Helping teachers make sense of the Year 1 phonics screening check

The Australian Government today announced its commitment to implementing a nationally consistent literacy and numeracy check for all Year 1 students across Australia.

At Oxford University Press we believe effective literacy teaching, and specifically the teaching of reading, should be grounded in findings from rigorous, evidence-based research.

In order to provide teachers with the tools to effectively teach phonics, we have developed a phonics webpage introducing teachers to the phonics test and information on why phonics teaching is so important.

Here is a short video introduction to phonics, featured on the webpage.

According to Dr Jennifer Buckingham, phonics plays an important role in teaching reading.

“There is an abundance of extensive and rigorous evidence-based research from all over the world about how children learn to read and the most effective ways to teach them.  Since 2000, there have been major national inquiries into the teaching of reading in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. These reviews, along with copious amounts of other research, all agree and identify five essential skills for reading competency:

Phonemic awareness: The ability to identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units of sound, in spoken words.
Phonics: The ability to decode words using knowledge of the relationship between sounds (phonemes) of spoken language and the letters (graphemes) that represent those sounds in written language.
Fluency: The ability to read effortlessly with speed and accuracy.
Vocabulary: Knowing the meaning of a wide variety of words and the structure of written language.
Comprehension: Understanding the meaning and purpose of the text.”

The phonics webpage provides details about the phonics check and what it means for schools and teachers, and offers teachers assistance in choosing the right program for their school and details of phonics-based professional development events across Australia.

OUP’s phonics test information page aims to provide teachers with an understanding of the newly announced test, the role of phonics, and the implementation of phonics education to help them provide the best possible learning outcomes for their students.

For more on phonics and literacy, visit:

The Importance of Comprehension

Literacy tools to help parents ensure their children are school-ready

Phonics is Not a Dirty Word




From cooking to a trip to the zoo – fun ways parents can build children’s early literacy skills

Many parents are looking for ways to help ensure their children are school-ready. One way of doing this is by helping children to develop early literacy skills that will set them on the path towards learning to read.

The Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA) has developed the Little People’s Literacy Learning Modules to provide parents and carers with guidance on introducing early literacy to their children.

The modules developed by authors Anita Ayre and Professor Trevor Cairney  started life as a book created for Anita’s first grandchild to assist his parents in engaging him in talk and text.

Anita and Trevor’s advice for parents covers reading to children, speaking, rhythm and gross motor development, including:

  • Help your child clap the syllables in words, beginning with your child’s name, then familiar words. The slash is used to separate syllables, for example, Ja/son; Ste/pha/nie; Mum/my; Nan/na; Grand/dad; ba/by; toy/box; shop/ping/cen/tre; pen/ cil; man/da/rine; pi/an/o; as well as any words your child uses. Clapping the syllables in words helps to decode unknown words by breaking up the words into sections.
  • Ask your child to close his or her eyes and listen to sounds in different environments. Discuss the sounds that your child hears, for example, at home, at the zoo, on the train, in the park or a walk through a natural environment. Can you hear a rhythm in the sounds, such as rhythm in a bird’s call? Allow your child to use an electronic device to record the different sounds in different environments. Store the recordings in a ‘sound library’ so your child can revisit the experience of different sorts of sounds.
  • Look at a picture and encourage your child to tell you what the picture or story may be about. For example, look at the front cover and ask: ‘What do you think this story/book might be about?’. Looking into the book you can ask questions such as ‘What’s this?’, ‘What type of animal is that?’, ‘Is it a windy day?’ or ‘How can you tell?’.
  • If you cook with your child, it can become a reading and learning activity. When following a written recipe, you and your child can try to read the instructions. Safety permitting and with your adult supervision, your child may be able to carry out some steps of the procedure. Some examples of conversation throughout the preparation process include: ‘Look at the picture of the eggs. How many eggs does it say to use?’, ‘Let’s read the first step.’, ‘What do we have to do next?’ and ‘What happened when we poured the flour into the egg mixture?’.

