Link to article Guardian
Much research has focussed on the effects of literacy on educational outcomes. A recent report published by the National Literacy Trust, entitled The Literacy Guide for Secondary Schools, for example, has found that literacy is essential to fully developing a sense of well-being and citizenship. Young people who are solid readers perform better academically, have a healthy self-image, and become lifelong learners, enhancing their employability in a highly competitive world.
However, the report produced an alarming set of statistics which shows that there is a ‘serious problem’ with literacy levels in schools, in spite of ‘much good work’. It estimates, for instance, that 20% of English 11-year-olds have not mastered the literacy skills needed to achieve level 4 at key stage 2. A quarter (26%) of 14-year-olds fail to reach the standard expected in English, with only 67% of 14-year-old boys achieving the target level 5 at key stage 3. And most worryingly of all, there are an estimated 5 million adults in this country who are illiterate.
The report also found that many of the young people who are the worst affected by literacy problems do not read at home. Indeed, large numbers of them spend a huge proportion of their time using mobile phones, watching television, and accessing ‘fast facts’ via the internet. The tragedy is that children and adults who fail to develop the necessary skills in reading and writing are prevented from fully participating as member of society.
But there are solutions. The report found that book-reading translates into improved academic performance in all subjects. Moreover, young people who read for pleasure do better in Maths and English than those who rarely read in their free time. Strikingly, the report states that reading for pleasure is a more accurate predictor of academic success than having parents with a degree. In short, the report urges schools and colleges to encourage students to read more in order to boost overall academic performance.
Amidst a range of subject-based strategies to encourage academic reading, the College has decided to set aside 20 minutes per week for all students to read simply for pleasure. This period will be devoted to independent, supervised, silent book-reading. Students will be encouraged to bring along their own reading material. Teachers will also be on hand to guide students’ reading, and to recommend books – either fiction or non-fiction – which will cater to a variety of literary tastes. The College believes that this exciting new initiative will not only make reading fun, but will also help to enhance levels of literacy amongst our students.
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