Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

Literacy - March 2012

Last night, Aimee, my seven-year-old niece, read to me.  Moments like that are very special.  She reads so well and, most importantly, she also reads alone, for pleasure.

As long as we keep encouraging her to find new and exciting books, I’m confident she will develop a reading habit that will stand her in good stead for her continuing education.

Driving home I listened to the radio news.  Ofsted reports no overall improvement in literacy standards since 2008.  100,000 children couldn’t read properly when they left primary school.

The Government appears to believe changing the method of teaching children to read, by placing stronger emphasis on phonics, will improve literacy levels.

As I listened, I felt uneasy: and not just because the Government may try to prescribe the way teachers teach.  I think we all learn in different ways.  What we need more of are gifted teachers with appropriate resources.

My unease stems from the edgy feeling that our children are being told, yet again, that they are failing.

Do we not repeatedly hear that the GCSEs and A Levels they take are too easy?  The courses they study are not rigorous enough etc., etc.  It’s a constant drip: drip.

Tell people they’re failing often enough and they will come to accept it.

It’s like George Osbourne and the economy.  ‘Our’ chancellor wrongly compares our economy with Greece’s and tells us, if we don't do as he decrees, we will end up like them.  In the USA they behave positively, invest to create jobs and their economy is growing.  The stimulus and confidence is working.

To learn to read, our children need the right stimulus, good teaching, and good books at home and at school.  They need praise and encouragement.  Give them the tools and they’ll make a success of their future.

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