The THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project -- Helping to Develop a Healthy, Active Life-style

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For the past 30 years obesity in England has been increasing and the British Government has this week published Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives, a cross-government strategy for halting the increase in obesity and supporting the creation of a healthy society. The new THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project, to be launched next week, uses 44 songs to help teach children to read and encourages parents and teachers to move and dance with children. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting the aims of this new strategy by helping children to develop a healthy, active life-style.

You don't get pandas in Africa

For the past 30 years obesity in England has been increasing and the British Government has this week published Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives, a cross-government strategy for halting the increase in obesity and supporting the creation of a healthy society. The new THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project, to be launched next week, uses 44 songs to help teach children to read and encourages parents and teachers to move and dance with children. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting the aims of this new strategy by helping children to develop a healthy, active life-style.

Everyone knows just how important it is for children to develop sound literacy skills from an early age and it is widely accepted that parents can play a very important role in helping them to do this. However, many parents, and also teachers and teaching assistants, are not confident with identifying the one-, two- and three-letter spelling choices in English words and saying the sounds that they represent. It is also widely accepted that music, and in particular singing, can have a wide range of benefits for children: it can accelerate learning and improve the memory and, when combined with movement, it can also help to combat obesity and increase general physical fitness.

Mindful of this, British educational psychologist, Alan Davies, an expert in synthetic phonics who has pioneered the extremely successful THRASS (Teaching Reading Handwriting and Spelling Skills) phonics programme, has been working with Janine Plunkett, a music specialist in South Africa, to develop the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project. The Project revolves around 44 songs that teachers and parents can sing with children to explain and help them understand the 44 sounds and 120 main spelling choices of English, and encourages teachers and parents to sing and move to music with the children to help them read and spell.

The 44 songs, which are featured throughout all the THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project resources (a 96-page hard-back book, an interactive book, an audio CD and a colouring book), have been written so that they will be real fun for both children and adults to sing and will also encourage teachers and parents to move to the music and dance with children. 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", and really memorable tunes in different musical styles and dance rhythms from around the world: African Round, blues, Charleston, Hawaiian, Irish Dance, jazz, ragtime, reggae, twist, waltz and many more.

In addition to accelerating learning, improving the memory, helping to combat obesity and increasing general physical fitness, singing can also benefit children, and adults, in many other ways and there are many reasons why it is such a great activity for them. Group singing is particularly powerful in its ability to create a sense of shared purpose, social unity and collective enjoyment. It is also good for their emotional well-being, as it can help them express their emotions, and increase their confidence and communication skills. Singing also improves circulation, breathing and posture.

Singing and moving to music will not come easily to some parents and teachers so, to make this easier for them, Alan and Janine have also created MOVE-A-LONG WITH SING-A-LONG one-day workshops to give parents and teachers group experience of singing, dancing and performing actions to the 44 songs. They will be running THRASS MOVE-A-LONG WITH SING-A-LONG workshops in the UK, South Africa and other countries, and a MOVE-A-LONG WITH SING-A-LONG DVD will be available later in the year.

The THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project, which in South Africa will be sponsored by Absa Bank, a member of the Barclays Group, and Pritt, will be launched on 31 January at Holy Rosary School in Johannesburg. At the launch, children from 12 schools will give the world premiere of the SING-A-LONG songs and the event 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 Family Reading Project.

Everyone who has heard the SING-A-LONG songs has been really impressed and reactions to a pilot MOVE-A-LONG WITH SING-A-LONG Workshop held recently were extremely positive. The children rehearsing for the concert to mark the launch of the project have all been enjoying the songs and movement so much that their parents have reported that all they hear at home is the SING-A-LONG songs!

In England 18 per cent of two - 15 year olds are now clinically obese and a further 14 per cent are overweight. One of the five key elements of the British Government's new strategy is therefore the healthy growth and development of children, with increased participation in physical activity. The THRASS SING-A-LONG Family Reading Project will certainly have the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing obesity by helping children to develop a healthy, active life-style from an early age through making singing and movement part of their daily lives, while at the same time improving their literacy skills.

The THRASS extensive picture-based training website for schools and parents 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 that are held regularly 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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CHRIS GRIFFITHS
THRASS
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