It is possible to train children to pass tests in reading and writing, but unless the child is a reader they will not have the skills to become fully literate. There will always be a glass ceiling limiting their development.
The simple fact is the reading child is a successful child. If you read for pleasure you absorb the rhythms and patterns of written language; you engage with the conventions of spelling; you synthesise the rules of grammar with the need to communicate.
In the light of this, I would argue a few simple points:
* reading and the school library must be at the heart of the curriculum with professional librarians co-ordinating book provision;
* money should be spent on this not another futile government initiative based on the current testing regime which would inevitably be built on sand;
* teachers should have their administrative burden reduced so they can read something other than useless documents and communicate their enthusiasm for the written word to their pupils;
* every class should have a book of the week with a child's review of it displayed;
* there should be a national tour of writers and celebrities raising the profile of reading;
* the Government should launch a national campaign in schools and the media to "switch off the TV for an hour a day". Parents and children would be encouraged to read without the distraction of electronic media.
I am convinced such a plan of action would substantially raise standards of literacy - and not one child would have to undergo a test to achieve that blessed objective!
Alan Gibbons Children's author and teacher 13 Chatsworth Avenue Orrell Park Liverpool