Andy Mitchell from Radio Wave

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You know how I like to work in anniversaries? Well last week it occurred to me that this year is exactly 50 years since I started school at Westcliff Infants, and therefore 50 years since I learned to read.

Now there are some, who quite rightly, having heard the five o’clock news a few weeks ago when almost everything went wrong, may suggest that 50 years later, I STILL haven’t mastered it... but we’ll gloss over that for now.

Back in 1968, many will remember the future destiny of the nation’s readers was left in the capable hands of the Happy Venture Readers series of books which avidly followed the antics of Dick and Dora and their pets Fluff and Nip. “Nip is on the mat” “Fluff is on the mat” etc. etc. It was just what was needed to equip 21st century newsreaders with the knottier aspects of pronouncing the names of international footballers no doubt.

I was thrilled to go back to Westcliff last week to find out how today’s kids are learning to read. I went back into my old classroom to join some five year olds who these days come armed with iPads and a whole new way of getting to grips with grammar, sentence formation and, of course, spelling.

I’m reminded of those, who in the late 1960s, were used as guinea pigs for the Government’s latest reading fad ITA which taught through phonetics. They even had their own section in Bispham Library, and I’m told, 50 years later, still have difficulty with their spelling.

The kids at Westcliff now whiz through personal learning programmes, but there’s still a chance to “read out loud”. Now THIS, I think is absolutely key to confident reading in kids, and this is where mums and dads still come in each evening.

The Headteacher at Westcliff is still sending books home at night just like her predecessors did, proving it’s still vital to read a story together just before bedtime.

Time’s change, the latest teaching techniques come and go, but now we are seeing how the latest technology is helping our kids... but reading aloud with your child is still fundamental I’d say.

Dick and Dora would approve. “Dick says yes” “Dora says yes” “Fluff has got the ipad”.