Learning to Love Literacy

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By Hilary White

This article explores the importance of literary in the early years setting.

Children reading in a nursery

Disagreement about the role of phonics in early literacy learning will probably never go away. There is plenty of evidence that children do need phonics knowledge in order to decode words, leading to a big push for phonics learning once children start formal schooling during their fifth year. On the other hand, learning phonics is a struggle for some children and there is a danger they will be put off books before they reach the stage where they can read comfortably. Phonics is also not the only knowledge base needed to read the often phonetically irregular English language. While a balanced approach seems the obvious answer, a recent study found that many children in primary schools are getting far too little opportunity to read for pleasure .

This is where the practitioner working in the early years setting has somewhat more flexibility than colleagues in Key Stages 1 and 2. In 2020, Ofsted stated that it has ‘no expectation’ that phonics should be taught formally prior to Reception, and that if phonics teaching takes place in the early years setting, it should only be with children who are developmentally ready. This leaves the early years practitioner free to focus on the essential task of helping children get to know, enjoy and have fun with books. It is therefore arguably an omission that the revised 2020 Literacy early learning goals make no reference to reading enjoyment, although the non-statutory Development Matters guidance refers to a love of reading in its introduction to the Literacy section.

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