England literacy rates are the worst in the developed world. Are boring reading schemes in primary schools responsible?

Bearing in mind in 2016 England was named the worst in the developed world for literacy, why are children given such uninspiring first books to read.

For many children, this is one of the first books they ever read. Their first impression on books and they are reading about weather and farming techniques. This is a missed opportunity to engage 5 year old’s and excite them about reading. Books face heavy competition, as children spend on average six hours a day on screens (source: Childwise, 2015).

The book my 5 year old son bought home is a two-parter. Following on from ‘The Flood’, in which nothing happens, comes ‘After the Flood’.  ‘The Flood’ almost made me poke my eyes out with his fidget spinner. Really, all that happened was it rained and the animals had to stand on a hill. That was it.

We are taught that when writing stories, there should be a beginning, a middle and an end. The climax of in ‘After the Flood’ is that two sheep panic when a pig comes into the barn. There is no main character. In fact, none of the animals in the book have been given any character traits.  There is no dialogue, there are no interactions and none of the characters have opinions or feelings, except for that they are miserable.

Miserable cows

The Follifoot Farm series are my son’s first reading books which could potentially house some action. These books should be grabbing his imagination by the proverbial horns and taking him on adventures he could only dream about. He should be excited, held in suspense, thrilled, laughing… I’d have settled for any emotion, except for boredom.

He did not care that the sheep and cows were miserable. He loves to hear stories about knights, Winnie the Pooh, space rockets, witches… anything but miserable cows and sheep.

I question why these books are used in schools as a method to encourage children to read? I would love to see children excited to read the books they are sent home from school with.

I wrote this message to the class teacher in my son’s communication book,

“We haven’t read these two books. L found them boring, and I had to agree with him. Don’t worry, we are off to the library in the summer holidays in search of astronauts and magic carpets.”

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How your baby becomes a bit of you forever

For many mums, being with a new baby is all we want to do and we feel guilty if we were to pass care over to someone else and take time out for ourselves.  As time progresses, your newborn becomes a mobile baby and it becomes harder to find time by yourself, as your baby does not have a concept of privacy, naps less and will come and find you on the toilet, in the shower or bath. And then when you do have a chance to go out without your baby, you may find yourself constantly thinking about them.  To imagine going back to work or being without your baby for a period of time can incur difficult emotions.

Perhaps one reason why we feel uncomfortable being physically separated from our babies is that it has been proven that a baby will leave behind ‘mystery’ cells which stay in their mothers body for decades.  Apart from the physical and sometimes mental trauma of childbirth, there are other fundamental changes to a womans body after having a baby.

Recent research proves that a mothers brain changes after childbirth. ‘What scientists do know, Feldman says, is that becoming a parent looks—at least in the brain—a lot like falling in love.’ This may explain the all encompassing desire to care for every need for our baby or babies.

But what about mum?

It is important to have a support system for the parents of a new baby. In times gone by, there would be aunties, grandparents and a strong social network for new parents to rely on. These days, parents often find themselves far away from family members. This makes it harder for parents to trust a person they may not know well to care for their baby, resulting in parents having less opportunities for a break from their new baby and feeling isolated. Does this sound familiar? Can you relate to the below video?

How Baby Yoga Can Help

During a baby yoga class, we focus on nurturing mothers as well as their baby/ies. We teach mindfulness, self-massage, the art of good posture and how to combat sleep deprivation. We look at how to hold your baby while protecting your back and how to stretch out aches and pains experienced by new parents.

You’ve got that vibe

Hearing your favorite tune can lift your spirits. Some days you may wake up and wonder how you’re going to get through the day. Your baby may not stop crying. Everytime you put your baby down he/she cries. You find it hard to get anything done. So, find your favourite feel good song and crank it up. I promise you, it’s a mood shifter.

How to Play with a non-Mobile Baby

“I was following the E-A-S-Y baby routine. Eat, Activity, Sleep with my 11 week old baby. It was mostly going well. Until we reached the ‘Activity’ part. I watched my baby lying on her back jerkily moving her arms and legs around, occasionally batting a toy in her baby gym. Activity…I wondered what sort of activities she could do, other than bat toys. It would feel good if we could enjoy playing a game together.”

This is where baby yoga comes in. Not only are the baby yoga songs and exercises wonderful for the development of your baby, but they are also FUN.

Here are some ideas*. Before you start, lie your baby comfortably on a blanket and check that your baby is alert. If your baby is not receptive, try again another time. Always observe your baby’s face to make sure that he/she is enjoying the games.

Peddling

1. Place your hands underneath the soles of your baby’s feet. Gently push your baby’s feet and see if he/she pushes back onto your hands. You can sing ‘The Grand old Duke of York‘ or another marching song you are familiar with. You can try marching fast and marching slow.

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2. Winding and Unwinding

Holding your baby’s left foot and right arm, gently bring your baby’s hand and foot together. Rotate your baby’s foot and hand around each other, making a ‘brrrrr’ sound with your lips. Say, ‘We wind them up so slowly as slowly as can be’ and then ‘unwind’ the hand and foot. Repeat on the other side.

