When students return to the classroom, catch-up will be the single biggest priority for schools.

More than ever, bridging the reading gap is imperative. Three lockdowns in, students who struggle to read will be experiencing the greatest impact from being out of school. Reading is key to success, not only in school but throughout life. Reading is something that all teachers do, and something that we expect all our students to do. But how well do we understand what reading involves, and what can we do when students struggle? Just as reading is essential for students, it’s essential for all teachers to understand how reading works, and to know what to do when there are problems.

When the hubbub over remote lessons, live teaching and working from home subsides, we are going to be left with a legacy of students who have a lot to catching up to do. And if they struggle with reading, the gap will be bigger and catching up will be harder. As one senior leader recently wrote to us in an email:

During this third national lockdown the effect on children’s literacy and reading development has been, and will continue to be, considerable, particularly for those most disadvantaged.”

Disadvantaged students are twice as likely to have reading problems than the average. These are also the students less likely to have access to the IT equipment that supports them through remote teaching. And they are also much more vulnerable to the effects of poor teaching than their more advantaged peers. To avoid exacerbating the already yawning divide between those who read and those who can’t, we need to know how to foster reading, how to build motivation and stamina, and how to give feedback that results in real improvement.

Lockdown seems interminable, but it will, eventually, be over. When it is, catch-up will be the only game in town. Wisely, some schools are already thinking ahead about their strategy for catch-up when students finally return to the classroom. One important strand of that strategy will be to equip all teachers with the key knowledge they require in this indispensable skill of reading. Reading is key to acquiring knowledge, and knowledge is power.

The first step is to explicitly teach ground rules and expectations around how reading happens in your classroom. For example, all students will feel safer if there is an explicit ‘pass’ option when you are taking turns reading around the classroom. This one simple step can make your classroom a safer place for the student who is anxious about being humiliated by having their reading problems put on display. They will learn much better if they are less anxious.

It has been noted many times that there is a great deal for all teachers to learn about reading. That’s why we wrote this book, Thinking Reading: what every secondary teachers needs to know about reading. We’re pleased that our publisher, John Catt, has offered schools a discount of 40% or more on bulk orders. (We could give you lots of positive quotes to say how useful the book is, but it’s probably simpler to check out the reviews on Amazon.)

The book is concise, designed to be read in about three hours. There are six chapters, each of which takes about half an hour to read, making them very suitable for reading and then discussing during CPD sessions.  Each chapter has extensive research citations for those who want to dig deeper. It will explain why reading is so important for students, and why it matters for every teacher; how we become skilled readers; and will help to dispel many of the harmful myths that currently circulate about the causes of reading problems. We also look at whole school systems, classroom practices and principles of effective intervention.  So, although it’s short, it’s comprehensive – and highly relevant at this critical time.

If you’d like to take advantage of the publishers’ discount, contact Alex Sharratt at John Catt (alexsharratt at johncatt dot com), or contact us through the website and we’ll put you in touch.