. Inviting the parent to participate in their child’s learning can encourage an atmosphere where social justice and equality are at the heart of interactions in and beyond classrooms, so that all students and their parents are valued in the school community Blackledge (2000, p.105).
Simple words urdu such as ‘good morning’ , ‘hello’, ‘how are you’ can also be written and used in everyday day speech by both monolingual and bilingual children. Support in all the languages in a child’s repertoire helps to ensure that children have the best access to new concepts and ideas and therefore to the highest possible achievement. Conteh (2006, p.8)As the book is designed to raise awareness of D.V., there might be some issues which some children might be experiencing at home and one of the effective strategies that enable teachers to understand how they are feeling is through the use of drama. Drama can promote collaborative talk through the need to identify purposes, present interpretations and take account of audiences’ needs. Corden (2000, p.
172). A drama technique called ‘Torchlight’ can be used to find out how the children are feeling when the teacher reads one diary entry. In pairs children sit back to back – one in the role of Sally the squirrel and the other a friend. The teacher goes around with a torch and whoever she shines the torch on they speak their thoughts (lecture notes, 23.11.09). As this activity involves talk and drama, the children are free to step into the shoes of the character and fully express their embedded ideas through the medium of talk. Furthermore, this activity will also allow the teacher to assess which child is in need of more than just academic help.
Teaching children about complex issue through literacy involves more than just trying to achieve the best SATs results in the league tablet, it involves both the teachers and school becoming aware of and combating the complex issues that children bring with them to the classroom.References:Cheminais, R. (2003) Closing the Inclusion Gap; Special and Mainstream Schools Working inCheminais, R. (2000) Special Educational Needs for Newly Qualified Student teachers. London: David FultonDES (1975) A language of Life ( bullock report). HMSOBBC News (25th November 2009) Online [Available]http://news.bbc.co.
uk/1/hi/8376943.stm(2000) inclusive schools, inclusive society race and identity on the agenda. Staffordshire: trentham books limitedWhitehead, M.
(2002) Developing language and literacy with young children. Paul ChapmanMullender, A. (2000) Reducing domestic violence…what works? Meeting the needs of children.
One of a pack of 12briefing notes. Crime Reduction Research Series No.4.
London: Home Office.Avaliable onlinehttp://www.homeoffice.gov.
uk/rds/crimredupubs1.htmlthiara,R. and Breslin,R.(2006) COMMUNITYcare.co.uk online avaliable http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/2006/11/03/102006/A-look-at-domestic-violence-among-families-from-ethnic.htm