In recent years, there has been a concerning trend in declining literacy levels among
children, and the latest data from SAT performance markers only reinforces this issue. The
numbers paint a stark picture: only 73% of children now meet the expected minimum
standard in reading. While standardized testing provides an approximate measure of
decoding and fluency, it serves as an important indicator of the challenges our young
learners face. In response to this worrying trend, the Department of Education (DoE) has
taken steps to flesh out its reading framework to support children in improving literacy from
ages 7 to 14. This article delves into the latest data on children’s literacy and explores the
DoE’s non-statutory guidance in its reading framework.
The Importance of Literacy:
Fluency in reading is not merely a skill; it’s a gateway to success in education. A child's ability
to learn academic vocabulary and comprehend complex concepts hinges on their capacity to
decode and understand new words. Literacy is the cornerstone upon which a pupil's future
academic journey is built.
Recognizing the critical role of literacy, the DoE has amended its reading framework to
empower teachers to nurture literacy development among children. The guidance
underscores the idea that learning is intrinsically tied to literacy development. Children who
struggle with literacy past year 1 can experience withdrawal, anxiety, or behavioural issues.
However, many schools find themselves ill-equipped to provide adequate support for such
children, and secondary teachers often lack the specialized training required to teach
children to read effectively.
The DoE Reading Framework:
The DoE’s reading framework offers a comprehensive approach to address the challenges in
children’s literacy. This non-statutory guideline advocates for best practices in early reading
and aims to provide children with the best possible start in their literacy journey. The
framework focuses on three core areas of reading: phonics, comprehension, and reading for
pleasure, recognizing the pivotal role these aspects play in fostering confident, fluent, and
Reading Aloud: Prioritizing reading aloud in reception and year 1 with daily Storytime
sessions can create a nurturing reading environment.
Diverse Stories: Selecting stories that reflect children’s lives and experiences, as well as
those that help them understand the experiences of others, encourage empathy and
broadens their perspectives.
Building vocabulary: Choosing books with challenging words and encouraging discussions
around them helps extend a child’s vocabulary. Stories that evoke a range of emotions
foster a deeper connection to reading.
Challenging Texts: Planning texts that challenge vocabulary and exploring cross-curricular
opportunities to link them can make learning more engaging and meaningful.
Repeated Phrases: Multiple readings of stories, initially for enjoyment and later for
vocabulary exploration, ensure active participation from children.
Passionate Teachers: Teachers who have a genuine love for books and stories, and keep up-to–
date with the latest releases, and guide children in finding stories suited to their interests
can inspire a lifelong love for reading.
Phonics Emphasis: The DoE continues to emphasize the importance of a systematic
synthetic phonics scheme as the primary strategy for teaching children to decode words
Addressing the decline in children’s literacy is a pressing concern, and the DoE’s revised
reading framework offers a ray of hope. By prioritizing early reading practices and
emphasizing the crucial role of teachers, parents, and communities, we can collectively work
towards reversing the trend and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to become a
confident, fluent, and competent reader. Importantly the research about the correlation of
early reading ability success in reading shows children have a positive life trajectory, leading
to good academic and psychosocial outcomes whereas hampered reading skills lead to less
desirable outcomes. Literacy is not just a skill; it’s a gift that opens doors to a world of
knowledge and imagination.