Pupils who can read are overwhelmingly more likely to succeed at school, achieve good qualifications, and subsequently enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding career. In addition to its substantial practical benefits, reading is one of life’s profound joys.
International benchmarks demonstrate that standards of literacy in England are behind those of many of our international competitors. In response, the government’s plan for education has recognised the vital importance of reading, and has consistently prioritised raising standards of literacy in schools.
Since 2010, our focus has been upon improving reading overall, and narrowing the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. A new national curriculum, with a focus on phonic knowledge and on encouraging reading for pleasure, is raising standards. The gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is closing. Despite these improvements, too many students still leave primary school unable to read at a standard that will ensure they are well placed to succeed at secondary school.
There is a substantial body of evidence which demonstrates that systematic synthetic phonics is the most effective method for teaching all children to read. Progress has been made since the introduction of the phonics screening check in 2012 and the funding for phonics training and resources provided by the government. To build on this, we have announced a phonics partnership grant programme that will enable excellent schools to work with others to improve the quality of phonics teaching.
As pupils master decoding, it is vital that they are supported to develop speed and fluency, so that they become confident, mature readers. The best way to do this is to instil a passion for reading. Evidence shows that as the amount a child reads increases, their reading attainment improves, which in turn encourages them to read more. Reading widely also increases their vocabulary.
Book clubs are an excellent way of encouraging pupils to read broadly and frequently, and of improving both reading and spoken language skills. The government is announcing today [5 March 2015] funding for a new programme to help primary schools set up book clubs for key stage 2 pupils.
Libraries also have an important role to play in children’s reading habits. The government would like all children to be active members of a public library, and we are asking all schools to arrange library membership for all their Year 3 pupils.
As children move into secondary school pupils will develop an appreciation of literature and start to read critically. They will be introduced to a wide range of genres, historical periods, forms and authors. More rigorous GCSEs will ensure they study the best of English literature.
The government is also committed to encouraging the promotion of poetry in schools. We will continue to support the poetry recitation competition ‘Poetry by Heart’ in the coming year and we will fund resources to help primary teachers encourage their pupils to read and learn poetry.
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