Why ‘Early Reading’ is problematic

The phrase ‘early reading’ encompasses an awful lot. We perhaps think of the phrase as strictly referring to children in either reception, year one or year two. However, in my experience, this is where the problem lies. ‘Early reading’ does not refer solely to those who are the youngest; it refers to anyone who is in the formative stages of their reading development, regardless of age.

Why is this problematic, you ask?

Well, without considering who is in the early stages of their reading journey, we end up with children in year 5 or 6 doing independent, silent reading with the rest of the class, when they cannot decode efficiently. This occurs simply because these children are deemed to be beyond the stage of ‘early reading’, because they are older than the age we normally attribute to early reading.

Some children need extra help from the start. Sufficient time must be given to ensuring these children undertake the school’s phonics programme. They will need extra practice. Without this necessary support, these children will go in to key stage two without being able to read in line with their peers. They fall by the wayside and the gap between them and their peers widens.

Consequently, these pupils travel through the key stage two curriculum being unable to read and therefore unable to access the curriculum (at least in part). They begin to dislike reading and see it as a chore, because they are being forced to look at something everyday that is unknown and insurmountable. They read less as a result and the gap continues to grow. I saw this countless times as a year 6 teacher. As I told my school leadership at the time, we had failed these children.

So, what is the solution?

These pupils need intensive 1:1 or small group interventions throughout EYFS, KS1 and throughout KS2, until they are confident enough to read alone. They absolutely must not be left to read independently with the rest of the class when they cannot access it. Treat these children as if they are in the stages of ‘early reading’. Give them the support they need and deserve. The same principle applies for those in KS3 or KS4 who struggle to read (e.g. a new pupil who has joined from another country).

For greater insight into how to achieve this, I highly recommend you buy ‘The Art and Science of Teaching Primary Reading’ by Christopher Such – be you a primary or secondary teacher.