ALEA National President Beryl Exley said parents could play an important role in helping their children develop early literacy skills, with the ALEA Literacy Declaration stating:

“Parents and caregivers play a critical role in fostering children’s engagement in and enjoyment of a wide range of experiences that enhance literacy development. They need to understand that children benefit from rich oral language experiences and opportunities to interact with high quality literature representing diverse cultures, experiences and perspectives.”

Parents and carers can use games, song, reading and conversation to foster a love of words and language in their children, laying the groundwork for their future literacy education.


Oxford University Press is dedicated to improving childhood literacy, through projects including the Oxford Wordlist and the Children’s Word of the Year writing competition.


Consistency and community key in Indigenous literacy: Q&A with Shirley Davey

Literacy is a community affair in the Top End, according to Literacy and Numeracy Trainer Shirley Davey.  In the remote areas where Shirley works, students, families, teachers and trainers are working together to bring the benefits of literacy and numeracy.

We asked Shirley about her experience working in Indigenous literacy.

Where do you work? Northern Territory Department of Education.

 What is your role?

Literacy and Numeracy Trainer, focusing on the implementation of the LANE (Literacy and Numeracy Essentials) project in rural and remote schools in the Northern Territory.

I currently support 11 remote schools across the Top End region with six schools focusing on numeracy and five focusing on literacy and numeracy.

What is the best part about working in Indigenous literacy?

The five schools that I am supporting with literacy are implementing Read Write Inc in their schools, as well as using an explicit teaching model.

Seeing the progress that a large number of students are making with Read Write Inc in 2017 has been amazing.  Seeing the excitement on the faces of the students, especially when they have the opportunity to share their successes with other students in their class or in the school is a great reward for me as a trainer. It is equally as exciting to see how proud families are of their children.

Some of the schools have involved their Assistant Teachers in the training of Read Write Inc, which has meant that they are building capacity in their own work. The Assistant Teachers are having conversations with the communities about what the children are learning and how, which has created an increased sense of pride within communities.

Overall, the level of dedication and standard that the teachers are working to is the best part of working in this area. Teachers expect that their Aboriginal students, particularly remote students, can learn and work to a high level, so it’s rewarding to see the positive improvements and sense of pride it ensues.

What are the main challenges you face in Indigenous literacy?

In the Northern Territory, education operates in a unique context given the vastness in location of our communities and the mobility of students between communities.

The benefit of schools implementing an explicit teaching and learning program such as LANE, is that the impact of mobility and their location is minimised. If a student moves between communities throughout a school year, teachers who are trained in the delivery of LANE can easily identify where a student is up to in their learning and can deliver a tailored program to suit. Most importantly, students benefits from this type of program, as they have familiarity in their learning which often results in achieving greater outcomes.

Over 40% of Territory school students identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, which means that for many students, English is an additional language. This can present a challenge in the delivery of a literacy program.

In the Northern Territory, we have a targeted focus on early years education to ensure that students have access to learning literacy and numeracy essentials from the youngest possible age. This learning is extended past the students and to the families, through other programs such as Families as First Teachers which includes mothers, fathers, aunties and grandmothers in the learning journey, so children are learning together with their family.

By focusing on working with children and families from the youngest possible age, we are seeing an impact on school attendance and engagement. This is a result of students and families developing a habitual routine to attend school every day as well as allowing them to develop a deeper understanding of the value of education and the positive impact it has on their future.

What improvements could be made in the way we approach Indigenous literacy?

A consistent approach across schools in terms of literacy is needed. LANE and the Explicit Teaching Model is one way of ensuring this, particularly in rural and remote schools.

Early feedback has shown that this has been an effective and successful model to ensure consistency, not only for our students but also for our teachers who are new to an Indigenous context.

Continuing the focus on early years education will also ensure that students have access to learning literacy and numeracy essentials from the youngest possible age.

Do you have any anecdotes about your experiences?

One remote school I support for literacy, Woolianna School has seen dramatic improvements in student literacy this year. They have seen five-year-old Aboriginal students who couldn’t read, now reading after six months at school.

It is even the little things, like feedback I receive from Assistant Teachers and parents about how their children are using the skills they’ve learnt to sound out words in the local community or even at the supermarket.

What is the future in Indigenous literacy?

The future of Aboriginal literacy, particularly in regards to remote schools in the Northern Territory, is very positive.

