To address suggestions on improving the ways in which children learn to read, the National Literacy Strategy was conceived in 1998, but by 2003 it was evident that more new concepts were needed. Results indicated that areas of need for children learning how to read still existed.
Marian Sainsbury, principal researcher at the National Foundation for Educational Research, includes in a Literacy Today article (2004) a survey of 4,671 children, Years 4 and 6 combined, comparing 1998 with 2003, which shows that in 2003 children were significantly less interested in reading and going to the library, more interested in watching TV [SEE chart, next page]. Children surveyed in 2003, "after five years of teaching according to the National Literary Strategy" (par. 11), did show more confidence and independence, but although there had been some improvement in reading skills for the pupils in England, by comparison, their enjoyment of reading was poor.
Sainsbury notes that teachers rather than the children often choose the reading material for the "literacy hour" in some schools. This is a practice that might discourage a child's interest in further reading, since the child has no input. Children do prefer reading by themselves silently and at home, and giving them more choices in the school setting might well increase their interest level.
In a University of Reading press release (2003...
They were invited to discuss the subject further by writing brief papers, expressing their concerns. The published papers are presently available at www.ncll.or.uk. According to the press release, "The authors argue against attempts to analyse and categorise the novel, story or poem, to 'stick labels on it, teach-and-preach it into a coma . . . or kill it off altogether with some kind of test' " (par. 3). The effort to meet curriculum needs in the classroom in early education creates stress, and teachers don't feel they can give pupils more freedom to learn at their own pace because they have to meet certain standards. Some of the issues addressed by the Early Years Curriculum Group (2000) that continue to be relevant in 2006 are listed below. They confirm the need for a more relaxed setting:
The current emphasis on literacy and numeracy is having a negative effect on some young children's earliest experiences, particularly in the maintained sector and most particularly in children's reception year (par. 1.2)
There is substantial evidence from research in this country, and from overseas, that a later start to more formal aspects of language and literacy learning will lead to quicker gains in competence in reading and writing, and actually to higher standards at age nine or 10 (1.5).
Reporter Wendy Berliner, in her Guardian article "War of Words" (2005), outlines the success of a Scottish reading program using synthetic phonics and discusses the pros and cons of the system. In 1998, three hundred Scottish children were taught to read using diverse programs. Of the three programmes followed, synthetic phonics showed the best results after seven years. The proponents of