Taken as a whole, the government’s recent publicising - Reading: the Next Steps – Supporting higher standards in schools - of its intentions with regards to raising reading standards in schools is a good and healthy step in the right direction.
Briefly, it seeks to both improve and build on its synthetic phonics programme by making funded provision for schools partnering each other so as to streamline and improve those programmes, and to aid mature reading through book club, library and poetry recital initiatives.
Laying aside for the moment its fixation on synthetic phonics, the fact that it spends an inordinate amount of time and space justifying its approach, cherry picking papers and projects as evidential backup, what is fantastically welcoming is the report’s money-where-your-mouth-is for the creating of literacy enriching environments. The availability of excellent book clubs, easily accessed libraries and the opportunities to engage in poetry recitals are exactly the sort of old school top-down initiatives the likes of Michael Rosen have spent the last decade shouting for.
Key to all this is the overwhelming research, as cited by the report, that points to the qualitative outcomes of a quantitative approach to reading. I’ll let you read it for yourself, but briefly, the more books you read the better you read. This so commonsensical as to be called dull, but it’s amazing where our obsession with building blocks has left us: losing a sense of the book, so much so as to not enjoy reading.
Hopefully, we’re back on track. And for those of you desperate for a quick stat, here you go: Two books a month, and you’re highly unlikely to struggle in literacy. Five a month and you’re a year ahead. There’s more to it than that, of course, but it’s enough to pique interest, surely.