We are currently seeing students at Transition and Year 1 levels working at the appropriate levels in regards to the Australian Curriculum and this can only benefit them for the rest of their primary school education and into the high school experience.


Q&A: Indigenous literacy trainer Emily Davies

Working in Indigenous literacy can be ‘pure magic’ according to NT Government Literacy and Numeracy Projects Training Officer Emily Davies.

To celebrate Indigenous Literacy Day, we spoke to Emily about her role visiting schools in the Katherine region, the challenges she faces and the joy of helping Indigenous students to read.

Where do you work?

I work for the Department of Education NT as part of the Literacy and Numeracy Project team which is part of the Indigenous Education Review.

What is your role?

I am a Literacy and Numeracy Essentials Trainer. I go out to all the remote Indigenous schools in the Katherine region, which includes 26 schools with the furthest school being 773km away from Katherine. My role is to support teachers and principals to improve the literacy and numeracy of their students. This may include support in planning and assessment, modelling, team teaching and observations. It also includes supporting the Read Write INC phonics program.

What is the best part about working in Indigenous literacy?

“Working in indigenous literacy is the most rewarding job I have had.”

I work with students and teachers that have struggled to make progress in the past or have come to a road block. I love working with classrooms to overcome challenges and help students to succeed and make continual progress. This progress can become more rapid and exciting for these students when they don’t see it too often.

What are the main challenges you face in Indigenous literacy?

There are countless challenges. The language barrier can be a big and frustrating one. Teacher turnover makes it very difficult to make continue progress when we are constantly starting again. In my job, location is a challenge so it’s lucky I love driving!

What improvements could be made in the way we approach Indigenous literacy?

We need to be putting students in the centre. There is so much policy and red tape that is stopping teachers do what is best for their students.

“These students are so unique and have unique needs that should never be compared to the rest of Australia.”

This is why I love Read Write INC phonics. It doesn’t look at how old you are or what you can’t do. It works for all students, even older teenagers that are struggling to learn, and it doesn’t compare them to early years students. It just helps teachers to do their job and teach.

Do you have any anecdotes about your experiences?

I am often told that once students get older, ‘it’s too late’ and programs are introduced to teach them how to function with low literacy in society. With a hard working school and teacher, I have seen huge progress in literacy using early years strategies, with a high level of trust established.

“I now see older students excited to read fairy tales to me and to read to each other. This is pure magic.”

What is the future in Indigenous literacy?

This will depend a lot on what the future policies will look like. I am seeing very small progress, but in a lot of places the overall progress is often going backwards because of the students’ difficult lives going on around them. So much needs to be done to see a change.


Primary students show age is no barrier to creativity

There was a stubborn dog and a deadly beast, a new student in the class and a sleepy language-lover – the entries in the 2016 Wordlist Writing Competition for primary school students showed some wonderful creativity and originality.

In the lead up to National Literacy and Numeracy Week between September 4 and 10, we’re looking back some of the winning entries in last year’s Wordlist competition.

In an entry titled ‘Narrative Jam’, Agna from Grade 4 presented an original and surprising interpretation of the traditional fairy tale. She wove her love of writing into the storyline, using phrasing in unexpected ways.

“10 cent coins, 20 cent coins. Maths. I prefer writing. Writing narratives. Of course, lots of people like Maths better. Then there’s Dance, Drama, Geography and History and Music. I’m going in alphabetical order, if that helps, but let’s not get too carried away.”

Later, she became part of the fairy tale as a somewhat reluctant participant. Agna challenged fairy tale norms, writing about a ‘not-so-brave knight’ and expressing dismay at the ‘pink dress with puffy sleeves’ that she was wearing.

Another impressive entry came from Alessandra from Grade 2/3, who wrote a suspenseful story that included a description of being chased by fierce animals. Alessandra described the ‘vicious fangs’ and ‘razor sharp claws’ of the animal that pursued her.

“You’re running, running to be free of the chase. You hear the roaring right behind you so you go faster but you know you can’t outrun a deadly beast like this!”

