BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

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BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Wed Jul 06, 2016 3:47 pm

This BBC documentary may only be available online for the 29 days it states.

You will see heartwarming footage but, from IFERI's perspective, you will also some heart-wrenching footage.

This is because there are indications in the video of children being taught by mixed methods - some of which will be damaging to at least some children - and we do see some children struggling with the eclectic approach taken by the school combined with parents given the responsibility of support at home with what looks like the wrong kind of guidance from the school (or perhaps no guidance from the school).

We see indications of practices that are clearly warned about in the findings of extensive research on reading.

You'll need an hour to watch the footage, but if you're interested in this field, it will be well worth the watch:

B is for Book
[Updated link thanks to Susan Godsland] ... e=emb_logo

(See below for an active link to the documentary via youtube.)

The school has been judged 'outstanding' by the Ofsted inspectorate in England - but some of the practices we see are not outstanding.

The school gets good national results, so why are we so concerned if, one way or another, the children appear to reach high standards?

See what you think!

Most worrying of all: How many people watched this BBC documentary and have been misled as to what 'good practice' (that is, research-informed practice) in reading and spelling instruction should consist of?

We see Read Write Inc resources being used in the classroom, but the mixed methods approach we also see would not be recommended by the author of Read Write Inc, Ruth Miskin.

I’ve known Ruth for many years - I know she feels strongly that her programme should be taught with fidelity. Her experience shows that muddling her approach with non-decodable reading schemes confuses children and considerably slows progress.

In fact on investigation we find this is actually a 'Reading Recovery' school so although Read Write Inc resources are used, the reading instruction approach in the school includes multi-cueing guessing strategies rather than a close adherence to the systematic synthetic phonics teaching principles which include cumulative, decodable reading material as provided in the full Read Write Inc programme.

Here is a thread which highlights questions raised about the efficacy of Reading Recovery:

Below is the youtube link to the documentary: ... e=emb_logo
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Re: BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Wed Jul 06, 2016 6:12 pm

This documentary has raised questions via the UK Reading Reform Foundation, so I have cross-referenced with the RRF forum: ... 482#p50482

This question was raised:

Yesterday evening I watched a BBC4 programme with the above title, which presented scenes from a year at Kingsmead Primary School, Hackney. These included beginning reading instruction by teachers, interviews with children and parents, together and separately (interviewer a disembodied voice), parents helping their offspring with homework, and stop motion animation of stories that teachers were reading to the children. I was puzzled by the programme and worried by the teaching that it showed. There was a marked contrast between the teaching of correspondences and the later use that was made of them. Children's supervised reading appeared to be entirely from illustrated books; teachers failed to correct egregious errors (e.g. /the/ for "happy"); teachers as well as parents frequently corrected misreads by saying the whole word rather than insisting on identifying phonemes and blending. I got the impression of a locally assembled mixture of SP and non-SP elements.

Did any of you see this programme? I would be grateful for an expert assessment of what was going on.

Here is one response to the question raised:

The English National Curriculum states:

Pupils should be taught to read aloud accurately books that are consistent with their developing phonic knowledge and that do not require them to use other strategies to work out words.

These children were clearly being asked to read books that were not "consistent with their developing phonic knowledge" and that did "require them to use other strategies to work out words". So, the school was not following the national curriculum properly.

It seemed to me that they were being taught by the class teachers to sound and blend to read words and they knew what to do. And then they were faced with the other teacher who asked them to read books they couldn't read and suggested to one of them to look at the picture. I wonder what this teacher was writing as she listened to the children. I suspect she was doing miscue analysis, which is based on the notion that it is helpful to use a range of cues and the teacher must identify which ones the child is using. Of course, that makes no sense with synthetic phonics teaching.

One of the books went, "The ... is on the table. The ... is on the table." That is the kind of book designed for memorising words without phonics, not the kind of book designed to encourage phonic decoding. The little boy said, "This is a boring book."
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Re: BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Jul 08, 2016 1:42 am

Here is part of a message received about the documentary:

Hi Debbie,
You beat me to the draw on this BBC Documentary – I was about to contact you and others to see what might be done to counter its damaging effects to children’s progress in learning to read and much else...

... The film is a good example of seriously inept practice. If the school is using Read, Write, Inc. Ruth Miskin must be tearing out her hair. The teaching shows little evidence of her training as I remember it. Equally worrying is the fact that this is a school judged ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED. It should be drawn to Sean Harford’s attention.

