May 25: A retired teacher’s plea: we must enthuse and engage children in learning to read

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From: Jo Conway, Harrogate.

I WAS interested to read the article by Lindsay Pantry ‘Children’s reading levels the highest in nine years’ (The Yorkshire Post, May 19). Let’s celebrate. The Government has taken research evidence seriously and has backed the systematic synthetic phonic approach for teaching young children to read. Evidence-based research has at last made its way into the classroom.

How was it that in the past some programmes/initiatives that were not research-driven were able to take hold in our primary schools while research driven studies were ignored?

Someone, somewhere has seen, listened and taken positive action. The results are now bearing fruit so let’s keep up the good work. I worked in an ‘outstanding’ school that took on synthetic phonics years ago and many other schools did too.

Children’s phonic learning was systematic, progressive and at each stage consolidated to ensure the majority of children were fluent readers by the end of Key Stage 1. We must all now, parents included, work in partnership to enthuse and engage children in wanting to learn to read. Boys especially must see a purpose in reading. The strongest purpose for them of course is that they can learn more about things that are of interest to them. This is common sense as children like adults have interests and book preferences.

This reading at home doesn’t always have to be a ‘school reading book’ as this book is not ‘the be all and end all’ of reading. The major focus for young children must be enjoyment as the choice of reading material is highly significant to the progress children make. Library and charity shops have ideal cheap reading material so there’s no excuses, so let’s get all children ‘hooked on’ reading.

Supplementary synthetic phonic resources provide parents and teachers with activities, crossword puzzles and phonic games providing structure and rules that children have to abide by. These teach the discipline of taking turns, communicating and listening to each others’ views and opinions, a fun ‘inclusive’ way to bring boys in particular on board.

Active learning phonic activities and games are seen by boys as having a purpose, their concentration levels are increased and they become focused making phonic learning highly effective. Children are by nature happy, busy and curious with a growing number of interests. If we provide them with the books and resources to feed their interests, they will want to read more and grow daily in phonic skills and knowledge.