Never too soon for a story

While the benefits of bedtime stories are becoming increasingly evident, it seems parents today aren’t dedicating enough time to the age-old tradition.

In the article, ‘Reading becomes the new playtime’, Dr Sharon Goldfeld, pediatrician and board member for the Raising Children Network, discusses international studies which have found reading to kids from an early age can lead to improved educational outcomes.

Dr Goldfeld says the practice aids children’s literacy, brain development and imagination, while also stimulating curiosity. And what’s more, and you can’t start too soon.

“All the research is saying the earlier the better.”

“Letting your baby hear your voice by sharing stories and talking will set (them) up for success later in life when (they are) learning to read”, Dr Goldfeld says.

While the evidence is clear, recent studies in the UK suggest parents just aren’t heeding experts’ advice. While most acknowledge the benefits of bedtime reading, only 43 per cent read to their children every day.

These findings come on the back of studies of five year-olds revealing that 18 per cent have fallen behind the expected level of speech development for their age.

Mrs Jean Gross, educational psychologist and former head of the UK Government’s strategy for boosting primary school achievement, says, “adults lead increasingly busy lives and many are not able to spend as much time talking to their children as generations before”.

But, as busy as modern life may be, it’s integral not only to your children, but also your children’s children, that you spend as much time talking and reading to your kids as you can.

As Mrs Gross suggests, “If we have a generation who have not themselves been read to, they are not going to do it when they are parents.”


Think positive!

At Edworks, we know positive affirmations are integral to developing a child’s confidence and self-belief. Parents, too, should be offering their children positive affirmations every day. Some simple tips to remember are:

  1. BE POSITIVE! Focus on your child’s successes, rather than their failures.
  2. NO BUTS! Next time your child shows you a piece of schoolwork and asks for an opinion, try to avoid the “but” – that is: “This is great, but…”
  3. IT TAKES THREE! Try to say three positive things to your child per day. It’s surprising how long many parents will go without offering a positive affirmation.

Answers needed for gifted students

A recent parliamentary inquiry into the teaching of gifted students has found that Victoria’s state school system is failing to properly identify and teach its most talented students.

The article, ‘State fails gifted pupils’, discusses the inquiry’s findings and reveals that the three groups of gifted children that most often go unrecognised are:

  • those from disadvantaged or minority groups
  • those who conceal their abilities for ‘peer acceptance’
  • those who have become ‘disengaged with learning’.

These findings have also reignited debate over the value of separating talented students via academically selective schools, such as Melbourne High and Mac.Rob, and accelerated programs within schools.

From my 20 years’ experience running Edworks, I can certainly identify with the argument that schools are not properly recognising and teaching gifted students. Too often I see talented kids falling behind because they’ve become disengaged with the curriculum. Often, as has been suggested, it’s due to the fact that they downplay their talents in order to avoid the attention of peers. Ultimately, however, schools need to be held accountable for this.

It’s an unfortunate reality that our schools rarely give due recognition to the academic achievements of students. In contrast, kids who perform well in the sporting arena are commended at assemblies, have their trophies on proud display, and in turn, earn the admiration of their peers. This seems symptomatic of Australian society in general, in that we fail to acknowledge the accomplishments of scientists and the like, while inconsequential news on sportspeople makes the front page. Schools need to take responsibility for how the academic achievements of their students are promoted and perceived.

Not as black and white, however, is the issue of separating gifted students via academically selective schools and programs. Certainly, talented students gain great benefit from being surrounded by children of similarly high academic ability. (This is assuming there is not excessive pressure from schools, which isn’t always the case.) Though on the other hand, when gifted students join such schools/programs, those left behind lose positive role models. This in itself can impact negatively on a learning environment, and subsequently, the education of students within it.

Ironically, it seems education is key when it comes to how schools manage gifted students — education not of pupils, but teachers. Teachers must be better trained to identify and educate academically advanced children. This would go a long way to ensuring they remain engaged and stimulated in the classroom. Additionally, if we can change how students perceive academic achievement, identifying gifted students will be made far easier for teachers.