The film has been drawn to Sean Harford's attention.

Further, the discussion continued...

Like so many of these films it seems to me to promote a story line that is focused on the characteristics of children and their families as revealed in the contexts of their homes and schools.

In so doing the portrayal of teaching is given short shift hence we get a strong impression of the failure of phonics, which will delight the anti-phonics brigade. Film makers set the agenda according to what they think will have high audience appeal. One of the best but saddest things about this one is that the parents - God bless 'em- are trying to do their best to support their kids and their schools - with dads as well as mums equally involved.

Anyone who is interested in the work and findings of IFERI will know that we have grave concern regarding attributing reading struggles to the 'within child' conditions (for example, individual learning tendencies or difficulties, and/or impoverished language, or English as a new language, and so on). This all too commonly takes one's eye off the type and content of the actual reading instruction and learning experience. That is why the findings of a broad body of research cannot be ignored. There is now a consensus that reading instruction, or reading experience, which involves guessing words from various cues, or providing children with books to read independently whereby they are forced to guess by default (which we see in the film), does many children no favours at all and can damage their reading progress and cause very poor reading habits. What we see in the documentary is individual children who are identified as having struggles with reading (and spelling) faced with words, sentences and texts that they cannot read (or spell) with absolutely no commentary whatsoever about the issues of teacher-training, teaching content, teacher delivery and our findings about teaching methods according to research and practice.

This is to be unaccountable in something which is so very serious.
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Re: BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Jul 08, 2016 1:45 am

Here is a further message in response to the documentary:

...This documentary perfectly exemplifies all the schools which claim to be 'doing phonics' but aren't. Which is to say it beautifully demonstrates the confused and confusing practice that continues to let down our most vulnerable children.

I also agree that Ruth Miskin must surely be very unhappy with this video. In fairness to her, even though RWI materials are being used, this is categorically not an overall approach I believe she would promote or endorse.

The broadcasting of this is typical of the approach which the BBC and other media still most often take. Despite very nominal nods to balance they actually continue to pander to what teachers want to hear, not what they should hear.
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Re: BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Jul 08, 2016 2:39 am

Jacqui Moller-Butcher has now written to me about the BBC 'B is for Book' documentary. She has written a detailed commentary and a 'gentle parody of 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' (original version by Michael Rosen).

To set the context for Jacqui's message, she drew my attention to her reflections on Michael Rosen's possible reactions to the documentary and pondered, 'how long it will take before teaching children to guess-to-read is completely eliminated'. You see here in England, Michael is known to be a vociferous critic of the government's promotion of systematic synthetic phonics and the statutory Year One Phonics Screening Check - so much so that he led a petition against the check signed by over 90 children's authors and illustrators.

Jacqui explained, 'I've enjoyed many Rosen books with my children but I do despair at his constant campaign to undermine SSP [systematic synthetic phonics]. I've included my fun version of 'Going on a Bear Hunt' as a little light relief although it does have a serious point.'

Jacqui made this discovery, 'I had no idea how deeply involved Michael's parents were with the whole language movement. Just this year his father, Harold Rosen, was thanked and acknowledged by Ken Goodman himself at the start of his latest book, 'Reading - The Grand Illusion' 2016. Throughout their prominent professional lives, Rosen's parents were closely connected to the leading figures of whole language it seems...

...Despite all this, when you read her published writing closely, with or without realising it at the time, Connie Rosen [Michael's mother] actually agrees with key principles of SSP on a number of points. She actually reinforces some of your own very important points. I think Michael would be shocked to know! All quotes below are from her book 'The Language of Primary School Children' 1973.'

So here is Jacqui's commentary about 'B is for Book' with references to Connie Rosen's observations:

It was heartening to see enthusiastic delivery of SSP alongside a strong focus on reading for pleasure in ‘B is for Book’ but disappointing to see approaches that dilute the impact of SSP which wastes the time of the teachers involved and limits attainment, even where attainment is deemed to be ‘good’.

I continue to be puzzled by a school approach that teaches children phonics with enthusiasm yet simultaneously teaches children not to use phonics when reading. To argue that ‘children are taught to use a variety of strategies including phonics to read’ just doesn’t add up.

