Closing the gap in reading is everyone’s business

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There is a strong link between reading enjoyment and better educational outcomes. The new Read On Get On (ROGO) Index, launched on Friday (15 December 2017) looks towards a tripartite model to define ‘reading well’ by age 11. This includes not only strong reading skills (cognitive skills) but also reading enjoyment (affective processes) and reading on a daily basis (reading behaviours). This could be the answer to closing the persistent literacy gap between the lowest and highest performing children across the country; data analysed by the ROGO team shows little change in reading skills over the last three years. The recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) across 50 countries showed some improvement in the reading scores of the lowest performing nine-year-olds in England. This is progress; since PIRLS began in 2001, England has always had one of the largest gaps between the highest and lowest performing children across participating countries.  

But there is still a lot more to be done in England. We know that getting children reading from a young age and into the habit of reading every day will help them to improve their imagination and communication skills and brighten their future prospects; real progress is when children identify themselves as a reader. Last summer, more than 150, 000 children started secondary school in the autumn without the basic reading skills needed to access the curriculum. For many of these children, without gaining fluency in reading, they may never catch up; these are the children most likely to be in the lowest 10th percentile in PIRLS. They often enter secondary school with low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in their abilities. By the time they leave secondary school, their chances of a successful and fulfilling life will have been greatly reduced; some will not have mastered the basic levels of literacy to gain sustainable employment.

It does not have to be like this. With the right approach in school and the support of their parents and carers, children can easily disassemble the multiple barriers they face. Simple changes are often all it takes. One example from a school working with Achievement for All shows the change in a year three boy who loved reading to his little brother at home, but he was a reluctant reader in school (often disruptive and was at risk of not meeting his literacy targets). His teacher made him a reading mentor to other year three children. The impact was immediate. Acting as a reading mentor with pupils twice a week had an immediate impact on his self-esteem - he enjoyed the responsibility; became more focused and less disruptive; proved to be a positive and supportive role model; and has better attainment.

Reading well is the key to helping children and young people learn and fulfil their potential; strong reading skills, enjoying reading and daily reading. That is why at Achievement for All we are running our popular 100 Million Minutes Reading Challenge again this year from 1 to 9 March 2018. We want all schools, early years settings, colleges, parents, carers, childminders and other community groups across England and Wales to sign up and try to collectively read 100 million minutes in a week.

Reading is everyone’s business, so let’s try together to make everyone a reader! 

You can sign up for the challenge at 

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Achievement for All is also looking to explore attitudes to literacy in schools across the UK.  All teachers, school leaders, parents and carers can take part in the educational charity's short survey.

Professor Sonia Blandford
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Professor Sonia Blandford is one of the country’s foremost experts on Improving the education and aspirations of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. She is currently founder and CEO of the award-winning educational charity Achievement for All, and professor of education and social enterprise at UCL Institute of Education. 

Sonia was named in Debrett’s 2015, 2016 list of the Top 500 Most Influential People in the UK, and was among the 2016 Women of the Year. She is Chair of the Blackpool Challenge and also a Founding Trustee and Vice Chair of the Chartered College of Teaching. Sonia is currently a leading researcher in the European Agency OECD Raising Attainment project.

Follow Professor Sonia Blandford on Twitter @SoniaAFA3AS