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Better, but bored

The teachers, children and policy-makers of England have done well to raise 10-year-olds' reading achievement into the top three in a major international study. Only a decade ago we were just about average. Another notable accomplishment is that the so-called "long tail of underachievement", although still of great concern, has been trimmed, if not docked. The National Literacy Strategy must be credited for its sharp focus on reading, the range of texts covered, and the comprehension skills taught.

But we still have an attitude problem. This country is in danger of bringing up a generation that is technically competent, but bored with reading. England's 10-year-olds are less likely to read for fun than children in lower-scoring countries such as Russia and Iceland. So it seems that the Government's success is mixed. Could the pressure of high-stakes testing be dampening children's enthusiasm?

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