It doesn’t add up because, in the early stages, while still insecure, it requires focus and concentration to decipher words using phonics. Given a choice at this stage of learning to read, most early readers will plump for guessing every time, especially when invited, encouraged and told to do so. If we teach something that we don’t want children to put into practice, we are wasting time. If we teach something that we want children to put into practice but they tend not to because of something else we tell them to do, we are wasting our time. It makes no sense at all to teach phonics and to teach guessing too.

In ‘B is for Book’, we saw a repetitive reader being used for reading ‘work’ with a Reception child. The little boy in the sequence could not access the text, presumably because it contained words outside his phonic range like 'table', and so he guessed the content of each page.

As long ago as 1973, Connie Rosen, Michael Rosen’s mother and lecturer in primary education, despaired of the use of repetitive readers that invited children to guess their way through a book – the very approach shown in use with struggling readers in ‘B is for Book’, 43 years later.

Connie Rosen describes her despair in her book (co-authored with her husband, Harold Rosen) ‘The Language of Primary School Children’ 1973:

'Difficulties arise when children meet the 'reader' and it is hard to know what justification there can be in maintaining reading material of such poor quality in the schools. What a pitiful return it offers for the enormous efforts a young child must make in deciphering it.'

She goes on to write: 'One six year old said she had discovered a quick way to read a page in her reader. She said if she read down the page she could say, 'Come, Come, Come, Come, See, See, See, See, Go, Go, Go, Look, Look, Look,' and so on, picking out the words repeated somewhere in each sentence. She had discovered the non-event of the language on the page and her gobbledygook was just as good as the stuff that was printed. 'Reading a page' did not even remotely mean to her following someone else's thoughts.'

Connie Rosen knew very well indeed that these kind of repetitive, non-decodable readers required ‘enormous efforts’ from the child to decipher them properly and so guessing is an easier option. We see this in 2016’s ‘B is for Book’ when the boy doesn’t try the first page at all – too enormous a task for him. After he is told what the first page says, he barely looks at the others. With a quick glance at the pictures, he says each sentence with the new item on the table inserted. And the result? ‘Reading’ by guessing is, as he says, ‘boring’.

Of course this approach is not at all part of any SSP programme. It is a throwback to a time before the 1970s - criticised for lacking justification and for offering a pitiful return by Connie Rosen – and yet we find it still in use in 2016.

As an aside, did the little boy mean ‘boring’, or did he mean that when asked to read something by himself for which he had insufficient reading skill, he felt angry and upset? Did he think that the exercise was a waste of time and was one in which he could not possibly succeed? Did he know that guessing each page wasn’t reading at all and he was embarrassed and so he lashed out? He’s unlikely to say, ‘I really think that I need to be taught to access this text before being asked to decipher it in order to maximise my chances of experiencing reading success’ and so ‘boring’ is the next best thing.

Allowing the guessing strategy to take hold undoes the teaching of phonics because if knowledge of phonics is insecure and/or decoding is not the primary habit, as the teaching of phonics peels away in KS2, guessing is all that’s left for children to use to make sense of texts.

We know guessing words incorrectly is common in KS2 readers of all abilities – even the more able, just less frequently. Without the instinct to decode, children look at a new word and try to recognise it like a face, wondering ‘have I met you before?’ They match the ‘face’ to a known face in their bank – reading ‘attractive’ for ‘activity’ for example, and move on. On this, Connie Rosen goes on to say that a ‘child’s response to a ‘sense of misfit’ is rarely to go back and re-read. He is more likely to accept it as one of the many things he doesn’t understand in life or simply to lose interest and discard the book.’ Even if the book is not discarded, if a sense of misfit occurs frequently, a grasp on overall meaning is lost.

Despite the best intentions of schools, Connie Rosen states that ‘We could say that the majority of children do learn to read, but it is also, unfortunately, true that only the minority even by the end of the primary school are real readers. The group of children who do become successful readers by that age, who will read three or four books a week on any and every subject is still very small.’ We are still facing the same problem today. If our children are guessing words as they read, habits made concrete by the use of deadly repetitive readers and the advice of well-intentioned adults, we can assume there are holes in the their understanding when attempting the longer, chapter books that we all hope for them to read. If there are holes in understanding, we knew in 1973 and we know now that they are unlikely to re-read to try to better fill those holes through further guesswork and this is very likely to lead to children discarding books all together.

