The THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project - an Exceptional Project and an Exceptional Composer

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The THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project, due to be launched at the end of the month, already looks set to be an exceptional project with the potential to make a major impact on teaching children literacy skills, while at the same time helping to make singing, with all its associated benefits, part of their daily lives. And this comes as no surprise when one learns what an exceptional individual Janine Plunkett, who wrote the songs really is. Janine wrote all the songs with their memorable tunes and wonderful imaginative titles, while still undergoing treatment for cancer.

The moon fell out of the sky

The THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project, due to be launched at the end of the month, already looks set to be an exceptional project with the potential to make a major impact on teaching children literacy skills, while at the same time helping to make singing, with all its associated benefits, part of their daily lives. And this comes as no surprise when one learns what an exceptional individual Janine Plunkett, who wrote the songs really is. Janine wrote all the songs with their memorable tunes and wonderful imaginative titles, while still undergoing treatment for cancer.

Janine lives in South Africa with her husband and their two children. She has a Masters Degree in Music and was formerly Head of Music at Holy Rosary School in Johannesburg. Janine first met British Educational Psychologist and Executive Director of THRASS UK, Alan Davies, at a THRASS Professional Development Course in Johannesburg in May 2007, when she was recovering from surgery and chemotherapy for breast cancer. Holy Rosary School had been a THRASS school for several years but, as a specialist teacher, she had not been involved in the initial THRASS training. However, she wanted to understand the THRASS programme and see if there was any way she could incorporate THRASS into music lessons to further help the children at Holy Rosary.

Meeting Alan gave Janine the opportunity to discuss this with him and he suggested writing a 'Holy Rosary School Name Song', in which the children would use the letters of the alphabet to spell the name of their school, and also some other songs. So, inspired by Alan and the THRASS programme, she wrote the 'Holy Rosary School Name Song' and the very first phoneme song overnight. Later that month she wrote seven more phoneme songs which Alan loved and by the end of their meeting he had already formulated the first ideas for the resources for, what has recently been officially named, the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project.

It is widely accepted that music, and in particular singing, can bring a wide range of benefits and Janine Plunkett is proof of this. "Having cancer can completely change your life and made me realise, amongst other things, that I would like to use music to teach more people. Being given such an amazing opportunity to not only compose and sing to a wider audience but also to help children and adults learn to read, made me realise that this was what I was meant to do and I began to find the most amazing energy, in spite of the many operations and sessions of chemo-therapy that I had undergone. It was as though writing these songs was filling me with energy and purpose and healing, with the result that I completed the songs far ahead of schedule."

From the beginning, Janine had wanted the THRASS SING-A-LONG resources to also be an education in music and it was for this reason that she decided to write the songs in different musical styles. The songs have really memorable tunes and provide a good introduction to a large number of different musical styles and dance rhythms from around the world such as African Round, blues, Charleston, Hawaiian, Irish Dance, jazz, ragtime, reggae, twist and waltz. And they all have wonderful imaginative titles such as "The moon fell out of the sky", "A great big gorilla" and "You don't get pandas in Africa".

THRASS UK has already earned a reputation for producing highly successful innovative resources for helping children to read and spell as part of its widely-acclaimed THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills) phonics programme, and the new THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project will use 44 songs that parents and others can sing with children to explain the 44 sounds and 120 main spelling choices of English. They will be available on an interactive book and an audio CD, which will be complemented by a 96-page hard-back book and a colouring book.

Janine Plunkett is currently working with 26 children aged nine to 13 on a musical production of the songs for the launch of the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project on 31 January at Holy Rosary School, Edenvale, South Africa. The children, who come from 12 schools, are all enjoying the songs and movements so much that their parents are reporting that all they hear at home is the SING-A-LONG songs, and Janine has seen the children's confidence grow and their ability to work as a team improve tremendously over the last few weeks.

In South Africa, SING-A-LONG is sponsored by Pritt and the Absa bank, a member of the Barclays Group. The launch will be attended by VIPs and international delegates to the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Conference being hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand on 31 January and 1 February. Together with parents, teachers and children from schools in the area, they will have the chance to see the tremendous potential of the THRASS SING-A-LONG resources for helping children, and older learners too, develop their literacy skills.

Later this year Janine Plunkett will be attending further THRASS SING-A-LONG concerts in South Africa, the UK and the Caribbean. She will also be working with Alan Davies running THRASS MOVE-A-LONG WITH SING-A-LONG workshops in South Africa and other countries. Reactions to a pilot MOVE-A-LONG WITH SING-A-LONG Workshop held recently were extremely positive and a MOVE-A-LONG WITH SING-A-LONG DVD will be available later in the year.

The THRASS picture-based training website with easy access to a wide range of resources and support materials and extensive evidence of the widespread success of THRASS is at http://www.thrass.co.uk

To read about the THRASS SING-A-LONG resources in advance of the official launch, visit http://www.thrass.co.uk/list2008.htm

For more information about the THRASS Absa TalkTogether Project, visit http://www.talktogether.co.za and http://www.thrass.co.uk/talktogether.htm

For details of THRASS Professional Development Courses in the UK, Europe, West and Southern Africa and elsewhere, visit http://www.thrass.co.uk/courses.htm

Issued by: THRASS UK News Media Centre http://www.thrass.co.uk/nm.htm

Mike Meade, Media Director, +44 1829 741413 Mob: 07970 151 738

Chris Griffiths, International Development, +30 266 203 1207

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