It was not action, but emotion, that was at the heart of the story by Eva from Grade 5. In ‘Notebook’ Eva wrote about her character’s first day at a new school, and a poignant and insightful speech she made to her peers, despite believing that she looked like a “shaky blob of jellyfish”.

“A new beginning at a new school – again. Another teacher calling another roll.”

Other winners took a more light-hearted approach, with Pippa from Grade 5 writing about Rex the Stubborn Dog who wore “puffy floaties and a yellow sun cap” to the beach and was “as silly as a goose”. Splashing in the waves, chasing pelicans and singing a funny song, Pippa’s story was written with humour and a sense of fun.

“Suddenly, Rex saw a dark shadow in the ocean. He dodged, dove, ducked and dipped under the cold water. I wonder … am I tough enough to catch this creature?”

Grade Prep student, Tanvi, wrote about a rabbit called ‘Alasco’, who enjoyed going on adventures with his dad. However, when he discovered his father was missing one morning, he found his own adventure involving a treasure map and pirates.

“When he work up his dad was gone. Then he looked under his bed and he found a map. It was no ordinary map. It was a treasure map.”

Finally, Archie brought a creative approach to current affairs and politics, with his story involving a president who forced ‘Mexi Bunnies’ to build a wall.

“Mr Bunny was the president of the Bunny States. He was a mean president, he shouted, “Mexi Bunny shouldn’t be able to cross to Bunny States because they are the silliest of Bunnies!”

One of the most exciting elements of the stories from the 2016 competition was their diversity – funny, heartfelt, controversial and suspenseful – they revealed the wonderful depths of young people’s creativity.

We’re looking forward to reading this year’s entries in the Children’s Word of the Year competition!


This year, teachers and guardians can enter primary school students’ writing samples in the Children’s Word of the Year writing competition. Through the competition, Oxford University Press aims to find out more about the language of Australian children, and the way they use that language in their storytelling.

A lesson plan is available to help inspire students in their writing, and some great class and individual prizes are up for grabs.



Comprehension is an essential part of the literacy equation

By Annie Facchinetti

Imagine that you were lost in Turkey and the only directions you had were written in Turkish. You could probably read them out loud with reasonable accuracy, even though your phonological awareness of the language may not be perfect, but unless you can speak Turkish, your understanding would be limited. Reading the directions is therefore unlikely to be a valuable activity for you. So, while phonics and decoding are critical skills, without comprehension, the whole point of reading is lost.

Seminal research by Gough and Tunmer (1986) proposed the Simple View of Reading, which places equal value on decoding and comprehension using a mathematical equation: Reading = Decoding x Comprehension or R = D x C. In this equation, if there is no comprehension, and therefore the C has a value of 0, the R will also equal 0. In other words, if comprehension is not happening, reading is not happening.

A more recent comprehensive study by the US National Reading Panel (NRP & NICHD, 2000) identified five areas as being critical to reading instruction: phonemic awareness; phonics; fluency; vocabulary; and text instruction.  Often referred to as the “big five”, the NRP concluded that each component is necessary for successful reading from the earliest stages of school. This represents a shift from traditional thinking, whereby phonics was the main focus for early years students and comprehension was introduced later.

The view that comprehension should be an integral part of reading instruction has garnered much support in the research literature. Cunningham and Shagoury (2005, p.4), for example, contend that emphasising decoding too heavily in lower grades can lead to a lack of understanding when reading by the time students reach the middle years. They advocate explicit instruction in a range of comprehension strategies, including visualising, inference and synthesising skills.  Reed (2016) takes this one step further, asserting that:

Teaching comprehension while students are still mastering foundational reading skills will not only allow for students to demonstrate age-appropriate skills, but it also will help reinforce the reasons we read in the first place: to derive meaning, understanding, and enjoyment from a book or other text.

This suggests that not only are students capable of text comprehension as soon as they begin reading (Gregory & Cahill, 2010), ensuring that they have the skills to access meaning as they read is vital to help students become successful and willing readers.

While instruction in some of the foundational skills of reading, such as phonological awareness, will gradually become less necessary as students’ reading proficiency increases (Reed, 2016), comprehension remains important right through the primary years and beyond. A lack of comprehension skills will affect not only a student’s academic results, but also a whole host of areas in their adult lives, including opportunities for future study and employment prospects (Marshall, n.d.). Consequently, it is necessary to provide continued support for students to develop and refine strategies to understand and critically analyse what they read throughout their school lives.

