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The Art & Science of Teaching Primary Reading, by Christopher Such – OTT SCITT, Primary Subject Specialist, Linda Hull’s book review and why you should read this.

In our OTT SCITT primary curriculum we know it is essential at an early stage to emphasise the importance of all pupils being able to decode, read with fluency and understand their reading.  Reading is, after all, one of only two subjects to have a discrete section in the ITT Core Content FrameworkThe Reading Framework (DfE, 2023) reminds us in no uncertain terms that “all educators have a fundamental role in ensuring all pupils learn to read”.   Learning to read and developing positive attitudes to reading are both crucial for future success, in school and beyond.  

I strongly recommend to our Associate Teachers that, in addition to this key government document, they read Christopher Such’s accessible, concise and fascinating book, The Art and Science of Teaching Primary Reading (2021).  Why is this book at the top of my educational reading list?  Quite simply because the elements of effective teaching of reading are explained with a clarity that cannot fail to improve our understanding of this crucial area.      

Such puts into context the simple view of reading, giving enough background about the development of the English language to give substance to the ‘English is very complicated’ cliché, whilst explaining clearly the evidence that underpins the systematic phonics approach in place in our primary schools.   In each section the implications for the classroom are outlined making the book an excellent tool for reflecting on practice as well as your understanding of this essential area of teaching and learning.  

Whilst reading Part III of the book, focused on comprehension,  I found myself wishing this book had been written years ago to inform and enrich my own classroom teaching.  Such’s description of each element, and crucially how they come together to enable children to fully understand what they are reading, is simply excellent.  In his final sections he talks about ensuring a rich and varied reading diet in school, and forming an action plan both as a classroom teacher and a school leader.  These are concise, bullet-pointed lists; an ideal support for busy teachers wishing to evaluate and improve their practice.

It is for good reason that Chris Such is a regular on educational podcasts such as Thinking Deeply About Primary Education.  His book is packed full of practical ideas applicable to the classroom, sharing a range of strategies and resources, but more importantly inspiring teachers to think and reflect deeply on their practice.  In Such’s own words:  “Teachers need to know what reading entails, how children learn to do it and how it can be taught most effectively.” At OTT SCITT we whole-heartedly agree that this is a priority for our Primary Associate Teachers; this book is an excellent tool to support them in becoming reflective practitioners and excellent teachers of reading.