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Posts from the ‘Reading Revival Blog’ Category

What’s really stopping children from learning to read?

Corporate Guy is caught up in Red Tape









It’s not money, materials or our children’s ability. It’s stubbornness.

The statistic that one in five children leave school functionally illiterate is commonly quoted, and the finger of blame has been pointed in different directions. It’s a lack of funding for individual child support. It’s the huge time investment that teachers need to help each struggling child to read. It’s inferior reading materials that don’t inspire the child. It’s even been suggested that it’s the fault of the child who simply isn’t capable of reading fluently. However, in my thirty years of experience of teaching children to read I have noticed that none of those reasons are the ultimate barrier.

I have successfully taught every child in my care to learn to read, from three to 15 years of age, even those with considerable learning needs. I have done it in a fraction of the normal time taken, at a fraction of the cost, and the children are left enthused by the reading experience. So what’s the catch? Why aren’t all schools using this method?

Here’s the rub, and I believe it is the root of the literacy problems that dog Britain’s disappointing record. Brace yourself, because when I visit schools and speak to teachers or SENCOs and get to this point in my narrative, I see arms folding, lips pursing and sometimes even a flicker of fear on the faces in the room – and that’s no exaggeration. The fact is (deep breath) that I’m not using a government approved phonics method. This is enough to get me ejected from rooms, and why? There are two reasons that I find stop me from having access to children who needlessly get left behind by our failing system.

Firstly, the government directs schools to use the phonics method when teaching children to read, even if it doesn’t appear to suit 20% of children. I have brought this up with senior figures at the Department for Education and have been told that schools are free to make their own choices, and yet I have been told by several schools that they will be severely criticised if they use anything else, and there are clear written directives to use phonics. Recently one teacher told me that they didn’t want to risk providing me with testimonials. They would only talk off the record about their success at transforming children’s reading ability in a single term if I immediately promised not to identify them in any way. Why is the government more interested in the method of teaching rather than the results? This stubbornness creates a climate of fear rather than empowering teachers to do whatever is best for the child. At least if a school’s literacy statistics are poor the teacher can blame the government rather than themselves, but this does not put our children’s best interests at heart. Teachers should be celebrated for trying new things, not castigated.

Secondly, although I’ve met many truly admirable teachers, I have met teachers and SENCOs so stubborn it takes my breath away. They insist doing ‘more of the same’; forcing a phonics approach rather than something new with a child unable to read as they get further and further behind. I was once invited by the Head of Children’s Services of a London Council to contact a school that had only 40% of its children reaching the required literacy standards. I contacted the head teacher by telephone and email, offering my services for free with their most difficult students. He refused to speak to me and my emails were all ignored. I hadn’t even reached the hurdle of mentioning that my method wasn’t based on phonics! I’ve noticed that even when some people are doing things that do not work they’re unwilling to either ask for help or be open to try something new. I know I find it tough to admit when I’m doing something that isn’t working – that’s human nature. I also know that phonics works for thousands of children. But it’s heartbreaking that the children in that London school will leave school without learning to read due to the simple stubbornness of those in charge to accept some free assistance.

For years the debate has raged about the efficacy of different reading methods, and I have been caught up in that too because it’s a very emotive subject. But it’s time we all stopped stubbornly holding to one particular view and embrace whatever works for the child. We must all pull in the same direction of the end result, which is to get every one of our children to read before they leave school. In my experience that is an entirely achievable goal.

How schools could save thousands of pounds.









All schools have many demands on their money. All schools also have children who are not reaching the required level in reading skills and so need intervention programmes to remedy the situation. There are many available, most of which have an array levels and accessories that offer work on all aspects of reading in the hope that by the time the child moves up to secondary level, they will have caught up with their peers. Of course, these programmes do not come cheap, but schools will often divert precious financial resources to if the programmes achieve their aim.

And then there’s Reading Revival.

Just one toolkit will suffice to turn around all a schools’ students from non-reader to a reading age of 7 years in just one term. Impossible? We have plenty of parents and schools who have tried it and can hardly believe the results. There are no complicated workbooks or flashcards to grapple with and there’s no special training needed to use the toolkit. This is all you need to do:

  1. Learn 12 words by heart. (2 or 3 days)
  2. Sit with the child while they read the first book that consists only of those 12 words. (5 minutes)
  3. Sit with the child while they read the second book consisting of the first 12 words plus 8 new words, prompting or reminding the child where necessary. (With sessions of 5 – 10 minute per day: about 3 days.)
  4. Read each successive book, which add a few more new words to each book. (About 6 weeks to book 18)

At this stage a child will be able to read half of all the most used words in English and will have a solid reading base – even if they had zero reading skills to start with.

Then, if necessary, Toolkit 2, Books 19-36 will take a child on to complete reading fluency in a further term.

The toolkits work just as well for children with special educational needs because they are so easy for the child to understand. And the best bit for schools’ limited budgets? The toolkits only cost £60 each. Imagine turning round all your struggling readers and being able to divert all the money earmarked for that to other pressing things on your ‘to do’ list.

It can’t be done any quicker – or cheaper – than this. Just try it. You’ll be as amazed as all the other schools who are using the Reading Revival method.

A sample blog entry

Hi! This is just a sample blog entry.