Over the last few months I’ve been working on projects teaching reading and speaking to three very different levels of readers. I’ve worked in a Primary school, with 7 year olds, in a Secondary school with 12 year olds and just recently on an ESOL scheme teaching adults to speak and read English. Reading with an adult is reading with a genuine partner, with a very active learner, who offers ideas and challenges the teacher effectively to improve their learning, even when their language skills are not great. These adults are focussed and learn well.
For too many of both the y3 and y7 pupils reading is an enemy, reading causes anxiety. It involves a lot of failure. Working with the children, you can see how complex it is to learn to read, and to feel powerful. One way we can make the difference is by giving children one to one attention. Not enough schools supply this valuable time but even in half an hour a week, a child can be carefully helped to acquire the skills that form the basis of all other learning. Working one to one is different to listening to the rising clamour and disorder of the average classroom, with its perpetual restless ‘on the edge of control’ feeling. How can we get more volunteers into schools? The current system puts up barriers to allowing outsiders into schools but we’re also shielding our least privileged children from learning.