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*all credit to the Birthlight Trust

Reflexology for Babies

A reflexology treatment can release blockages in the flow of energy through the body. This can help the body heal naturally. Feet are divided into 10 zones. These 10 zones run vertically up the length of the body and down through the hands. It’s also possible to apply pressure to the reflex points on your babies hands, if the feet are not accessible.

To start with, gently hold your babies feet to relax your baby and connect with them. Make sure both you and your baby are in a comfortable position. You might want to sit on a cushion on the floor and rest your baby on their back on a soft blanket. Make sure your baby is receptive to reflexology. If your baby shows any sign of distress, try again another time, when your baby is more calm and alert.

As babies have such small feet, compared to our hands, you’ll find that you are 

 

 

Reflexology to Soothe Teething Pain

 

Method

 
1.Remove babies socks or footwear and relax both feet by gently holding each foot, either one at a time or both together.2.Stroke up the five zones of each foot (see lines on feet above) and massage the head, gums and mouth and adrenals reflexology points.3.Observe any sensitivity, pause and then try the tender spot again.
4.End with a thumb press into the solar plexus points on both feet and then some gentle stroking up each foot. 

How to Relieve Back and Neck Pain When Feeding Your Baby

Guest Blog from Jessica at Treetots Yoga in Totnes, UK

New mother’s neck and upper back pain

Neck and upper back pain is common in new mothers, particularly those who are breastfeeding. A rounded shoulder position and forward neck posture puts a strain on the jointsand discs in the neck and upper back. This is a very easy posture to get into when feeding and once baby has latched on is difficult to correct.

Symptoms

Pain is often achy with a tight feeling between the shoulder blades or the back of the neck.

In the neck there may also be sharp twinges on sudden movement, stiffness, or achy discomfort.

Managing Neck and upper back pain.

Chiropractic treatment for neck and upper back pain pain includes releasing stiff joints using gentle joint manipulation to free the movement of the joints. Massage techniques are also employed to relieve muscle tension across the shoulders, between the shoulder blades and at the base of the skull. The most important action in reducing neck pain is correction of postures which are causing the problem.

The following should be practiced to minimise strain on the neck and upper back:

  • Stand with the head held high and chin tucked, not jutting out.
  • Relax the shoulders back and down, even when carrying you’re your baby there is no need to hunch up your shoulders.
  • Try to alternate which side you carry your baby on.
  • Get comfortable when breastfeeding, sit with your shoulders back and use supports and cushions to raise the baby up to your breast rather than lowering yourself down to the baby.
  • When feeding check for tension in your shoulders and whether your head is forward.

 

Notice the difference in posture in the second picture below to the first picture.

Back is straight and well supported, shoulders relaxed, elbows hang vertically below shoulders, neck straight and looking forward, knees lower than hips, and baby well propped in cushions to hold them at the right height without strain on Mum’s neck and shoulders: 

comfy Mum- good latch- happy baby! 
 
All these points can apply to a well supported sitting position on a chair.


Below are some stretches to release tightness in the neck and between the shoulder blades.

Shoulders, stretch 1: 

Pull arm across body keeping torso facing forward.
 


Shoulders, stretch 2: 

Put backs of forearms together with elbows one on top of the other, it doesn’t matter if you can’t link palms. Gently push elbows downwards and pull arms outwards against each other, keeping them linked. You should feel a stretch between the shoulder blades.


Shoulders and upper back stretch 3: 

Kneel on the floor and lengthen arms in front. Reach as far forward as possible feeling a stretch in the upper back.


Neck strengthening: 

Lie flat and tuck chin to lengthen back of neck. Push head gently backwards into the mat (if you have a hard floor you can use a small cushion or towel). This will release muscles at the back of the neck whilst strengthening the deep muscles in the neck.

The content in this factsheet is intended as general advice only and does not replace a diagnosis by a qualified professional. It is based our combined professional opinions. Do not carry out stretches or exercises which cause pain, discontinue and seek advice. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

Sally Scott is a Chiropractor with a special interest in pre and postnatal care. She is based in Chorlton, Manchester http://www.sallyscottchiropractor.com

Jessica Healy is a baby and toddler birthlight yoga teacher with classes in Totnes. She is also a mum of three. More information can be found on http://www.treetotsyoga.com

How to Bring the Principles of Yoga onto Your Bike

5 Ways to Improve Your Posture while Cycling on an Upright Bike.

  1. Lengthen Your Spine: 

Imagine there’s a peice of string pulling the crown of your head towards the sky as you cycle along. Really feel the space opening out between the vertebrae in your spine. Try and elongate your spine and imagine yourself two inches taller.  

2. Engage Your Stomach Muscles

Understand that in order to protect your spine, you must make your stomach muscles work. Try tilting your pelvis forward slightly, as if you zipping up some trousers.

3. Bring Your Shoulders Down

Make sure there is a space between your shoulders and your ears. Bring your shoulders all the way up to your ears and then allow them to drop down. That’s where they should be.

4. Awareness

As you cycle along, observe the abundance of the world. Notice the leaves or branches of the trees, notice the patterns in nature and the patterns made by

man. Feel the breeze on your face.

5. Smile

It’s OK. Cycling is fun! Put a little yogic smile on your face as you whizz along.

For some yoga poses to help stretch you out after a big cycle, please click here.