Read On

Reading England’s Future: Blog from I CAN CEO Virginia Beardshaw

Read On. Get On. released a new report last week, Reading England’s Future: Mapping how well the poorest children read. I CAN is a founding coalition member of this national language and literacy campaign. We are working with our coalition partners to ensure that communities are mobilised so all children read well by age 11.

The latest report from the Read On. Get On. coalition. sets out the issues we are trying to rectify at parliamentary constituency level. It shows us that no part of the country is reaching Read On. Get On.’s goal for children. And we know that local responses will need to be formed, as there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to ensuring education and health, communities and businesses can all work together.

The research shows however that some areas will have further to go than others. How well poor children are reading varies massively across the country. In the best performing areas, close to nine out of ten poor children read well. In the worst performing areas, four out of ten are falling behind. This means that there is no part of the country that does not need to do more to reach the goal of all children reading well by 11. Find out how your local area is doing and check your postcode scorecard.

The report highlights how levels of early language development are critical to whether or not children are behind in reading by 11 – and that is not just in the early years, but right through primary school.

This fits with what we already know – early language development is key to developing good reading skills. We know that successful development of literacy depends upon good spoken language skills. If children struggle with these skills at an early age it puts them at risk for literacy difficulties later on. Some of the key skills for reading are good speaking and listening abilities, which develop from birth, but these are often taken for granted. This emphasis needs to be noted and supported across families, communities and schools.

Language skills are amongst the best predictors of educational success and language development at the age of two years predicts children’s performance on entering primary school. However, we cannot be complacent as even where there are relatively good levels of language in early years settings, these need to be built on. We know that children’s language continues to be important throughout schooling in underpinning reading outcomes, particularly for reading comprehension – a crucial element of ‘good reading’ and critical for academic success.

Children with poor levels of language and reading at age 11 will leave primary school with considerably lower educational outcomes than their peers. That is what Read On. Get On. is aiming to address. Good practice can be seen in areas and cities across the country, like in Sheffield who have brought together partners across health, education and social services to promote children’s language development. Their programme, Every Sheffield Child Articulate and Literate (ESCAL) has had a positive impact on language and reading outcomes across the city.

The Read On. Get On. campaign wants to ensure that all towns, cities and rural areas across England are supported to develop the best outcomes for children. The coalition is working towards:

  • all early years settings and schools signing up to support and promote the achievement of the Read On. Get On. goals in their local community.
  • working with early years leads and headteachers to encourage them to become champions of the campaign, with some settings and schools becoming beacons of good practice for working with their local communities to celebrate and improve reading.
  • the creation of talking and reading towns and cities, which, critically, bring together schools and early years services, following the lead of places like Sheffield, which have embedded a focus on language and literacy in early years settings and schools to improve reading levels.

At I CAN we will be supporting the campaign to make sure that we raise awareness of the language skills needed for reading with communities, settings and schools to ensure we meet the campaign’s interim goal of good early language development for all children by aged 5 by 2020.

Read the report and get involved at