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Michael Rosen backs local author's reading campaign
A CHILDREN’S author is championing a campaign to get the Government to rethink its plans for how youngsters should be taught to read.
Ed Wicke, from Overton, has asked the Government to implement the Ofsted recommendation on reading for pleasure and to withdraw the phonics screening and spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for children at the end of Year 1 and Year 6.
A petition put together by Mr Wicke has been backed by former children's laureate Michael Rosen and has been signed by more than 90 children’s authors and illustrators, including Jeremy Strong and Philip Reeve.
It has gained national media attention and was published on The Guardian’s website. Mr Wicke said: “This is a forceful call for a common-sense approach – an approach which keeps in mind the aim of any literacy strategy. This is that children should read fluently and enjoy reading so much that they continue reading outside the classroom.”
The authors believe the Government’s draft Primary English Curriculum pushes reading towards becoming an academic subject for six to 12-year-olds, with tests and learning objectives dominating and emphasis on a “narrow and expensive strand of ‘synthetic phonics’.”
Synthetic phonics involves teaching letter-sound correspondences, with children building up pronunciations for unfamiliar written words by translating letters into sounds and blending the sounds together.
Mr Wicke, a father-of-three and grandfather-of-four, said: “There is no evidence that it helps children to read with either pleasure or understanding. Basic phonics, however, have been taught successfully for generations.”
The 58-year-old, who has written 13 children’s books visits around 30 schools a year. He added: “I know that what children need is a combination of reading skills, taught by a range of methods, teachers who have the time to enthuse them about reading, and books that the children actually want to read.
“The draft curriculum will instead remove time and resources from all this and direct those minutes and pounds to a range of dreary, academic exercises that will benefit no one except a few businesses that produce the workbooks. Tests will replace reading for pleasure.
“If children enjoy reading, they will read. The more we make it a chore the less they will want to do it.”