Pleasure can mean progress

19th December 2003 at 00:00
Congratulations to the Arts Council for urging us to put pleasure back into reading (TES,December 5). If we restore the pleasure principle for both teachers and children, we might even reverse the significant drop in favourable attitudes to reading that has followed the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy.

So we should welcome the loosening up of the strategy. While not forgetting the technical lessons that children have to learn, we should encourage schools, teachers and children to develop their own areas of interest and expertise, with a focus on enjoying and making sense of whole texts.

A new emphasis on pleasure in the text might even improve test scores as well. Let's remember that the teachers of the most successful children tend not to stick slavishly to the strategy. And while in England test scores have failed to move up for the third year running, in Wales, where schools and teachers are allowed much more autonomy, scores have continued to improve.

Competence and positive attitudes can go together. They do in Sweden, where the 10-year-olds came top of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study for their test scores and also high up on the table of favourable attitudes. But if we carry on as we are? We just might be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Henrietta Dombey Professor of literacy in primary education Education research centre University of Brighton

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