Our Book of the Week this week is an education title Beyond Early Reading by David Waugh and Sally Neaum. Beyond Early Reading is written for primary trainees and teachers and focuses on a range of issues to develop children who can read into children who do read. Here the authors explain their motivation for writing the book and what they were hoping to achieve. We look forward to hearing your thoughts as you read the extracts from the book over the course of the next few days.
As all of us in education know, a key focus in primary education in the last few years has been teaching systematic synthetic phonics to early readers. For some children, this has been achieved within a broad and rich language curriculum advocated by the 2006 Rose review. These children will have undoubtedly benefited from using their developing skill in reading to engage with the wealth of children’s literature that is currently available. Others, however, may have been less fortunate, enduring a literacy curriculum lacking engagement with texts beyond those which are easily decodable, and featuring limited opportunities to hear their teachers bring texts to life in reading sessions. Whilst we know that phonic skills are vital to young readers, we also know that the best way to turn young children into readers is to see these skills as a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves.
Therefore, we wanted to produce a book which would offer both ideas and a rationale for developing children’s reading once they have mastered the early stages, and to show how teachers can engage children with texts. This is a vital aspect of early reading, particularly for children who have perhaps become disillusioned by an earlier “thin” diet. To achieve this, we invited a wide range of educators to contribute chapters. All have been or still are teachers in schools, and some have gone on to become teacher educators and researchers. What they all share is that a passion about reading and developing children’s engagement with a wide range of texts.
In seeking contributors to the book, we looked for people who had great ideas for engaging children’s interest in literature, but whose ideas were underpinned by research. We found teachers and trainee teachers who could offer examples of successful lessons which had fired children’s enthusiasm. So there are examples of children visiting a premier league football stadium, a playground, and their locality. The power of Harry Potter to inspire young readers is explored, and there are several examples of enthusiastic teachers sharing texts in innovative ways, and helping children to create their own. And there are wonderful examples from the staff of Seven Stories – people whose lives revolve around children’s literature and who work with schools all over Britain.
At the heart of taking children beyond early reading is a recognition of what children actually read, including electronic texts. This is an area strangely neglected in the new English curriculum, but one of such crucial importance that a chapter explores possibilities in depth.
We also wanted to look beyond the primary school and so asked an expert in working with children outside mainstream schools, and an experienced secondary English teacher to share their ideas and experiences.
Ultimately, we wanted to create a book which we would have welcomed when we were developing our teaching careers – one we could have been inspired by and one which would have helped us to develop our pupils’ reading skills and their love of texts. We think we made great choices when we invited people to write chapters, and we’ve found ourselves itching to get back into the classroom as we have read and discussed their ideas. We hope our readers will enjoy reading the book as much as we have enjoyed compiling it.
David Waugh & Sally Neaum