January 3, 2012
Last month’s announcement by the National Literacy Trust that ‘1 in 3 children does not own a book’ was a headline with a true capacity to shock. In many minds, including my own, it surely conjured harrowing images of impoverished homes with children unable to learn basic reading skills because of a lack of practice material and of a grim future for a new’ illiterate-British’ underclass.
Should we be sceptical about such figures? The report clearly demonstrates that of children with books of their own, 55% exceed the expected reading levels. On the other hand, there is certainly room for doubt: Almost 80% of children who agreed with the statement ‘I have never been to a library’ still achieve the expected minimum standard.
Yet surely these figures should still be appalling to anyone who treasures reading. Is ‘acceptable’ the standard an educational system should be aiming for? A cynic could claim that this says more about the ‘expected level’ than the children who, without ever having entered a library, achieve it. The recently introduced reading ‘MOT’ for 6 year-olds includes test words such as ‘Cat’, ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad,’ yet only schools in which 60% or more children fail to read them qualify for Michael Gove’s specialist government literacy ‘intervention.’ Well-intentioned policy, but hardly an ambitious minimum standard. Read more of this post