These blogs will enable you to gain a better understanding of the potential barriers to reading children may face and identify strategies to overcome these potential barriers. We will explore the role that talk and language play when learning to read.
The Simple View of Reading is a good place to begin. The Rose Review of 2006 provided teachers with a model that attempts to represent the processes involved in reading. The diagram illustrates that there are two distinct processes: language comprehension and word recognition. In order to be a good reader who can tackle unfamiliar texts and make meaning from them, we need both good word recognition and good language comprehension. This model is useful when considering potential barriers as we can begin to group the barriers into the two specific areas of word recognition and language comprehension.
The simple view of reading
According to the DfE Teacher Assessment Framework, by the end of KS1 the expectation is that pupils working at the expected standard will be able to: read accurately most words of two or more syllables; read most words containing common suffixes; read most common exception words. In age-appropriate books, the pupil can: read most words accurately without overt sounding and blending, and sufficiently fluently to allow them to focus on their understanding rather than on decoding individual words; sound out most familiar words accurately, without undue hesitation. These statements are directly linked to word reading, rather than language comprehension. A child may be able to do all of these things through the use of word recognition alone. So, what might be the barriers for children in Year 1 and Year 2 in moving towards these expected outcomes? How can we best support those children who may not have reached this standard at the end of Key Stage 1 as they move through KS2?
Let’s track back from Year 2 to early on in the process of language acquisition. There are generally considered to be seven aspects of the first phase. In these early aspects of phonological awareness, children are learning to distinguish between sounds around them. In some cases, through careful interaction with children, practitioners may notice that some children are finding it difficult to distinguish between different sounds that may sound similar.
We may need to focus some children to the shapes that our mouths make and how the mouth shape changes with different sounds. These early stages also involve children in word play. Playing with rhyming words, alliterative words and playing with different voice sounds. If children move these early aspects too quickly, or have too few opportunities, then you may find that when it comes to oral blending and segmenting, they do not have sufficient practice to be able to effectively blend and segment orally. The skill of oral blending is an essential step in learning to read.
These building blocks provide essential foundations for children to begin blending phonemes when reading. Children who still find this difficult need additional practice, but we also need to make sure that we do not at the same time slow down their acquisition of phoneme-grapheme correspondence. For many children, these aspects of sound discrimination and phonological awareness will continue to be important as they begin to learn letters.
In July 2021, the DfE published a Reading Framework that added additional guidance to that in the National Curriculum. The Framework state that high-quality group or class teaching is an effective way of ensuring good progress for the majority of children. Practitioners will therefore be able to identify those children who may need additional support, and who may be in danger of falling behind. For these children, providing good quality group teaching, focusing on oral blending and sound discrimination will be a very worthwhile intervention.
This is dependent on very good assessment for learning to identify which children and what children can and cannot do on a day-to-day basis, as well as a rigorous tracking system involving regular checking. Within the framework, much of the guidance on the teaching of phonics is rooted in good Formative Assessment practice; for example, making sure that children what they are learning and using teacher assessment to determine the next steps. There is also an expectation that all children will participate throughout phonics sessions, and they give the example of ‘call and response’ to ensure that the most is made of the time available.
Later on in the Reading Framework, they caution against turn-taking strategies, which mean that some children are passively listening to other children, rather than actively participating. When considering barriers to reading, we need to consider how and when children choose to participate. Full participation, even for young children, is essential in helping them to apply their knowledge of the alphabetic code. Following the recommended sequence that you will be familiar with, Revisit and Review, Teach, Practice and Apply will support the children to connect the new knowledge with their prior learning, demonstrate new learning in bite-sized chunks and ensure that children are given opportunities to apply what they have learnt.
Jim Rose (2006) points out that, “developing children’s positive attitudes to literacy, in its broadest sense, from the earliest stage is very important. In the best circumstances, parents and carers, along with schools, do much to foster these attitudes.” Early reading experiences involving play, story, songs and rhymes are crucial, alongside high-quality phonics to develop word reading as well as reading comprehension.”
What we may think of as a pre-reading activity, helps to ensure that children have a wide exposure to print, for example: seeing their names, noticing labels, and hearing and seeing texts simultaneously, when stories and non-fiction texts are read to them. Well before children are able to read, they need to understand the idea that print carries meaning. All of these things will ensure that once they begin to read, children will stop overtly sounding out the words, and as it states in the statements for the expected standard by the end of Key Stage 1, they will be able to read most words accurately without overt sounding out and blending, and with sufficient fluency to allow them to focus on their understanding, rather than on decoding individual words. Children who do not do this as quickly as expected, may have missed out on the essential concept that print carries meaning, and therefore think that successful reading consists of sounding out, even when the word is known.