Therefore, is it surprising that so many of our children lack enthusiasm for reading and that only a ‘minority … become successful readers’? Is the group of children who will read three to four books a week still ‘very small’ in 2016?

In ‘Understanding Reading’ first published in 1971, and republished many times since, Frank Smith himself, who believes that phonics is unnecessary because ‘Reading is as natural as recognizing and interpreting facial expressions’ and because ‘letters correspond to sounds only coincidentally’, states that even though ‘Prediction is the core of reading’, ‘Prediction is not reckless guessing’. He goes on to emphasise that ‘the meanings that listeners and readers bring to language can't be wild guesses’ and again, ‘Prediction doesn't mean staking everything on one wild guess (which would indeed run the risk of frequent error)’.

It is common knowledge that the cross-party parliamentary Education and Skills committee reported in Teaching Children to Read that ‘the NLS themselves accept that its ‘Searchlights’ model represents a pragmatic compromise between divisions.’ Dr Collins admits that the model was invented by ‘A group of us’ and that it ‘was something which three or four of us sat at one point and did.’ Unsurprisingly, the committee reported that they did not consider there to be ‘conclusive evidence of the National Literacy Strategy’s basis in sound research’.These facts and the fact that the model has now been replaced with the Simple View of Reading mean that no school should still be delivering SSP while teaching children to use other reading cues - and not for the last 11 years. There has been no logic to do so. No SSP programme can work effectively if it is diluted by teaching children to use other cues and whole language advocates believe phonics is not necessary. The Searchlights model was a made up hybrid and has been debunked. Dr Collins, one of the group who put together the Searchlights model, says in the very same enquiry that he ‘would be appalled if [he] saw a seven year old who was just guessing words’. He stated that 'to read well in English at all levels you need two things - you need absolute phonic knowledge, that is your first and foremost certainty, but you also need the ability to problem solve words that are not regular'. Dr Collins emphasised phonics over problem solving and he makes it clear that he views 'guessing words' appalling.

Further to this, revised criteria for assuring high-quality phonic work were published by the Department for Education in 2010, clearly stating that

‘…as pupils move through the early stages of acquiring phonics, they are invited to practise by reading texts which are entirely decodable for them, so that they experience success and learn to rely on phonemic strategies,

‘Phonic work is best understood as a body of knowledge and skills about how the alphabet works, rather than one of a range of optional ‘methods’ or ‘strategies’ for teaching children how to read. For example, phonic programmes should not encourage children to guess words from non-phonic clues such as pictures before applying phonic knowledge and skills.

And ‘It is important that texts are of the appropriate level for children to apply and practise the phonic knowledge and skills that they have learnt. Children should not be expected to use strategies such as whole-word recognition and/or cues from context, grammar or pictures.’

These criteria were not fulfilled in what we saw of practice in the Outstanding school in ‘B if for Book’, no matter how much the school enthused about reading for pleasure and no matter how dynamically they delivered phonics in the classroom.

If, on all sides, for over forty years, professionals engaged in researching reading have clearly stated that guessing is not a strategy for reading, it defies belief that more than half a century on, use of the repetitive reader and the teaching of guesswork is still normal practice in any of our schools.

Echoing Debbie Hepplewhite’s descriptions of how many children have learnt to read over the years by ferreting out, deducing or intuiting the alphabetic code, Connie Rosen observes from her own research that some children learn to read 'painlessly without noticing it in the space of a few months' and these children 'derive for themselves a basic set of rules about sound/symbol correspondence and also a knowledge of the grouping of sounds and the grouping of symbols'. She goes on to acknowledge that there is a sound/symbol correspondence in English but she says that [in 1973] it was 'difficult to teach a six year old the rules of the relationship between our sound system and visual system. He can be made aware of some of them and on the basis of this understanding he has to create understandings of his own about the text. Considering the difficulty of the operation it is scarcely surprising that some children have considerable difficulty in learning it.'

Connie Rosen felt at that time that ‘we know relatively little about how readers make sense of what they read’, We have an additional 43 years of research to shed light on the issue. Understanding has moved forwards. Of course, Connie Rosen was absolutely right. We didn’t have the knowledge, skills or systems in place to teach sound/symbol correspondences systematically and effectively at that time and so it was, perhaps, impossible to embrace the teaching of phonics even though, as she says, ‘it is true that recent research studies have indicated that there should be more attention to phonic work in the early years’, even in 1973. Perhaps alternative approaches have to be devised or relied upon where there is insufficient understanding of how to teach phonics thoroughly, and Connie Rosen describes a few very inventive initiatives that she felt were an improvement on the dominant use of repetitive reading schemes in the many schools she visited.

