Are our literacy rates so low because we’re rushing children into reading?

For some time now there has been considerable media coverage about low literacy rates in the UK. Clearly there may be a number of reasons for this, but one that was flagged up as a possibility this weekend in “Any Answers”,  Jonathon Dimbleby’s  follow on programme to “Any Questions”, was that maybe we are rushing children into reading before they are ready and in the process turning them off the whole idea of books and reading.The programme featured a speech therapist who suggested that developing language and socialisation was far more important than launching straight into phonics and reading (the youngest of whom in the UK are only 4 years old when they start school).

In other parts of Europe, children do not start reading until at least 6 years old, having an opportunity to develop those important language skills before the formal teaching begins. Whilst it is true that many children in the UK learn to read easily from an early age, it does seem that some just aren’t ready. In addition, parents sometimes try to move their child quickly onto the level where they think the child should be, rather than just giving them the space to grow to love books, reading texts that are easy for them to understand.

The “take it slowly” approach is very much how we approach reading at Hummingbird Books, giving the children books to read which are much simpler than the texts they are “capable” of reading. In this way, they enjoy books and gradually move themselves along when they are ready (or only need a little encouragement to move to the next level). The best analogy for this seems to be if you imagine sitting down yourself to read a book. You would not usually struggle your way through the text, unable to read some of the words. You just want to be able to read easily and enjoy  the story.

If you are interested in our “take it slowly” approach, we are currently piloting a programme for 7 and 8 year olds who are not really enjoying books at present. We  have  3 places left on this 6 week programme at a cost of approx £40 (when fully operational the cost will be £250).Details of this progamme to get children reading are in yesterday’s post.


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