Archive | December 2015



As a Dyslexia tutor and someone who regularly assessed students in Further Education for examination arrangements, I am often asked what parents can do to help their child with reading. Not all children are avid readers. Some will actively avoid it. This is not, believe me, laziness. After all, I often tell parents, wouldn’t you avoid something you found really difficult?


So what can you do? There are so many ways a parent can help and, unfortunately, some discourage reading without realising they are doing it. One example is the parent who sniffs about comics believing these are not good for children. Well, I ask the parents who say this, do you want your child to read or not? If children read what they enjoy they will become the readers you want to see sitting absorbed by a book on your sofa.


First, have plenty of books around, on accessible shelves, coffee tables, in piles by sofas. Don’t insist they are put away tidily and kept on high shelves or inside bookcases. Let the child see you choose books in the library – don’t do this when they are at school. Make it a pleasurable outing, at least once or twice a week. Choose books together. Books about your next holiday destination.  Let them read the map and the 10 best things to see in ? Read it together. Use the internet and read the screen together. Teach them to search on Google and read up on something they enjoy. It could be the latest Madagascar film. Read the reviews aloud and then let them read some.


DO YOU READ? Let your child see you read. Have quiet times when everyone in the family reads. Turn the television off at these times. Share what you are reading. Discuss the book or comic strip.

Read out news stories (with discretion) and encourage the child to find something worth sharing with the family


Limit screen time. This is worth a full blog itself. Reading screens is good but screen time should be restricted for many health and social reasons.


Read, read, read to your child even long after he or she can read for themselves. They still need to hear/see words jump off the page and feel the magic.


Put expression into your reading. This may mean looking at the book ahead of time. Don’t worry if your reading isn’t exactly perfect or accurate. Put on a gruff voice if necessary, a squeaky voice for a silly character, a fairy voice for the fairy. Use your own imagination to help your child access theirs.


Sit with your child and read together. Run your finger along the line so your child does not lose his place. Never jump in to correct the child. You can point out an error later. Don’t let them lose the flow.


Don’t forbid comics or similar. If your child enjoys reading something with pictures and words, it is better than if he does not read at all.


One novelty may be to have subtitles on television programmes.


Don’t resort to audio books alone but do encourage the use of an audio book combined with the text. Get the child to listen to the audio and follow the text with their finger. This gives them reinforcement of the sounds that make up the words.


Get a read aloud program for your computer and set this up so your child can hear the words on websites and other documents.


When your child reads to you, make a note of the words he misreads or gets stuck on. Tell him the word immediately so he can read on without hesitation. Don’t make him struggle or he will become disaffected. Afterwards look at a few of the words together. Find other words with the same pattern. For longer words break the word down into syllables.


For written homework or story writing, get your child to dictate what he wants to put on paper and write this down for him. If you are proficient on a computer, type the words for him, print it out (in large font) and then read it back to him. Then get the child to read it to you. To encourage responsibility, the child could highlight difficult words with a highlighter pen. This allows you to return to the work later and point to the words.


Encourage the writing of a diary and get the child to read it to you.


Visit your library and borrow books connected to something he is passionately interested in. Running? Cricket? Football?  The key is for your child to ENJOY reading and see what it has to offer.


Make sure your child knows the sounds of the letters and can put them together eg c-r  It is amazing how many children are brought to private tutors for reading and spelling tuition only for the tutor to find they do not know all the sounds. How can they possibly work out a new word if they do not know this basic skill? Unfortunately some sound ‘gaps’ are often missed by teachers faced with thirty five pupils of differing ability. TAs could be asked to check the sound knowledge of those struggling with reading.


Play Ispy from an early age. At least three times a week. When waiting at the doctor’s surgery, on the bus or train. In the car. Anywhere.


Buy Junior Scrabble and play in teams so that a younger child has some adult help and doesn’t struggle alone and give up. This encourages success which builds self esteem and improves reading.


Take every opportunity to read when out and about. Signs, posters, labels, shop signs. Ask the children to choose items from the shelves. Ask them to look for specific items ie certain brands.


When making Christmas lists, let the child get the information from catalogues or the internet and write down what they want. They will learn that reading has PURPOSE and see the benefit.


Reading is a life skill and it should enhance our experience. Children need to learn the value of reading and how it will provide valuable life experiences. You are the person who can help them to see this. After all, as a parent, you are not having to tick boxes.


Finally, if your child resists your attempts to help them with reading – this is very common as children find it hard and parents have difficulty being both parent and teacher –  do take them to a tutor, qualified in teaching children with Specific Learning Difficulties (Dyslexia). They are the tutors who will peel back the child’s learning in the same way you would peel an onion and find the gaps which are hindering the child’s progress. The money will be well spent.


And if you do use a tutor, listen to the advice given as the child leaves and follow it through. You have paid for the advice as well as the lesson, so LISTEN and DO IT.


Happy reading for all! You and your child!


Di Castle is a qualified Dyslexia Tutor and has worked with students in Further and Higher Education as well as with primary pupils.

Charity Begins at Home

Christmas! The time for families to get together if distance and circumstances allow. It is also the time when charities prey on many of us via our letterboxes, telephones and newspaper advertisements hoping to induce some guilt and catch the attention of those eager for some Christmas spirit.

