This observation was made with reference to the National Literacy Trust's involvement with aiming to raise levels of language for pre-schoolers. The person making this observation wrote to colleagues:
I wonder if any of you heard this week’s Radio 4 Appeal. They aim to collect BBC approved funds through this route. It was on behalf of the National Literacy Trust. It was presented by Gabby Roslin.
The gist was:
Mother, Ashley cannot read and nor could her parents before her. So, she does not realise how important it is to have books in the house for her son James.
James is at nursery and has very poor language – he has ‘no words’.
In general the language ability of some children entering school is one and a half years behind their peers. These children struggle with school and this negatively impacts their life chances.
So the answer to this?
If you support the National Literacy Trust they will train a Nursery Nurse who will teach mothers to ‘read’ stories to their children using the pictures in books and toys. The ability to ‘read’ a story to James would have been impossible before for Ashley. But she obtained the help of the NLT and now James’s literacy skills have overtaken those of other children (presumably now he is at school?).
No distinction is made between language and literacy and there is no suggestion that the school might have taught James to read.
The implication is: If you want to change children’s lives support the NTL. £50 will enable a Nursery Nurse to teach parents how to tell stories to their children. This increases their confidence and allows families to escape poverty.
The listener (to the Radio 4 programme) made this further comment:
The NLT appears to be confusing speech and language with literacy/reading.
Improving speech and language in the home environment is obviously topical right now and is fundamental – all of us agree.
However, oral language development although necessary is not sufficient to ensure children learn to read.
The NLT present this simplistic and emotional view that improving oral language in the home is the key to learning to read and to escape poverty.
Misleadingly, there is no mention of the direct teaching of reading in the way the Department for Education has fully promoted and continues to support.
I'm linking this post to the responses to the recent Phonics Debate in Australia. In short, there has been a huge response to the debate and quite an outcry that the debaters on one side (known as the 'negatives') suggested that the answer to literacy is mainly in the home, rather than the consequences of evidence-informed, systematic synthetic phonics teaching. I won't elaborate here but the number of parents and people from dyslexia organisations who went out of their way via Twitter to provide photos to show the extent of the literature in their homes - protesting that their children had
been read to extensively
and yet still
had trouble with reading and writing.
The Phonics Debate and responses:viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1044
Of course it makes a huge difference to children if their homes are
language and literature-rich - but the teaching of reading
through evidence-informed content is still of paramount importance.