There is general agreement that while decoding is necessary for successful reading, by itself it is not sufficient (Gough & Tunmer, 1986; Van Kleeck, 2008). Incorporating targeted and explicit comprehension instruction into daily literacy programs is therefore essential to support students as readers and learners.

Annie Facchinetti is a leading educator and author of OZBOX: Learning through Literacy and Oxford Literacy teaching notes.

Learn about building comprehension skills in your classroom 

Further reading

Cunningham, A., & Shagoury, R. (2005). Starting with comprehension. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse Publishers.

Gough, P., & Tunmer, W. (1986). Decoding, Reading, and Reading Disability. Remedial And Special Education7(1), 6-10.

Gregory, A., & Cahill, M. (2010). Kindergartners Can Do It, Too! Comprehension Strategies for Early Readers. The Reading Teacher63(6), 515-520.

Marshall, P. The Importance of Reading ComprehensionK12 Reader. Retrieved 15 July 2017.

National Reading Panel (U.S.), & National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U.S.). (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.

Reed, D. (2016). Comprehension Skills Are Important for Readers of All AgesIowa Reading Research Centre.

Van Kleeck, A. (2008). Providing preschool foundations for later reading comprehension: The importance of and ideas for targeting inferencing in storybook-sharing interventions. Psychology In The Schools45(7), 627-643.


Help us find the Australian Children’s Word of the Year!


Do your students talk Trump or Turnbull, fidget spinners or footy cards? Oxford University Press want to learn more about the way children communicate, and to help us do this we are launching the Children’s Word of the Year free writing competition.

Primary school-aged children are invited to nominate their ‘Word of the Year’ and submit a 500 piece of free writing based on that word. The piece can be creative or factual, funny or serious – it’s up to the student.

To help teachers inspire their students, we have developed a lesson plan that we hope will help generate ideas and discussion. It includes tips on how to write a story that is engaging and original, advice about building characters, and ways to use language to enliven their writing.

The Children’s Word of the Year will be the word that best reflects the lives and interests of Australian children today, whether in the playground or the wider community.

Prize packs of Oxford learning resources will be presented to class and individual winners, and the best entries will be published on the Oxford University Press website.

The competition is part of Oxford’s dedication to improving communications through an understanding of, and a passion for, language around the globe.

Find out more about the competition and download the lesson plan, entry form and writing templates.

We’re looking forward to exploring the language of Australian primary school students and discovering the Children’s Word of the Year!


Phonics is not a dirty word

By Kate Gurjian, Director, Time to Shine Australia

Phonics is a word that is often misused, misunderstood and abused. Despite what some might argue, it is a method of learning that has much to offer Australian children.

I am often asked why it is so important to teach children phonics, as opposed to learning words through prediction or as a whole word.

Sound is critical in the process of learning to read. Children need to hear, distinguish, isolate, rhyme and articulate sounds and words. Once they are aware of these sounds, they can ready the neural pathways in their brain for learning the connection between letters and sounds. This is the single most critical factor in learning to read.


When a child can hear a sound, repeat that sound, recognise a sound in a word, and repeat a sound in a rhyme, they are on their way to learning to read. Although over-simplifying the very complex teaching of the alphabetic code, it is a starting point that offers more than what is currently being taught in our early years education.

The approach we are currently taking is a flawed one, and we have to ask ourselves the questions, ‘Why do we feel a three or four-year-old needs to be given flashcards of whole words?’ and ‘Why are we ‘hothousing’ children to read before they can sound?’ If we are really honest with ourselves, and have read the research, we would know the answer to the above questions.

In their first formal year of school, children should be immersed in phonemic awareness (understanding sounds), phonics, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. These five critical components are intertwined. But, they each must be taught explicitly and directly in a systematic order for children to have any chance of success in reading, spelling and writing.

So, why do I pull out one single word, ‘phonics’? I do this because it is the one piece of the puzzle of childhood literacy that is so often under debate, and so poorly understood.

