Nicky Morgan claims that she wants to wage a war on illiteracy yet her words do not seem to echo her, or the government’s attitude with truly aiming to reduce the gap between those children that can and those that can’t.
In her statement she claims that by the end of primary school children should be able to ‘read a novel’ and ‘ be able to write a short story with accurate punctuation, spelling and grammar.’ An admirable thing to want to achieve and with an explanation of achievement being through an improvement on teaching in the classroom you’d find few that would disagree. However the thing that seems to be missing from all this is the role of enjoyment in reading.
If we persist with reading in such a taught vein then we are only ever going to continue to damage our weaker readers. Yes teaching reading is vitally important but a love of reading and wanting to read is just as, if not more important. In my previous posts about the how we read (here, here, here , here) you can see that one of the routes of successful reading lies around the conscious decision to want to read. This comes from taking reading outside of a learning environment, showing that reading is much much more than just the ability to decode.
If Nicky Morgan wants children to be able to read a novel she needs to also focus on how we can encourage them to want to read. With there being such a press on teachers’ time but also a need for reading to be promoted outside of the curriculum then who is going to do this? Surely the answer is a school library and a school librarian? Someone whose whole job is around promoting a love of reading. Someone who dedicates their time to do just what is needed.
So if this is the case then why does the government insist on cutting funding for libraries? Why do schools fail to recognise the benefit, or even essential nature of a library and a librarian?
If we want to really allow children to leave primary school with these basic skills we need to recognise the role a dedicated reading specialist plays in achieving this and make sure that these are a primary part of the learning and loving stages of reading. A failure to recognise this and do this is only at the cost of our children and their right to a love of reading.