Moral panic again hits Australia as PISA results show that in Australia, and particularly Tasmania, our literacy standards are slipping compared to the rest of the world. The newspapers all but scream “Our schools are failing our children”.
So it was with some interest that the first issue of New Scientist (16/11/2013) I received of my new subscription contained the article, Too much too young. In that article David Whitehead and Sue Bingham point out that, contrary to the received wisdom in the English speaking world, children who go to school at 5 perform worse than those who enter formal education at 7.
Research consistently shows that, in the long term, those children who undergo early formal literacy training compared to those who do not, gain no advantage. Quite the contrary:
“However those who started at 5 showed less positive attitude to reading and showed poorer text comprehension than those who started later”. p 29
We of the CBCA are not focused on literacy but are focused on children enjoying and reading quality literature that gives pleasure. It should, for them as it did for me, give them experience of real and imaginary worlds contained within that literature. For this enjoyment, literacy is a necessary condition but by no means sufficient. It seems a single minded pursuit of literacy is inimical to this aim.
We would be better investing in and promoting public library use and reinstating school libraries as the heart of the school.