Today, however, the scope and detail of modern SSP programmes directly answer Connie Rosen’s concerns because we now have the system and the procedures in place to teach what was too difficult to attempt in 1973. There is no longer the need to teach guesswork at all. I should hope so after 43 years!

It was heartening to see reading for pleasure central to the school’s work on teaching reading in 'B is for Book'. Of course, learning to decode accurately and fluently is taught in order to read for pleasure, for information, for life. It was good to show that can be achieved easily as some teachers worry about the impact of an intense focus on phonics on time for reading for pleasure. And, again, we can look back in time and see that these concerns are nothing new...

Interestingly, ‘substandard books are the order of the day’, in 1973 Connie Rosen tells us, with ‘a constant demand for them.’ She seems to be referring to repetitive readers in particular (we know decodable readers didn’t exist so it can’t be those) and gives examples from her many school visits: ‘the reading matter presented… for five hours a day for two years was only the impoverished language of the reader’ and, in a different school, a teacher showed her a ‘shelf of picture storybooks in her cupboard which she said she had to give the children secretly as the head-mistress had said that no child was to have a storybook until he or she had finished all the reading schemes.’

Carving out time for reading for pleasure has always caused concern, it seems. Perhaps teachers and schools today are managing it more and better than ever, and certainly it seems so compared to Connie Rosen's observations in the 1970s.

Happily, at home, things have never looked so good for children's fiction. We know, according to Booksellers (Children’s Market Overview, 2015), that by September, 2015 was on course to be the best year on record, ever, with picture books one of the strongest performing categories of all. Dawn Finch said ‘this is golden age of children’s literature’ and that she’d ‘never seen such a steady flow of extraordinary fiction’. John Dougherty said authors were ‘ahead of the curve’ and publishers ‘have taken risks’. All this despite the many distractions vying for our children's attention today.

We know there is more and better children’s fiction for our children to enjoy than there has ever been, and schools are promoting children's books more actively than ever. But it cannot be right, after all this time, after all the years of research, that the number of real readers who read three or four books a week remains relatively small and that we are still using such out-dated practice with our youngest children, new and fresh-faced to school. How is it possible, in 2016, that we are still asking them to read repetitive readers, written without thought for complexity of alphabetic code, without the necessary decoding skills to do so, and teaching them to rely on reckless guessing as a strategy for reading at all?

And this in our very best schools?

I'm Going on a Book Hunt

I'm going on a book hunt.

I'm going to choose a big one.

Crisp white pages.

What a beautiful smell!

Lots of books to choose from.

Lots of shapes and sizes.

So many many stories.

Think I'll try this bear one.

Love LOVE talking.

Love LOVE listening.

Sixteen thousand hours of thought

And nearly nearly five!

I'm going on a book hunt.

I'm going to read this bear one.

What a beautiful smell.

I'm not scared!

Lots of funny pictures

And words from my sight list

Will help me understand it.

Off I go!

I know I know the 'bear' word

And 'on' is really easy.

I'm really really reading.

Don't stop me now.

I'm going on a book hunt.

I'm going to read a bear one.

Crisp white pages.

What a beautiful smell!

Uh-oh! New words!

I've never seen this funny one.

I don't recognise it.

Or the one that's near it.

And not the one below.

T h e y r e m a k i n g m e g o s l o w

I can't go over them.

I can't go under them.

Oh well...

I'll have to guess right through them.

Guessy messy!

Guessy messy!

Guessy messy!

On to the next page.

I'm going on a book hunt.

I'm going to read this bear one.

What a beautiful smell.

Do I look scared?

Uh-oh! Strange words!

I've never seen this odd one.

What a weird shaped one.

It's all a-jumble-mumble.

I don't understand.

I t s m a k i n g m e s l o w

I'm supposed to use the pictures.

Why worry about the words?

I'll still enjoy the story

And I'll make-believe I'm reading.

Makes Mum happy,

One big hug.

Granny thinks I'm reading,

Two big smiles.

Uncle Mickey says

Use lots of different ways...

