"The survey, which questioned 410 secondary school English teachers, found the majority (94%) thought their pupils preferred to spend time online.
"Two-thirds of those polled said reading was not seen as 'cool' by pupils.
"Nearly three-quarters (74%) warned that pupils did not spend enough time reading outside the classroom
“According to Unesco (the United Nations agency which promotes knowledge), the biggest single indicator of whether a child is going to thrive at school and in work is whether or not they read for pleasure."
How we encourage a love of reading in the face of so many other distractions is something that must be addressed. However, there is a danger that the Department for Education in England could make matters worse with its emphasis on phonics, books that support the teaching of phonics and reading tests, making reading a chore not something to be enjoyed "decoding" rather than reading for meaning or for pleasure.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education's Report of the Inquiry into Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy warned that a mechanical adherence to the use of phonics can "switch off" children from a love of books:
"Literacy is the key to the curriculum. Pursuing phonics without considering whether pupils can comprehend what they're reading, and without paying any attention to whether children enjoy reading, will switch children off. Learning to read especially a complex language like English cannot be reduced to a mechanical process."
The APPG recommends that to raise literacy standards, a well-rounded reading culture needs to be encouraged:
"The active encouragement of reading for pleasure should be a core part of every child's curriculum entitlement because extensive reading and exposure to a wide range of texts make a huge contribution to students' educational achievement".
Voice has expressed its concern about prescriptive methods and the excessive use of formal testing:
"Although phonics pure sound is often the best way to teach children to read effectively, there are some children particularly those with special needs for whom phonics is not successful. Not all children learn to read in the same way and the good teacher needs a variety of methods in order to meet the needs of every child.
"The Government is only 'promoting' the use of phonics in schools yet wants to test all pupils on them.
"A decoding test for individual words taken out of context not a reading test, which puts words into sentences and tests comprehension is a fairly blunt instrument and any competent teacher would certainly have recognised by then that phonics were not working for certain individual children and would be using other approaches.
"If the Government genuinely wants to leave teachers to teach, then it shouldn't prescribe how they should do it!"
In its Official Response to the DfE's Year 1 Phonics Screening Check Consultation, Voice stated:
"Although phonics is important, it is not the sole indicator of reading ability. Not all children learn in the same way. We must recognise that for a few children phonics is not necessarily the only answer. For example, some dyslexics and dyspraxics may stumble if 'words' are not contextualised. Phonics should be used by schools as part of a wider toolkit to support children in learning to read."
"The test should comprise either totally of words or non-words. If there is a mixture, children may attempt to make real words out of all the items. There is a good argument against the use of non-words. Children tend to find 'abstract' difficult and non-words are unrealistic to a child without context or experience. This may discourage the enjoyment of reading from a young age. We are also concerned that the use of non-words only measures one approach to learning to read rather than the ability to read per se."
"the test will be imposed on every Year 1 pupil in England next summer potentially leading to a variety of hugely detrimental consequences, including 'teaching to the test' resulting in a reduction of pupil enjoyment, comprehension and wider reading".
An article, "Funny phonics", in the January 2012 edition of the Voice members' journal, "Your Voice", asked "Why is the Government insisting that systematic synthetic phonics is the only credible methodology for teaching children to read?" The article quoted an anonymous poem that:
"highlights some of the absurdities of English spelling and underlines some of the difficulties of relying solely on a phonics approach to the teaching of reading":
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead
For goodness' sake don't call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there's dose and rose and lose
Just look them up and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart
Come, come, I've hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I'd mastered it when I was five!"
Do let us know your thoughts on phonics, reading (rather than the town of Reading that could wound some people's feelings and cause them to be wound up) and how we can encourage children to read for pleasure