Posted on: 30/04/2021

A recent report published in the Times Educational Supplement was rather uplifting to read: finally we have the media reporting with less doom and gloom on the impact of lockdown upon children’s educational  progress. The report, produced from research by GL assessment, states that there has not been a catastrophic reading decline for children during the Covid pandemic. However, they do report that there has been a dip in the standardised reading ages of children and that "Primary school children seem to have been affected a little more than secondary school students, but not significantly". 

Here at St. Helen’s College, we are delighted that the reading ages of our children increased by a year or more in every year group (Y2 - Y6) in the year in which the first lockdown occurred. This was achieved through your commitment as parents and the continued reading provision from school across the curriculum. We use the GL assessment tool and were truly delighted with the analysis of our data on the children’s return to school.  

However, it is not all about us using data to assess the progress of the children with their reading. Of utmost importance is how we all engage them each and every day to use their reading skills, not only to read for pleasure but as a key skill for them to be able to understand and engage with the world around them.  We learn to read and then we read to learn!

As a parent of a young child, you are the most influential and most important teacher that your child can have. It is never too early to start reading with your child and your children’s journey with literature should be started when they are tiny little babies. This is a precious time for parents to snuggle up with your newborn, exploring the awe and wonder of each page you look at. The black and white books which are best in those first few months will encourage your baby to focus on lines and patterns in monotone as your baby starts to make sense of the blurry world they have been born into. By the time they are about four months old, your child begins to see the world around them in more colour and there is such a wonderful array of books available to stimulate interest and curiosity.

By the time your children start school or Nursery, books should already be a familiar part of their lives and I am sure that your children all have their favourites which they will love to read over and over. Such rhyme and repetition is important as they start to build their linguistic ability.  

I still have such fond memories of my nightly snuggle with my daughter as we read and re-read her favourite book, ‘Time for Bed Little Ted’.  We still have this furry-backed book on the bookshelf and even at the age of 21 she will pick it up and we have fun reciting each page, taking us back to those precious childhood days. 

I am delighted that our children at St. Helen’s College are such passionate readers and, although our library may not be operating quite in the usual manner at Upper School, our committed school librarians, Mrs. Emanuel and Mrs. Smith, continue to provide the children with an array of exciting and inspiring reads and to encourage their love of reading for pleasure.  

Another positive to come out of the pandemic is that adults also seem to have ‘rediscovered their love of reading’, with sales of non-fiction increasing by 16% in 2020.  I hope that your love of books has been reignited and many of you may have revisited favourite books and found new books to enjoy.  Please allow your children to see you engaging with books as often as possible. Reading for pleasure is so important and an activity we all need to allow ourselves to enjoy! So over this bank holiday weekend, I urge you to put down your mobile phone, close the computer, put your feet up with a good book and have your family join you in some quality family reading time!

Mrs. Drummond