Don’t get me wrong. I support charities throughout the year and since my book, Grandma’s Poetry Book, was published I have given many free copies for raffle prizes or charity competition prizes. Several Dorset charities have display copies and keep £1 for each book sold via their online or high street shop. I buy Christmas cards which support charities and I regularly clear out unwanted presents, clothes and bric a brac and donate to my local Weldmar Hospice shop.

However, I am more sceptical since the rush of ‘bad news’ stories in the press.

The heartbreaking story of 92 year old Olive Cooke who took her life when inundated with pleas for money is one. We now know how the charities obtained her details and sent official letters to which she felt obligated. A Daily Mail investigation discovered Mrs Cooke’s name was on a list of donors maintained by shadowy data firms and sold on to charities.  The vulnerable and elderly Samuel Rae also felt obliged to respond and lost track of how many payments he was making to charities.


With Christmas around the corner, what can families do to ensure their elderly relatives don’t fall into these traps? While distance may prevent adult children from visiting and monitoring their parents’ activities, it may be wise to nurture a relationship with a friendly neighbour who can keep an eye on their elderly relative.  In case they do not already know this, anyone can put a vulnerable person’s name down on the Mail Preference Service to prevent charity mail shots. When a relative of mine disclosed she had written cheques to the tune of £200 one December (notoriously the peak month for begging letters) I told her I would ensure she received no more post and on returning home entered her postal details on the site However, I also gave her advice such as binning ‘junk mail’ immediately and made her promise not to open junk mail or write another cheque. I have followed up with reminders.


But relatives are not always aware and those caught in scams or paying out more donations than they can afford are often too embarrassed to raise the subject. Sadly some younger relatives have broken contact with elderly relatives who have given away large sums of money which they class as ‘theirs’. So what else can be done?



Banks should have a responsibility to contact customers who appear to set up too many direct debits to charities. My own view is that three modest amounts – say £3 a month each – should be enough for any pensioner on a basic pension. Our banks owe us a duty of care and should be monitoring our accounts for unusual activity. Let us all ask our bank (if we still see a face) if they do this. I was surprised that about 30 cheques written by my relative for small amounts to charity was not queried by her bank or building society. PayPal restricted my account after unusual activity. The scam purchase was pursued by PayPal and they succeeded in getting the money back. If PayPal can monitor accounts then surely the banks should.



The Government could also take some action such as setting up public information advertisements on both BBC and independent television channels. Despite the horrific cases and suicides, I have yet to see a sensible information film warning about the plethora of begging letters at this time of year. Such advertisements could include information on how to register with the mail preference service and ways to do this for those who cannot or will not go online.


The charities themselves should have a responsibility to monitor their benefactors, perhaps even adding a section on the mandate or newspaper advertisement asking for details of other charities the donor is also supporting. The charities involved in both the above cases insist they followed ethical standards but they should take some responsibility for the passing on of details. Surely it is time for selling a person’s details to be made illegal. The plight of people pensioners as Olive Cooke and Samuel Rae should be a wakeup call to charities. More precautions are needed. David Cameron has called for watchdogs to investigate these cases. The Fundraising Standards Board needs to be investigating ALL charities and make them answerable.


Telephone Preference Service enables anyone to register and prevent unwanted calls. However, TPS regulations do not apply if the charity or selling organisation has consent. For example, if you have a bank account, that bank can phone and try to sell services without falling foul of TPS. We all know how difficult it is to find out the name of the company phoning. A minor change would be that telephone sales staff should, by law, have to state the name of their firm at the start of the call – this is extremely difficult information to ascertain from a persistent telesalesperson especially those offshore! TPS also cannot stop the recorded messages being left – a common practice these days – and a clear attempt to get round the regulations which govern the service. Again the law needs to be changed to prohibit recorded messages being left on answerphones. Our landlines operate within our private home space and these intrusions can cause untold stress and anxiety.

What can charities do?

Charities need us. They need volunteers so they need to be more flexible especially with those who are elderly. Ask the volunteer what they can do rather than tell them what you want. Foster a good relationship and remember they are not paid staff. There is no need for a volunteer to be behind the counter at 5pm. That is the job of the paid staff. And stop these unwanted calls which can cause distress.

If you have cause for complaint you can take this to the Fundraising Standards Board who will investigate the issue.

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If you or someone you know have been targeted with excessive fundraising approaches please contact

If you or a family member of yours has been the victim of scams, help is available at


A version of this article appeared first on www. in December.

I am a writer living in Swanage. Born and bred in Hertfordshire, I always had a love of words, writing as soon as I could hold a pen. My sister is profoundly deaf and I have a passionate interest in raising deaf awareness. After my youngest daughter went to school I began a career teaching in Further Education, while collecting a hoard of unfinished manuscripts. Later, my writing took precedence and, since becoming a regular attendee at the Winchester Writers’ Conference, I have enjoyed success in their competitions gaining two first prizes and highly commended awards for articles on a range of subjects. I began blogging in 2012 and as well as issues surrounding deafness I blog on mental health, dyslexia, writing and anything topical that stirs me to fire up the computer. My poetry collection, Grandma’s Poetry Book, was self-published by Matador in November 2014. I have other books in progress and there is interest from agents in my memoir of growing up with a deaf sibling. Before moving to Swanage in 2001, I enjoyed a nomadic existence in Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and South Bucks before finally settling down on the south coast. I live close to my partner, Bryan, in a Victorian building overlooking Swanage Bay with views towards Bournemouth and Old Harry Rocks. I have three daughters and seven grandchildren.