Istanbul Scare by Wen

Istanbul, Turkey, is a prosperous city where old meets new and religion prevails above all. Istanbul is known for its famous domed cathedrals and mountainous landscape. It is a peaceful city, where crime is rare; that was until the terrorist organisation, Angry Boys, surfaced and ruined Istanbul’s reputation as a safe city…

The terrorist organisation, Angry Boys, had first come to light in London, founded in early 2012. They are a large organization with chapters spanning from London to Sydney and enough illegal weapons to take on an army. President of the London chapter, Ralph Smith, surveyed the weapons with grim satisfaction. Angry Boys was already a large organisation, but in September 2012, they expanded and added a Turkish chapter of extremists in Istanbul. That’s when the bloodshed would erupt all around Istanbul, starting with the leader of Turkey and all of his advisors.

To set the gears of their plan in motion, Angry Boys’ London Chapter, President Ralph Smith, ordered the shipment of illegal explosives to Turkey. These were to be smuggled in via air mail in wine glass boxes and were to be picked up from a warehouse in Istanbul, where they would be stored. The explosives were to be used to take out the leader of Turkey whose ideas Angry Boys strongly opposed. This was Angry Boys’ gig on the big stage, their chance to make a distinct impression on Turkey and the world. This was their moment.

It took 10 seconds for the security guard to realise something was up. People don’t usually come to government warehouses in the middle of the day armed with a gun. They don’t then ask to look in 20 boxes of wine glasses, shipped out of London the day before. The man who had come to the warehouse was indeed an Angry Boys operative who had journeyed to pick up the explosives for the attack on Istanbul. The guard didn’t cooperate, so the man just sighed, flicked the safety off the pistol and shot him. He then proceeded to load the wine glass boxes onto the back of a beaten up ute and drive back to the Angry Boys Istanbul HQ.

The bombs had been planted at various places all around Istanbul, just enough explosives to kill a few people at a time; not a whole city. One was in the government offices and the rest were in densely populated places around the city. In exactly one hour, Istanbul would feel the wrath of the Angry Boys.

At exactly 1:00 pm on the 22nd of September, seven bombs exploded around Istanbul and caused multiple casualties – 4567 to be exact.


The Angry Boys were uncovered to have planned the attack but the London Chapter, President Ralph Smith, had already fled to Jamaica. In the future, however, the police are optimistic that the Angry Boys will not be planning anymore attacks as some of the key figures in their organisation were arrested after the Istanbul bombing.

The benefits of brain training

I’m sure I’d get little argument in suggesting that sporting ‘bad boys’ occupy more than their fair share of space in our newspapers these days. However, this article, published in the Sydney Morning Herald recently, is far more worthy than most.

In summary, it discusses a US study that has identified distinct psychological differences between well-behaved, and not-so-well-behaved athletes.

In a study of 60 elite sportspeople, forensic psychologist, Jeffrey Pfeifer, found that those with histories of crime had little experience making decisions in their earlier lives.

These subjects had problems recognising the feelings of others, lacked self-control, were overly self-centred and believed they would never get caught behaving badly.

So the idea for parents is simple — allow your children to start making decisions for themselves today. Now I’m not suggesting you ask your four-year old whether he’d like to sit the Melbourne High entrance exam in nine years’ time. Basic, everyday decision-making is what should be encouraged. For example:

  •       Do you want a half a glass, or a full glass of milk?
  •       Should Isabella come over before or after lunch?
  •       Should we take an umbrella on our walk?

By regularly posing these sorts of questions, you will effectively be training your child’s brain to be discerning and comfortable making decisions. The potential long-term benefits, as the study suggests, can be dramatic … and he/she certainly doesn’t need to be the next Chris Judd or Sam Stosur to be eligible for them.

Right attitude equals improved performance

When I started Edworks more than 20 years ago, I did so in the knowledge that fostering the right attitude in our students would be vital to their successes — not only academically, but in the wider world, too. As a psychologist and prep teacher with a decade’s experience, I saw the value in establishing a positive, resilient and pro-active mindset in children from an early age. This ethos became the foundation of Edworks.

It was no surprise, then, to see the same philosophy advocated in The Age article, ‘Good behaviour fine for a spell’. It discusses research by Michael Bernard from the University of Melbourne, which found integrating positive attitudes and behaviour for learning into literacy lessons results in significant improvements.

Bernard explains that while it is a common misperception that academic learning, and social and emotional learning are separate entities, they are in fact strongly linked and should be taught in tandem. The latter, despite what some believe, are not innate — like literacy skills, they are learned.

