When this summer's SATs results revealed a sharp decline in 11-year-olds reading at the expected level for their age (from 80% in 2015 to 66% in 2016), many schools and parents were left feeling that the results did not reflect the progress their children had made in reading. What's more, for the first time in recent years, reading was shown to lag behind writing (74%), grammar, spelling and punctuation (72%) and maths (70%).
The results suggest that while skills such as decoding can be more effectively measured through current tests, the complex process of reading for meaning and understanding is less successfully measured in this way - making year-on-year comparisons of children's reading abilities currently impossible and meaningless. Yet in order to support our children's reading and to ensure they have the skills they need to succeed, we must be able to effectively measure how they are doing.
To this end, the Read On. Get On. campaign has today launched a bold strategy which includes the development of a new and consistent way to measure children's reading in primary schools. In addition to traditionally assessed cognitive skills, the new measure will take in to account the value of reading for pleasure and other affective processes which have a key impact on attainment. Our research shows that pupils who enjoy reading 'very much' are three times as likely to read above the level expected for their age as those who do not enjoy reading at all.
The National Literacy Trust is a member of the Read On. Get On. campaign, which was established by a coalition of leading charities and educational organisations in 2014 with the aim to get all primary school children reading well by 2025. Whilst the teaching of phonics and comprehension in schools is vital, it must be complemented by approaches that help every child to develop a love of reading.
Poor reading skills have a substantial impact on social inequality and the UK economy. Like anything else, reading is a skill that gets better with practice, so reading for pleasure is critical to this. Reading must become a normal part of children's everyday lives and not just be seen as something you do at, or for, school. Whilst research shows the undeniable link between reading enjoyment and attainment, it also shows that reading for pleasure has wider social outcomes and gives children the building blocks to succeed in life. Everyone has a role to play in getting England's children reading well.
For more information on Read On. Get On. and to download a copy of the new strategy, visit: www.readongeton.org.uk.
The National Literacy Trust has a wide range of free resources to help teachers and parents encourage children to read for pleasure.