Declining literacy outcomes: where do the solutions lie?

Declining literacy outcomes: where do the solutions lie?
A 2016 survey on the reading habits and preferences of children revealed that the majority of Australian kids aren’t the readers their schools need them to be.

More than 60% of children aged six to 17 are not frequent readers, according to a the study by Scholastic Australia and YouGov, a leading market research company.

Fast forward one year and the latest round of NAPLAN results show Australia’s literacy outcomes failing to improve, with a 2.04% decline in writing skills across all year groups since 2011.

So where do the solutions lie?

Research on this issue has offered some insights as to how schools can improve students’ engagement and outcomes in this critical area.

For example, the Australian Kids and Family Reading Report (KFRR) shows that an overwhelming 91% of kids aged 9-11 – and 93% of kids aged 6-8 – agree that their favourite books to read are the ones they have picked out themselves.

Carolyne Wildman, head of marketing at Scholastic, said this is where book clubs play an important role.

“Young children can look through a catalogue of exciting new books and old favourites, and choose one or two they want to read from a wide variety of genres and clearly labelled reading levels,” Wildman told The Educator.

Wildman pointed out that many teachers often circle their personal recommendations for individual students before sending home to parents.
“Looking through a catalogue of safe books together is a great way for parents to start reading conversations with their kids and get their children excited about reading for fun,” Wildman said.

“We strongly believe that every child deserves to own their own books. There is a plethora of independent research linking the size of a home library to a child’s reading ability and level of enjoyment with reading for fun.”

A long running initiative of Scholastic has been the Gold Coin Book Program, which provides children with a $2 book made available in every reading level on every issue of Book Club.

“This means no one misses out. We then give the schools who are participating in Clubs 20% back in Scholastic Rewards, to help them better resource their libraries and classrooms with free books and learning resources,” Wildman said.

“In addition to the many competitions we host every term around exciting new books and reading, we also host, free-of-charge or obligation to all schools and children, many independent reading programs to help our Australian schools and parents raise readers in our communities.”

Wildman said these include the National Family Reading Month and Read More in May Challenge, with $10,000 in books given away as prizes for reading every year; the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, to help parents keep the reading momentum rolling through the long summer break and avoid the well-known “Summer Slide” backwards in level when children do not read during holidays between school years.

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