As our students will attest, Edworks places as much emphasis on teaching students how to learn as we do on what they learn. For us, there is nothing more important than instilling confidence in a child, teaching them to persevere and fostering their ability to work as a team. It is only when these social and emotional skills are learned, and in turn the right attitude is adopted, that a child’s academic potential can be realised.



Can you identify the different strategies employed by the writer in this article? What is the intention of each technique?

Consult your study guide, ‘Reach for the Sky’, for a complete list of techniques to look out for, and of course, plenty of handy tips on crafting a high-quality language analysis essay.

Graffitists are not budding Banksys, they’re vandals

It seems as if the scourge of graffiti is still with us. And that urban blight — or modern expression of the cries of the oppressed and misunderstood, depending on your viewpoint — is in the news again, on two fronts. Firstly, NSW upper house MPs have refused to pass the O’Farrell government’s new graffiti law, which gave magistrates the power to strip offenders of their driver’s licences among other measures. “For every small business, home or train targeted by a graffiti vandal, I will be holding Labor, Greens and the Shooters to account,” the Premier, Barry O’Farrell said.

This coincides with the announcement that a collection of 23 works by graffiti artist Banksy will take pride of place at the street art festival Outpost Project in November at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. Banksy’s documentary — dare I say “mockumentary” — Exit at the Gift Shop was a hot Oscar favourite this year, leading to the possible thrilling public revealing of an artist who has kept his identity a closely guarded secret. The film was pipped at the post, but it still added a patina of establishment respectability to Banksy, and by extension his graffiti work.raffiti by ‘Banksy’

Graffiti has been with us a long time, ever since the days of ancient Greece and Rome and early urban civilisation, so it is whimsical to suggest that the urge to scratch, spray or paint a message into public and private works is going to disappear. Something else that hasn’t changed is the belief of many that graffiti is not a legitimate art form, but rather an excuse to commit vandalism under the guise of art. What can also be forgotten are the dangers. A 17-year-old boy died in South Australia at the weekend after falling while trying to tag a bridge.

Sadly, the evidence that this is vandalism, not art, is all around us.

Put your graffiti detector on as you travel to and from work and you’ll be astounded by how many instances you will spy. Hasty scrawls on power plants. Words winding up power poles. Tags on buildings. Tunnels completely covered in drivel. Schools covered in pubescent angst. Then consider your reaction to it. Do you ever feel uplifted? Amused? Entertained? Has a clever pun ever tickled your fancy? Has an important message ever been passed on? Have you ever stopped and thought, “Hmm, knowing ‘Gordo has herpes’ is something that really has brightened my day”? Are public parks improved with black and blue scrawls everywhere? Or do they add a sense of urban decay to the swings and greenery? In short, does graffiti fulfil the proper function of art? Because I’ve yet to see some that has moved me like a Carvaggio. Or even the Ginger Meggs cartoons in the newspaper. Or Garfield.

Certainly, many councils feel the same. They spend a frustratingly large amount of time and money cleaning up the mess our urban graffiti ninjas leave behind. They’re not handing out grants in the search of the next Basquiat.

We were all young once. We weren’t all “squares”. We, too, once fought “The Man”. We wore onions on our belts, which were the style at the time. We understand the thrilling desire to scrawl on the forbidden. We want people to have freedom of expression. But people like Banksy are giving false hope to the illicit masses that their work is art rather than bilge. I have yet to see compelling cases of graffiti adding anything to the urban landscape. Banksy’s works could be seen to legitimise an army of youths with cans rampaging through our streets, leaving incoherent colour schemes everywhere.

In short, I could probably get behind the graffiti argument if it wasn’t mainly all awful. If there was some kind of beauty behind it. If there was evidence of deep themes. Or even something rendered with a future master’s touch, not a hand whose owner has one eye looking out for the railway security guards. Fellas, throw me a bone here — or a spray can.

No doubt the libertarian intelligentsia will leap to the defence of these Antipodean Banksies and their inalienable right to scrawl on any surface around. That is, until it comes anywhere near their homes, their cars or their favourite inner-city parks. Then they’ll put down the chargrilled quail and porcini mushrooms just long enough to whinge about reduced property prices and where are the cops when some spotty oik fancies some freelance self-expression on their Prius.

O’Farrell’s solution to take an offender’s driver’s licence away from them does seem somewhat harsh. Yet given graffiti’s prevalence in our neighbourhoods, perhaps that is what the situation requires.