The current labour government is criticising the Tory party for their pronouncement that testing should ensure all children have learnt to read to an acceptable basic standard by the age of six or seven. There is of course the utterly correct supposition that not all kids thrive on testing. But the really big point I am finding difficult to get past is: Six is so very bloody old to learn to read, let alone seven!
I'll happily admit that this may come across as idealist snobbery, but children should should be reading a round about three or four. I personally think that teachers should be expecting that all kids should arrive at school with reading as a skill. Now I don't think that this needs to be an empty politicians promise, it surely would save money to catch those that need extra help reading early and give them a little help before they arrive at school behind. I would like to see the statistics on how many children learn to read by when and any research on why. I would like to know if my knee-jerk reaction that there is a significant cadre of children who arrive at school without having had any proper guidance in reading is correct. I say guidance rather than "being taught" because there is a big body of evidence that suggests children don't benefit from early formal learning (this is the line that the teaching unions are using) but my personal experience is that children want to learn to read, they want to be in the club of deciphering those enigmatic runes. The problem is it takes time and effort, reading stories, sounding out words, playing with phonetics, being willing to spend the time and effort all day every day to help the children in your life to do that sounding out and answer the questions. This is why I may go looking for research in this area, to see how many hours each week an ordinary parent spends helping their child to read and how many parents in this day and age have the extended family or support network of friends to give their ankle-biters the best start in life.
Recently many conversations I have had with new acquaintances have been about the contrasts between the old concept of right and left and how the political compass gives the whole thing another dimension, well this is an issue I am firmly in the authoritarian camp on, the state should do its utmost to ensure parents are kept in line and help their children to read, with any learning difficulties identified early and appropriate assistance rendered. Any parent deliberately not engaging with encouraging this most fundamental of skills, far more so than understanding science or mathematics as hugely valuable as they are as building blocks, is tantamount to child abuse and should lead to the same amount of scrutiny from social services.