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Two Things Seem Absurd

The first thing is how many children in the UK are not acquiring adequate reading skills.

We have more texts more books, more experts in our education system and classrooms than ever before and yet we still have children who are not gaining competent reading skills.

Over 2 million students in the UK do not have adequate reading skills. A lot of those students can read words, but give them a book to read, a whole book? You’re kidding! How boring. I can read, but don’t read. I can read words, but I can’t tell you details of what I have read.

The second things is that we still think the answer to why a child is not gaining reading skills can be found within the child. As if over 2 million students are inflicted with some strange and unique flaw in their ability to learn.

Surely it is more sensible to be looking at all the factors that impact on their ability to gain reading skills.

What are the books like that they are expected to read? One brain-crippling example that I saw a few years ago, was a book on ancient Inca art that a group of struggling year 3 students were stumbling their way through.

How many words does a child actually read in a day or in a week? Do they read enough words to learn them? Do they have the opportunity to read the same words, over and over so that they can remember them?

Do they read the whole book cover-to-cover like I would, in order to understand the content, or are they reading every 4th or 5th page, interspersed by the dull listening to others in their group struggling to read with fluency or enthusiasm.

Do they get immediate feedback on how much progress they have made, or do they have to wait until December to sit in silence and try to read and answer the questions on the same sort of assessment that they did in March, in July, with the same dread that stopped them remembering what reading they can do?

How many practices does a child need in order to be able to read a book fluently, with 100% word accuracy, to understand the content, to be able to talk about the topic? What schedule of practices works best for this child? Ten minutes twice a day? Thirty minutes, reading the same book three times?

How do they know that what they read matters? Who can they share their achievements with? What information can they say if someone asks what did you do in reading today? ‘I don’t know, just reading’ or can they say ‘I read 425 words and only needed to prompt 15. ‘Yesterday I didn’t know 35 words, but today I know a whole lot more’, ‘I read about eels, and how they have to swim 5000 kilometres to lay their eggs.’

468 words

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