Helping your Child in Reading

What are we doing to help your child at Caterham?

A recent survey by Renaissance Learning, an educational software and hardware company, suggested that many 16 year olds struggle with the Literacy demands of GCSE exam papers. The survey, which involved 29,000 15 or 16 year olds across 1,100 schools, reported that the average reading age of these children was five years below their chronological age. Renaissance Learning also tested GCSE exam papers for reading difficulty- and found that these papers were correctly pitched at 15-16 year old readers. This means that a great many students taking their GCSEs do not have the reading skills to access the exam papers. We recognize these potential difficulties at Caterham and are determined to close the gap between students’ reading skills and the Literacy demands of national examinations.

At Caterham we are constantly striving to improve students’ reading skills in all their subjects. At KS4, pupils are taught HOW to read their exam papers, at a word, sentence, and text levels. They are taught what key words to look out for in exam papers, and how to respond to them. Additionally, lessons at KS3 in all subjects are geared towards boosting students’ reading skills through a range of techniques- for instance, teacher questioning, group discussion, and DARTS (Directed Activities Relating to Texts). It is the school’s aim to enable all students to become effective independent readers.

We also regard it as vital that students become enthusiastic readers for pleasure. The school holds regular Reading Weeks, where students have extended reading opportunities every day throughout the week, and chances to discuss their reading. In English, and several other lessons, pupils regularly visit our well-stocked library. We are lucky to have an experienced and enthusiastic librarian, Mrs Guest, who is able to help pupils choose great books. The Library is a busy place during students’ lunchtimes!

So what can parents do the boost students' reading skills?

Reading is like any other skill- for instance, learning an instrument or a sport- in that our skills are improved through practice. And conversely, if we don’t read regularly, we are unlikely to get better. If pupils don’t read at all outside their lessons, or have only restricted access to texts, they won’t improve as quickly as those students who are regular readers. So it’s really important to get children reading as much as possible, and learning to enjoy books and the wonderful worlds that they can show us.

At home, pupils should have opportunities and encouragement to read in quiet places. Research from Renaissance Learning suggests that children should try to read for at least half an hour a day for optimum progress. If that is not practical, a short period of reading before bedtime is a great way of getting kids ready to sleep, as well as being its own reward- it’s much better than a games console!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask your children to read to you, whatever their age- it's a good way to spend time with them after a busy day. It lets you discover how well they are reading, too. Discuss with them what they are reading, and what books you’ve enjoyed reading, too. And this applies to Dads in particular!
  • Why not consider books, e-readers, or book vouchers as an alternative Christmas or birthday present for kids?
  • Boys naturally gravitate towards non-fiction books, which is fine- but often they only need a little push to enjoy fiction as well.
  • It’s easy for all of us with busy lives to get out of the habit of reading. But it really encourages your children to read if they see you reading too. Try to take time out to enjoy reading great books- why not join a book club, or set one up yourself?

Useful Links

Below are some really useful links to help you improve your child’s reading.

A brilliant site for book lovers by book lovers!

The website of the National Literacy Trust, an excellent charity that supports all Literacy skills for all parents.

The London Evening Standard’s excellent Reading campaign- there are links here if any parents would like to get involved and become volunteer readers.