Primary Primary Literacy

Primary – reading

Reading is a key part of the literacy curriculum and a vital part of the whole curriculum. Over the decades and even centuries there have been many different approaches to the topic with some of them working better than others. Everyone accepts that until a child can read effectively, large parts of any curriculum and indeed aspects of life will remain out of their reach. This year we have the first of the national assessments for phonics which have been generally well received despite the media frenzy over the usefulness of nonsense words. How well they’ll improve reading standards is yet to be seen but the promise is there that it should help.

Like many teachers in the UK, I have to teach reading and writing to children from other countries and I’m fascinated by how they are riveted to the formation and pronunciation of phonemes and letter sounds from their native languages. The fixation they have with using phonemes to say a word fills me with the conviction that the phonemic approach should be the bedrock on which we teach children to read. We all recognise that as this approach takes hold in the child’s mind, other approaches will be used by them to read new words or to consolidate ones they are almost fully confident with.

In practising reading, my main concern is the abstractness of some reading schemes and how, once they’ve been read, that’s it, finished with that topic or scenario and move on to another, often a completely different one.

My preference is for reading schemes which help emergent or struggling readers to maintain an interest in what they’ve just read and consolidate it through activities that will involve meeting those words, phrases and ideas again and again but not in the repetitive way that some schemes do it but through additional activities that broaden the learning around the books in the reading scheme. That’s why I like the Big Cat series of reading books.

Whilst still in its early days, time and trouble has been taken to offer variety, but of a connected kind, within the levels. Additional material, both free and to purchase, reinforces the children’s progress with activities where they meet the words again but in a motivating and creative way.

Dave Lewis
Primary teacher

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