A Practical Guide to Teaching Reading in the Early Years


Ann Browne

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • About the Author

    Ann Browne is a lecturer in the School of Education and Professional Development at the University of East Anglia where she co-ordinates the PGCE early years programme and contributes to courses for serving teachers. She has had and maintains her experience of working with children throughout the early years. Her two previous books on aspects of the English curriculum have both been published by Paul Chapman.


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    Knowing about reading, planning a reading curriculum and managing a class so there is sufficient time to teach every child to read often seem to be insurmountable problems at the start of a teaching career. Even after many years of experience teachers can still lack confidence in their ability to teach reading effectively. There is no shortage of advice from statutory bodies, researchers, lecturers, teachers, parents and the media. The very multitude of the advice available is in itself confusing since it is often conflicting. What is the place of phonics in learning to read? What does a real books approach mean? What does research have to offer the teacher? How do I teach children to read well?

    Every day adults and children read a huge variety of texts which demand the use of many different strategies. Reading is a flexible activity which involves the use of a variety of cognitive skills. It is not a simple activity and consequently there are no simple solutions to the question of how to teach reading. It requires knowledgeable practitioners who appreciate its complexity and are willing to take a flexible approach to teaching if it is to be taught well.

    It is probably still true that ‘there is no one method, medium, approach, device or philosophy that holds the key to the process of learning to read’ (DES, 1975, para. b, p.77). Experience and research have shown that teachers who create environments in which learning can occur easily are more successful than those who adhere to particular methods or materials. Teachers who are aware of the complexity of the activity, clear about teaching aims and intentions and who plan for reading so that all aspects are covered regularly in a purposeful and structured way will help children to learn to read and to appreciate the place of reading in their lives.

    The authors of the Bullock Report (ibid., para. 6.2, p. 77) went on to write: ‘We believe that the knowledge does exist to improve the teaching of reading, but that it does not lie in the triumphant discovery or re-discovery, of a particular formula.’ I share their belief and with this sentence in mind I have written this book to try to lead readers through what can at times seem a confusing and difficult area. My intention has been to clarify some of the jargon and anecdotal practices that are associated with reading and to present some suggestions about the teaching of reading in the early years. I have taken as the starting point the advice which HMI have consistently offered in their reports on reading since the early 1990s and which is now enshrined in the National Curriculum for Initial Teacher Training (TTA, 1997) and the National Literacy Strategy (DfEE, 1997). In these documents it is suggested that those who teach reading well have a thorough knowledge of the subject and are effective classroom managers.

    We are entering a period of immense curriculum change in literacy. Teachers are being asked to adopt unfamiliar approaches to teaching reading and students are entering classrooms where these new practices are not yet established. This book is intended to help those who work with young children, from nursery to the beginning of Key Stage 2, to implement the new requirements for reading. It examines the statutory requirements, classroom management techniques, assessment and approaches to planning for reading and places these practical considerations in the context of up-to-date thinking about learning to read. The first chapters of the book are intended to provide readers with information about reading. They introduce readers to the knowledge and understanding that need to underpin good teaching. Later chapters look at effective classroom organisation and suggest ways of managing the reading curriculum in the early years. These two aspects, subject knowledge and pedagogy, are drawn together in the final chapter which is concerned with planning.

    Reading can be one of the most rewarding, satisfying and useful human activities. I hope that this book encourages readers, who may be student teachers or experienced practitioners, to explore the challenges and complexities of teaching reading and to convey its possibilities to the young children they teach.

    AnnBrowne April 1981
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