Alan Coady’s comment on my post Avoiding unquestioning orthodoxy evoked such a long reply that I am making it into a couple of new posts.

 First he said: Learning to read can sometimes appear such a complex and varied process that it occasionally seems a miracle any of us manage it at all.

He’s so right:  learning to read is an extraordinary achievement. Sometimes I think our children do it despite what goes on in school. I mean this in no way negatively about our infant staff. They almost universally do a fantastic job. But in between wiping noses (or blood. Or worse.), listening to interminable stories about lost teeth, doing up shoe laces, and generally helping their charges to sit still, hold hands, tidy up after themselves, and do no harm, the fact that so many 5 and 6 year olds do learn to read and write is a major miracle!

Secondly, he asked about the meaning of fostering a “literacy environment” in the community.

Many parents and carers need support in understanding the crucial importance of creating an climate that is favorable to learning to read. Sharing books at home is only one strand. Drawing attention to the shapes and meanings of words on menus, shop signs (few 3 year olds can’t recognise the Golden Arches of a well known burger chain!), flyers that come through the letter box, etc. is another way parents and carers can engage their children’s interest and awareness. Playing word games, particularly if these include rhymes (‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a log…’) and alliteration (‘Wibbly Wobbly Woo, an elephant sat on you. Wibbly Wobbly Wilery, An elephant …’), is also likely to help a child develop literacy.

In addition, many schools consciously develop links with the community. They take their pupils to the local shops, doctors, dentist, in order to explore the way writing is ubiquitous. Some communities have ‘literacy walks’, akin to a nature trail, that encourage little ones to observe and be excited by words and language.

I don’t know the answer to Alan’s query about the figures of children leaving school. Sorry. I shall try to find out.

Alan’s final point necessitates a whole post to itself.