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Put pleasure at heart of learning to read

"Why would we in the literacy club want to keep our poorest children on the outside?" asks Geoff Barton. The answer is: to stay ahead of the hoi polloi. Otherwise English spelling would have been improved long ago to make at least learning to read easier.

The inconsistencies of English spelling are an extremely effective means of ensuring that the children of parents who are unable to assist their children's speech development and reading leave compulsory schooling nearly as ignorant as when they entered it. That's why most educated people abhor the idea of spelling reform. They like the advantages it guarantees for their children.

If we cannot bring ourselves to make spelling more child-friendly, there is only one way of helping our poorest children become avid readers: give them the kind of long-term support that middle-class parents give their children, not just in the early years but throughout their school days.

Masha Bell, Former English teacher and author of Understanding English Spelling and Learning to Read.

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