Sent to the Daily Telegraph, December 6
“4m children in UK do not own a single book, study finds,” (Dec 6) reports that children who read more do better on reading tests than those who read less. This adds to the extraordinary amount of scientific research showing that children improve in reading by reading books they find comprehensible and interesting. Those with more access to books, at home or from libraries, read more and therefore read better.
Nevertheless, the Department of Education asserts that their preferred form of phonics (synthetic phonics) will “help boost reading scores.” They are referring to the Clackmannanshire study done in Scotland several years ago.
A careful reading of this study shows that children taught with synthetic phonics only did better than comparison children on a test that asked them to pronounce words in isolation. After six years, they were only three months ahead of national norms on a test that required them to understand what they read, an insignificant difference.
There is only one way to “help boost reading scores.” Provide access to lots of interesting books and give children time to read them.