R A I Spring Seminar At St. Patrick’s College Thurles


…it is not the reading of stories on its own that leads children towards the reflective, disembedded thinking that is so necessary for success in school, but the total interaction in which the story is embedded.  At first they need a competent adult to mediate, as reader and writer, between themselves and the text; but even when they can perform the decoding and encoding for themselves, they continue to need help in interpreting the stories they hear and read and in shaping those that they create for themselves.” (Wells, 1985 in Hassall, 1999, p. 1)

The Reading Association of Ireland, in association with Tipperary Education Centre and St. Patrick’s College Thurles, will hold a Spring Seminar in St Patrick’s College on Monday, March 4th 2013, from 7.00pm-9.00pm.

The workshop will be hosted by Dr. Mary Roche, St. Patrick’s College, Thurles, Co Tipperary, under the headings Critical Thinking and Book Talk & Critical Literacy using Picture Books.

This seminar is being offered free of charge to interested parents, primary teachers and other educationalists, but places are limited, so to book your place on this seminar, please email (Use ‘RAI Seminar 2013‘ in the Email subject line) or book by phone with Michelle Percy (Tipperary Education Centre) on Telephone: 086 6008860.


Prospective Audience: This practical and interactive seminar is aimed at all parents, primary teachers and other educationalists working with young people from Junior Infants to Sixth Class.

Abstract: As pressure mounts to improve literacy and numeracy ‘learning outcomes‘ there is a danger that the focus may narrow to the teaching of discrete sets of skills and competencies which, while very necessary, may overshadow the need for also developing literary ‘meaning making‘ and a love of literature in children. Research shows that reading picture books aloud, and discussing them, can constitute an accessible, multi-modal resource for adding to these skills, while developing a far wider range of literary understanding (Doonan 1993; Fisher Renck Jalongo 2004; Pantaleo 2005, Serafini 2011; Sipe 2008). This work is as important in 6th class as it is in Infants.
Picture books are multi-modal forms of literature where ‘text and pictorial narrations accompany each other, alternate and intertwine,’ (Schwartz and Schwartz 1991 p5). Sipe (2008) suggests that for meaning-making to take place, we need to read the pictures as well as the text. By according equal importance to illustrations, peritext and text, teachers can encourage a richer diversity of interpretation, and facilitate children’s ability to integrate both visual and verbal information.

Format of Seminar:

This seminar comprises two parts. In the first part (Duration 90 minutes), participants will be enabled to explore:

  • What is meant by critical literacy?
  • How picture books provide a rich multi-modal classroom resource for developing children’s literary understanding across all levels of the primary school.
  • Powerful approaches to questioning and classroom discussion that develop children’s oral language ability, critical thinking, visual literacy and comprehension abilities.
  • Video clips of the approaches in practice in diverse Irish primary classroom settings.
  • High quality picture books that explore cross-curricular themes of relevance to teaching and learning at all levels of the primary school (Junior Infants to Sixth Class).

In the second part of this workshop (Duration 30 minutes), participants will be enabled to explore the rationale and practical applications of this workshop in terms of:

  • Cross-curricular teaching and learning opportunities across all levels of the primary school (Junior Infants to Sixth Class),
  • Oral language planning as part of School Self Evaluation in Literacy.

Participants will also be invited to discuss and contribute their views on the format of follow-up resources linked with this session. In addition, participants will be enabled to learn about the work of the Reading Association of Ireland (

This workshop has been organised by the Reading Association of Ireland (RAI) in collaboration with St. Patrick’s College Thurles and the Tipperary Education Centre.

Foundation of a Regional Branch of RAI in Co. Tipperary:

This event marks the foundation of a new Regional Branch of RAI in Co. Tipperary & as part of planning for future Tipperary based RAI seminars in literacy, participants will be invited to share their views on topics of interest to Parents, Teachers and other educationalists in the Tipperary region.


Dr Mary Roche, a primary teacher for many years, worked in MIC and UCC and is now Senior Lecturer in Education in St Patrick’s College Thurles, Co Tipperary. Mary is co-author of the 2012 Routledge publication: ‘Enhancing Practice through Classroom Research: a Teacher’s Guide to Professional Development.‘ Mary has also worked with the NCCA Aistear team in developing resources for ‘Critical Thinking and Book Talk.’ She has also been involved in research into CPD for the Teaching Council.

This seminar is truly of immense importance to all involved in the education of children in Ireland today.


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