The picture makes it easy.

Guessing's much more fun.

Muddle Mix!

Muddle mix!

Muddle mix!

On to the next page.

I'm going on a book hunt.

I'm going to read this bear one.

What a beautiful smell.

I'm not scared.

Now I'm going quickly,

I'll use a letter too.

I'm really really reading.

Don't stop me now!


Ah-ha! Mad!

Dad's really really mad.

I see Dad's mad with baby.

Won't carry baby.

Think he's saying you carry baby.

Think it's something in his nappy.

Stench stonch?

Stench stonch?

Stench stonch?

On to the next page.

I'm going on a book hunt.

I'm going to read a bear one.

Crisp white pages.

What a beautiful smell!

Lots of funny pictures

And words from my sight list

Should help me understand it.

Off I go!

Uh oh! Word-mud.

I'm not scared!

But I am feeling rather lost now...

I don't feel happy now...

(I'm not really reading-brave...)

I'm stopping stopping reading.

I'm sticking in word-mud.

I think that I should know them.

Do I use them every day?

T h e y r e m a k i n g m e g o s l o w

The squiggles don't make sense.

They wriggle on the page.

The weird words are whirling.

It's a squiggly wiggly word-storm.

Wiggle woooo!

Wiggle woooo!

Wiggle woooo!

Turn the page! Turn the page! Turn the page!

Uh oh! More horrid squiggles.

I think they're getting harder.

They're really getting longer.

And where are all the pictures?

Don't know what to do.

Stuck in a word-bog.

I'm feeling all alone.

I can't go over it.

I can't go under it.

I just can't guess right through it

No matter how I try.

I'm trying not to cry.

Tumble tip!

Tumble tip!

Tumble tip!

Quick! Turn the page! Turn the page! Turn the page!

I really don't like this.

I don't know what to do.

I'm really really sad.

My book hunt isn’t fun.

I wish I had my teacher

To tell me what the words say.

Mum is far too busy

And Granny's gone away.

I'm nearly at the end

And there's nobody to help me

So I'll guess the last few words

Even though it hurts my head.

...One silly went nice?

...Two big funny ends??

...Three big giggly yes???

But in the picture IT'S A BEAR !?!?!?!?!

It's all a great big muddle.

I just don't get the story.

What's it all about?

I want to shout and shout and shout!

I w a n t i t t o m a k e s e n s e.

Too hard! Too hard! Too hard!

Too slow! Too slow! Too slow!

Close the book! Close the book! Close the book!

Back to my Skylanders! Go go! Go go! Go go!

Back to my Nerf Gun! Shoot shoot! Shoot shoot! Shoot shoot!

Back to my Minecraft! Build build! Build build! Build build!

Back to my Electric Scooter! Zoom zoom! Zoom zoom! Zoom zoom!

Back to my Lego! Build build! Build build! Build build!

Back to my Bop It Tetris! Bop pop! Bop pop! Bop pop!

Switch on the TV. Hold the remote. Snuggle in the cushions.


You can read more about Jacqui's experiences in hearing children to read whereby they are guessing their way inaccurately through their books - so it is no wonder that Jacqui is distressed when she sees the kind of practice we see in the 'B is for Book' documentary. See here:
Dick Schutz

Re: BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Dick Schutz » Fri Jul 08, 2016 9:47 pm

Jacqui's commentary fills me with joy, even though her first name is "irregular/tricky" so i treated it as a "sight word." I just "guessed" that an "alternate spelling" would by Jacky, but the French would likely say Jockey, (with J as in George). Gawd only knows which pronunciation is "correct." [Psst to gawd: "You don't know. You will have to ask Jacqui how she prefers her name to be pronounced. My hunch from experience is that she answers to anything close, although she and her friends and relatives all pronounce it the same way.]

I particularly enjoyed "I'm Going on a Book Hunt." Add some "beautiful coloured illustrations" and this could be a successful kid-lit book. It wouldn't be successful in teaching kids how to read, but it would appeal to adults who buy books and read them to kids.

Yesterday, when I googled for the BBC programme, I got only the message: BBC iPlayer only works in the UK
Sorry, it’s due to rights issues. In the UK?
Today however, it's made its way to YouTube
[/url] and it had 91 views by the time I clicked it.