Perhaps the reason for this difference of opinion is due to the fact that some children appear to progress with little support, when in reality more than 20% of children will become at risk in their learning due to ignorance by the ‘system’. Learning to read is not an area that we learn by osmosis. Children need to be taught which sounds correspond with which letters. English is a phonetic language; there are 26 letters, but over 44 sounds! Understanding this complexity will enable all children to be given thorough phonics instruction.

I assess more than 200 children every year in my private practice, and every year I see the same result: children from their first year of school, through to the end of primary, who have not been given an ordered approach to the learning of letter-sound correspondence – that being explicit phonics. Some children are therefore years behind in their reading, spelling and writing. They are ‘instructional casualties’. This is our fault.

English will not be learnt by chance. We must teach the alphabetic code well and directly. We need to recognise that phonics is not a dirty word, but a critical one.

About Kate – An individual approach that is helping students to shine


In the world of literacy, Kate Gurjian describes herself as a disruptor. It was her unwillingness to sit by and watch children fail, and to challenge the status quo, that motivated her to establish Time to Shine, carving out a niche in the education of children.

Instead of tolerating poor teaching based on lack of empirical evidence and research, and management directives she disagreed with, Kate drew on her extensive experience as an educator to build a new education business.

“I will not stand idly by and wait for a child to fail, nor will I tolerate teaching practices that fly in face of proven science. So I decided not to move the behemoth that is the ‘system’ – instead I chose to do it myself,” she said.

Previously, Kate had worked as a primary teacher, early childhood educator, special needs practitioner, author, head of department and principal. This broad experience provided her with an understanding of what children need in effective literacy and numeracy learning for future success.

Time to Shine offers students, from the age of four to 14, direct and explicit instruction in reading, writing, spelling and mathematics, supporting children for whom learning is difficult. The approach emphasises individual attention, research-proven methods, and only utilises the programs that are based on scientific evidence.

“Knowing precisely where a child is in terms of weakness, matched with their strengths and interests, ensures we accurately develop an individual program tailored specifically to the child. The work I do is grounded in the children and their individuality. Henceforth, Time to Shine’s philosophy stands by what I value most: every child, no matter their background or ability, being given every opportunity to shine.”

Equality is also important to Kate, and she aims to ensure all children have access to high quality education.

“I ultimately advocate for the rights of the child and the education that must be made available to them,” she said.

Using humour to inspire young writers

Hey, want to hear a joke?
Novice pirates make terrible singers because they can’t hit the high seas. 
(Cue collective groan)

Sometimes humour can be in-your-face and silly (like the joke above), and other times it can be more subtle. Whether it’s a pun, a child’s knock-knock joke, a funny movie, or situation comedy on television, we all enjoy a good laugh. Given this natural human tendency to appreciate humour, how might we, as educators, leverage humour in our teaching?  This idea deserves further attention.

Consider how social humour is. Think about the last time you watched a funny movie or television show with someone. When something funny happens on screen we turn to the person beside us as if to say ‘did you get it?’ It’s almost as if sharing the joke or funny situation enhances its humour.  The same is true with children, especially with their reading. Think about when you were a child, and saw a group of other children huddled together around a book, laughing.  How did you respond to that situation? You probably wanted to know what was so funny!  We all want to know what’s so funny. We all want to be part of the joke. Humour is a social phenomenon.

I observed this firsthand when I researched how humorous children’s literature engages young readers.  My research revealed that humorous literature is a huge motivator for children to read. When they read humorous books, they want to read more in general, and more specifically they want to read books by that author or other funny authors.  Also, when they do read something funny, they want to share it with someone immediately, whether they are a friend, family member, or teacher. This has classroom implications for teachers around the globe, because humorous literature can reach both struggling and reluctant readers.

In a related research project, I found that humorous children’s literature also motivates young readers to become writers of humour.  This was more than just wanting to copy their favourite author’s style of writing, but a need to be creative and write funny stories as well.  That is why in my latest book there is an entire chapter discussing humorous texts and their value in the classroom, and what teachers can do to harness these texts in developing young writers.

