Two posts on the same subject - Can/should we teach all to love reading?
Enjoying reading is wonderful. For those of us who love reading, it may seem essential, but it is an extra. The most important reason for making sure children learn to read easily is so that they can take part in modern daily life. There are many people (including excellent teachers) who can read easily, but hardly ever pick up a book for enjoyment. They can read instructions, recipes, notices, technical documents, legal documents, their bills, social media, text in games, information from the internet, road signs, texts for academic study, employment-related texts, etc., etc. It is extremely important to teach all children to decode words easily as early as possible so that they can get on with using that skill to take part in everyday activities and learn from their reading.
I have seen programmes for teaching the basics of decoding words to older children, who cannot read, that are at pains to include reading comprehension in lessons. It is a shocking waste of time and patronising to ask children, who cannot decode words, to spend more than a tiny amount of time answering questions about the very simple texts that are decodable for them at an early stage. They should be taking part in discussion across the curriculum and listening to someone else reading to develop their understanding of language. At the same time they should be taught to decode with a systematic fast-paced programme urgently.
My views are very similar to some of those already expressed. I don't think we can create circumstances in which all children enjoy reading so much that they become bookworms, any more than we can create circumstances in which all children enjoy swimming so much that they do it whenever possible. I think, though, that we can and should create circumstances in which no children struggle with reading so much that they avoid it whenever possible. I would like to see a situation where all children are at least competent and are not prevented by their poor reading from doing things that really interest them. Some will become bookworms and others won't.
Something I noticed during my time hearing the reading of Year 1 children yesterday was that even those whose sounding out and blending was still quite slow and effortful didn't seem to mind this. It was as if they regarded it as normal at their age and stage and were prepared to work at it. This contrasts with the behaviour of the Y3 children I work with whose decoding is still very weak - they seem to sense that this is not normal for their age and stage and some, at least, have a defeatist attitude.
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