Current Literacy issues across practice, policy and research


Literacy Today No. 45, December 2005



The last three months have seen a furious debate raging on the subject of dyslexia. In September, Professor Julian Elliott of Durham University wrote an article for the Times Educational Supplement, in which he claimed that poor readers sometimes want to be diagnosed as dyslexic because of a widespread, but wrong, perception that dyslexics are intellectually bright. He described dyslexia as a “construct”, which had gained currency largely for emotional, rather than scientific, reasons and said that after 30 years experience, he had little confidence in his own ability to diagnose it.



Dyslexia is not a myth

Susan Tresman, Chief Executive Officer of the British Dyslexia Association and Margaret Snowling, Vice President of the BDA, confront the controversial issues raised in the recent Channel 4 programme, The Dyslexia Myth.


The Dyslexia debate: more heat than light?

Julian Elliott, Professor of Education at Durham University, answers his critics following the controversial Channel 4 programme, The Dyslexia Myth.



Adult literacy will benefit more from exposure to creative writing

Rebecca O’Rourke, researcher and teacher of creative writing, discusses the themes of her latest book.


The Success For All approach can make a difference

Marilyn Jones-Hill and Wendy Houldey write about what the Success For All programme, a comprehensive literacy programme for primary aged children, has done to prevent children falling through the cracks.


English 21

English 21 was a series of independent events intended to stimulate discussion about the principles and underlying trends that will inform future policy on the teaching of English. Janet Whitereports on some of the feedback.


Independent Reading

The use of phonics has raised questions about when children should first start reading a book for themselves. Sara Wernham writes about how the ‘Jolly Readers’ scheme helps children gain confidence in their reading ability.




We report on Education Secretary Ruth Kelly’s speech to the national Skills for Life conference in York and the Vital Link conference at Kensington Town Hall on the importance of reading for pleasure, both of which took place in October.


Document Reviews

The documents reviewed this issue are the Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading:  interim report from Jim Rose; and Skills for Life in Colleges: one year on and English 2000-05: a review of inspection evidence, both from Ofsted.



Adult Literacy and Numeracy; Flying Start with Literacy; Increasing the Attractiveness of Libraries for Adult Learners - final report; Informing Practice in English; Insights from Research and  Practice: a handbook for adult literacy, Numeracy and ESOL Practitioners; The Key to Effective Literacy,  Language and Numeracy Teacher Training; Libraries Impact Project Report; and Outside the Classroom: researching literacy with adult learners.



Atlantic Inquiry

We report on the most important research and policy developments over the last three months in the United States and Canada.


Meaningful applied phonics

In this longitudinal study, Linda M. Phillips, Stephen P. Norris and Dorothy J. Steffler of the University of  Alberta provide evidence that a programme of meaningful applied phonics instituted in Edmonton, Canada, resulted in children performing less well than those using other phonics programmes.


Sure Start Language Measure

This study produces standardised scores for the Sure Start Language Measure (SSLM) by age and gender. The SSLM is a measure developed by City University to monitor the language performance of two-year-old children in Sure Start programmes since 2001.


Children’s and young people’s reading habits – The ‘what’ and ‘why’

Christina Clark, Senior Research and Policy Analyst, reports on the National Literacy Trust’s recent survey of over 90 primary and secondary schools in England, which explored why some pupils choose to read and others do not.


Early warning

Katherine Rowe, of the Royal Children’s Hospital and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Australia and  Ken Rowe, Research Director at the Australian Council for Educational Research, write about the need to identify the approximately 20% of children who struggle to follow verbal information and who are at high risk  of falling behind in literacy achievement.


Holiday reading is Rad

This successful and cost-effective project was designed to encourage adults to read with children each day of the holidays to prevent summer fall-off of reading skills.


Parent Mentoring Initiative

This report, by Dr Ruth Gorinski of the Pacific Coast Applied Research Centre, evaluates a New Zealand scheme involving the forming of relationships between parents and school that enables both parties to contribute more effectively to the education of students.


Research digest

Ongoing Research, article abstracts and article titles.



Media Watch

Another round in the battle over phonics begins, as Jim Rose’s report on the teaching of literacy in primary schools is published. The world of education largely recognises that synthetic phonics has an important but not exclusive place in the primary classroom. Politicians and Press do not necessarily see it that way.



We report on oral questions to the Secretary of State for International Development on children’s literacy in Africa, as well as answers to written parliamentary questions in the House of Commons covering the period September to December. These include questions on key stage 2 spelling and the Playing with Sounds phonics programme.




National Literacy Trust News

Annual conference 2006; Survey of children’s habits; New director for RIF; Supporting Starbuck’s Bookdrive  Celebrating Reading Connects; First Choice Books; Vital Link Reading for Pleasure campaign.


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