Start children reading early and they’ll keep turning the page

Caroline McLeod, Bookstart national development manager for Scotland, says Bookstart can help to tackle falling literacy levels.

With Scotland currently occupying 26th place on The International Reading League table, and frequent reports in the press about the country’s falling literacy levels, it is becoming increasingly clear that the main answer to the problem is pre-school intervention.

It has been proven by Bookstart, a UK-wide programme administrated by the national independent charity Booktrust, funded by the Scottish Government and supported by more than 25 children’s publishers, that babies and toddlers who are exposed to books on a regular basis are further ahead in reading, writing, numeracy and listening skills when they reach school.

This is because the first three years are crucial in providing the foundations for learning throughout our lives. This is when we learn to talk and it is during this time that our brains develop at a tremendous rate.

Bookstart In Scotland Day gives the gift of free books to all children at around eight weeks, 18 months and three years, along with guidance materials for parents and carers’

No advantage to setting – experts say

The BBC reports that setting in primary schools by ability has no clear advantages, but can have a detrimental effect on children in the bottom groups, a new report says.

Setting is when children are in ability groups for different subjects. Those in the top group work faster and have enhanced learning opportunities, with teachers expecting more from them, a team of academics from London said. But those in the lower groups can be stigmatised, and often have their activities restricted, the report said. The findings come nearly a decade after then prime minister Tony Blair said schools needed to “take account of different abilities, for example by setting”. Another finding of the paper, published as part of the Primary Review – a wide-ranging examination of primary school education – suggested class sizes should be cut to a maximum of 25 to help young children who struggle with reading. It also suggested that smaller classes could help children in the first year of secondary school.