Picking up sub-skills of reading

7th March 1997 at 00:00
The BBC script writer John Sullivan, in conversation with Sarah Conway (TES2 February 21), records that, as a child, he found books boring, incomprehensible and to be avoided. That changed when his teacher, a Mr Trowers at Telfer Scott secondary school, Balham, brought books to life for him by reading them aloud, funny accents and all. In addition, as John Sullivan listened, his head buried in the book, he understood all about punctuation and grammar.

In the new Teacher Training Agency curriculum for teacher training, outlined in the same TES, the "essential core" is totally to do with sub-skills: breaking down compound words, paragraphing, graphic and phonic knowledge, apostrophes in the right place. Why does the TTA not listen to the evidence of John Sullivan and thousands like him who indicate that sub-skills become interesting and easy when experienced within a context of a teacher who likes reading, knows hundreds of children's books and reads aloud well to the class? Why are not these the first "basics" in the national curriculum for primary English?

Mr Trowers gave John Sullivan "Dickens fever". What sort of fever will the new curriculum give our students and their pupils?

Judith Graham, Principal lecturer Roehampton Institute London SW15

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