Commenting on the Commission compiled by the National Literacy Trust which showed the reading gap between boys and girls in England is widening, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:
“Differences between the reading performance of girls and boys are well-known and are not restricted to England. Although gender is a significant factor, it is not the only factor at play in determining performance in and attitudes to reading. As the inquiry recognised, school libraries and dedicated school librarians also play a key role in fostering the interest of all children in a wide range of books and reading materials. With the pressure on school places in many areas school are closing their libraries and losing the expertise which has long supported children’s reading.
“To ensure the reading of all pupils improves we need to encourage reading for pleasure. Schools should have dedicated ‘reading areas’, not just places where books are stored. We also need to see a reduction in the focus on test scores and unnecessary targets. Cutting activities such as sustained silent reading, which increases student interest in reading, due to the pressure on school timetables leaves little time available for pleasure or ‘choice’ reading.
“The inquiry is quite right to have raised concerns about the Government’s insistence that synthetic phonics is the only way to teach children to read. Alongside the introduction of the Year 1 phonics check, these measures will result in many young readers feeling that they have somehow failed.
“Children develop at different stages. They cannot be taught to read by a one size fits all approach. To label children as early as five years old as not succeeding is not only ludicrous but is quite plainly detrimental to their development and confidence in this most necessary of skills. The early reading curriculum needs to be less prescriptive. First and foremost it should focus on enabling children to develop a range of strategies to ensure they become competent and enthusiastic readers, who can and do choose to read for pleasure and enjoyment.”
For further details contact Caroline Cowie on 0207 380 4706/ 07879480061
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