Some tips to help promote writing using humorous texts:

  • Expand your definition of ‘genre’ to include humorous texts (comics, joke books, etc.).
  • Value and include comics in your classroom activities.
  • Read and learn about blended narratives (Zbaracki & Geringer 2014) such as the 13-Storey Treehouse.
  • Allow students to write their own comics, perhaps using technology, websites or apps, and read each other’s creations.
  • Use technology (such as the ‘Pun of the Day’ app) to encourage students to explore the multiple meanings of words.
  • Explore parodies of well-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes to inspire students to create their own parodies.

So, it’s important to remember that humour, in addition to being fun, has great benefits helping students in both reading and writing.   ‘Sigmund’, a grade five student in my research study summed it up best:

… all books kind of have some humour, and if you don’t, I’m not saying that you should put like all humour in the book, it’s just if you don’t it’ll be kind of dull, and it won’t … well, it’ll be like the cake without the icing.

He’s so right! Keep eating that cake with icing, and reading and writing those funny texts!

Matthew Zbaracki is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at Australia Catholic University (Melbourne) and the author of Writing Right with Text Types (2015).


Featured image credits:  [1] OUP 9780195519068; [2]Shutterstock ID 144699151


Oxford is joint winner at the 2015 Environment Award for Children’s Literature

Each year, the Wilderness Society awards outstanding children’s books that promote a love of nature, and a sense of caring and responsibility for the environment. This year, Our Class Tiger, one of our Oxford Literacy Independent titles, was joint winner in the non-fiction category for the 2015 Environment Award for Children’s Literature. In celebration, we chat to author Aleesha Darlison about her inspiration and key messages behind the book.

9780195589726Non-fiction category
Our Class Tiger
Aleesah Darlison

What was the inspiration for Our Class Tiger, why feature a tiger?

I adore tigers. They’re beautiful, powerful, spell-binding creatures – and unfortunately they’re becoming increasingly rare. Although children and adults alike are fascinated by them, most people probably don’t know a lot about them. So when the publisher at Oxford University Press asked me to write a story that featured a tiger, I was very excited. Writing this book was the perfect way to teach children important facts about tigers and also to highlight ways we can help save them. Our Class Tiger is a narrative non-fiction story so it engages young readers with an entertaining story while at the same time imparting key information, making the book perfect for use in the classroom.

Do you work with endangered animals, why choose a topic like this?
I have a great interest in and passion for animals, their welfare and protection. And I love books and writing. Being an author, I get to combine these two great loves to create stories about all sorts of animals. Many of my books feature endangered animals and while I haven’t been lucky enough to work with them on a daily basis, I have presented educational sessions at zoos and wildlife parks to help highlight the plight of those animals in danger and what we can do to save them. Books like Our Class Tiger are important so young children can learn to understand, appreciate, love and protect endangered animals. They need our help to survive.

What was the key message you wanted to share with the children reading Our Class Tiger?
An important part of the book is trying to impress upon children how crucial it is to help save tigers and how small things they do can help these beautiful creatures in big ways. No matter how old you are or where you live, you can make a difference.

What is your favourite spread in the book?
That’s a very difficult question to answer! The designer and illustrator have done a superb job bringing the story of Our Class Tiger to life. Every spread is interesting and eye-catching and, of course, Berhaga, the tiger cub in the story, looks magnificent in the photos. If I had to choose one, it’s at the start (Page 4 and 5) where Rose Carter, the little girl from class 3M, introduces the story and tells everyone that her class is adopting a tiger. The picture of Rose is accompanied by a gorgeous photo of a tiger cub with his pink, curly tongue sticking out – that photo is used on the front cover too. It’s irresistible.

Do you have any more fun facts to share about our endangered friends?
A group of tigers is called a ‘streak’ or an ‘ambush’. Oh, and tigers can jump over five metres in length and swim up to six kilometres. That sure beats me hands – or should I say, paws – down.

Aleesah Darlison is a multi-published, award-winning Australian children’s author. She has written over twenty books for children including picture books, chapter books and novels/series. Aleesah has won numerous awards for her writing including an Australian Society of Authors (ASA) mentorship. Aleesah travels throughout Australia and overseas delivering talks and workshops to children and adults at preschools, schools, libraries, literary festivals and writers’ centres.