NEWS INDEPTH

Reading campaign launched

A new campaign, Read On Get On, has been launched with the aim of ensuring that every child born this year is able to read well by the time they leave primary school aged 11, in 2025. Fundamental to this will be tackling the inequality that impacts reading skills among poor children.

The report (download via link, below), commissioned by Save the Children in partnership with Read On Get On, states: "In Britain primary education for children has been compulsory for at least the last 150 years. Yet to our shame, thousands of children leave primary school each year unable to read well enough to enjoy reading and to do it for pleasure, despite the best efforts of teachers around the country...Four out of ten children on free school meals are not able to read well by the age of 11."

New research shows that the UK has the strongest link among developed nations between poor literacy and unemployment. Last year a quarter of all children left primary education without reading well each year, rising to two in five poorer children.

Among these:
45% of low-income, white British boys were not reading well by the age of 11;
Low-income, white British boys, who have English as their first language, are even less likely to be reading well by the age of 11 than many low-income groups for whom English is not their first language;
The reading gap between boys and girls in England is one of the widest in the developed world: boys are twice as likely to fall below even a very basic reading level.

The gap between the best and worst ten-year-old readers in England is broadly equivalent to seven years of year 4 or 5 schooling. Only one other country in Europe, Romania, has more unequal reading attainment among ten-year-olds.

In England, struggling to read is more closely linked to low pay and the risk of being unemployed than in any other developed country, including the USA; around one in four people in the UK earning less than £10,000 were not functionally literate. The cost of people not being able to read could be as high as £32bn, or 2% of GDP, by 2025.

The 'Read On Get On' campaign, a coalition of charities, businesses and educationalists, is calling on all political parties to support its target of making sure every child born this year is able to read well by the time they leave primary aged 11 in 2025.


The group is calling for action across four main fronts.

1. Celebrating the enjoyment of reading across all communities, since children who do not enjoy reading are ten times more likely to have fallen behind at school by 11.

2. Ensuring all children have strong early language skills, before starting school; by the age of three, there is a gap in early language skills of almost a year and a half between children from the best-off and poorest families.

3. Ensuring that primary schools remain ambitious for pupils' reading skills; the report found that, were all schools to improve at the rate the best have achieved over recent years, then by 2025 close to 100% of pupils could be reading well.

4. In homes: supporting mothers and fathers especially in reading with their children; children whose fathers read with them less than once a week at the age of five had, by the time they were seven, a reading level half a year behind those who had been read to daily. Reading for just ten minutes a day can make a big difference.


However, the report also highlights the gap in the UK's education system that generates this inequality; in 2012, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that the gap in reading ability between high-achieving 15-year-olds and low achievers of the same age was equivalent to over eight years of schooling. In 2013 the OECD also found that England's 16 to 24-year-olds have literacy levels no better than those of their grandparents' generation. At least one in six adults in the UK today has a literacy level which is below that expected of an 11-year-old.

The goal of the Read On Get On campaign is that all children in the UK should be reading well by the age of 11 by 2025.

The measure of ‘reading well’ that the campaign has adopted is the new 'expected level' for 11-year-olds from 2016 onwards. This new measure - in educationalists' terms an equivalent to a current 'level 4b' - is a significant step up from the current expected level (known as level 4).

Reading at this higher level has been shown to give children a solid chance of going on to get good GCSEs; only half of those children who achieve the current expected level go on to get five good GCSEs including English and maths.

The report concludes: "This is a very challenging, concrete ambition. But, with the right action and ambition, it can be achieved. It is possible to ensure that children born this year, in 2014, will be the first of a generation of children in which all children are reading well by 11. The impact for these children will be profound. The impact on the UK could be transformational".

You can download the report via this link:

08/09/2014Reading campaign launched
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