BBC's "sales pitch" for the documentary: is accurate, and the only review of the programme I could find follows in the same way:

The plot is about individual differences in the children, not about their instruction. The teachers and parents believe they are "teaching phonics," the classroom is decorated with letters of the Alphabet with picture cues, and parents are conscientiously supportive. But my, oh, my. The school is "outstanding," so it's cringing to imagine what is going on in "less than outstanding" schools.

The programme was not intended to be a "training film," but it could serve that purpose by posing the question, "What's wrong with this?" From the title through to the ending credits, it's "almost everything."
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Re: BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Jul 09, 2016 12:59 am

Dick, you wrote:

The programme was not intended to be a "training film," but it could serve that purpose by posing the question, "What's wrong with this?" From the title through to the ending credits, it's "almost everything."

Which is exactly what I suggested to Sean Harford, Director of Schools for Ofsted.

All Ofsted inspectors should be able to watch this footage and instantly see everything that is wrong with it - and as you say - 'it's almost everything'.
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Re: BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sat Jul 09, 2016 1:02 am

Thanks to Dick, it would appear there is now no time limit to watching this video as it has been uploaded to youtube here:

Here is the 'sales pitch' Dick referred to:

Shot over the course of a year in Hackney, London, B Is For Book follows a group of primary schoolchildren as they take their first steps into the world of the written word.
Some make a flying start, others struggle. Some parents meticulously home-tutor their children, while others themselves find reading a challenge.

The film charts each child's progress, from their tentative first steps with the alphabet, to their first meetings with an author and their introduction to the magical world of stories.

B Is For Book is directed by Sam Benstead for Century Films. The Executive Producer at Century Films is Liesel Evans. It was commissioned by Mark Bell, Head of Arts Commissioning, BBC.

Here is the review Dick referred to:

Last night's TV reviewed: Children have last word

IF YOU can read this, the bumper sticker, badge and poster campaign used to say, thank a teacher. (My local chemist had an alternative one which was an indecipherable prescription-pad scrawl over the legend, “If you can read this, you must be a genius.”).


B Is For Book (BBC4) was an extended words and pictures version of the same point, although it gave credit to a wider circle of hard-working people.

Filmed at Kingsmead Primary School in Hackney, East London, over a year, it followed various youngsters as they learnt to read.

On one level the mechanics of this does not look like rocket science. In the reception class the children learnt to voice the sounds of the letters of the alphabet in much the way they might have done in ancient Greece.

Then they put them together into small blocks of sounds and put them into words. As the selected spread of lively young readers proved, there can be huge gulfs of difference between children of the same age.

Great talkers don’t always make great readers. Children who readily grasp the basics can find themselves miserably bogged down further on.

Even between a pair of identical twins (Steffan and Nicholas obligingly stepped forward in last night’s film) with the same upbringing, even the same DNA, there can be big differences in concentration, comprehension or the sheer will to read something.

The real artistry came from the teachers who knew their overstuffed classes of children inside out. With hours of effort and patience they led each one towards the same moment.

When the finger comes off the page and the frown turns to a grin and the eyes say, “I did it!”

Equally important, and given their due in this lovely film, were the parents. At the end of long, tiring days they encouraged (or bribed or threatened, you name it) distracted offspring to sit down to the chore of reading practice.

Like most people, I suspect, I realised I could remember the teachers but not the hours of unpaid effort my mum and dad put in too.
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Re: BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Mon Aug 01, 2016 11:33 am

Greg Ashman flags up worries about a TV soap in Australia in which a glamorous lady is going to be portrayed as a 'Reading Recovery' teacher, see here: ... y-teacher/
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Re: BBC documentary on reading: 'B is for Book'. Why is this worrying?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:27 pm

Tanya Forbes gave me permission to share her message on this forum as she, too, noted that Delta is going to be cast as a Reading Recovery teacher. Tanya wrote the message below to another forum:

This was brought to my attention last week and I have written to the producers regarding casting Delta as a RR teacher. Please find a copy of my email below.... BTW I am yet to receive a reply.

​​To the Producers of House Husbands,

I have seen on social media that Delta Goodrem has been cast as a ‘Reading Recovery’ teacher on House Husbands. You may not be aware that Reading Recovery is an out-dated teaching practice proven ineffective by research. Leading academics and researchers have written publications outlining why Reading Recovery should no longer be taught in our schools. Please refer to the following articles: ... very-39574 ... 0biol.html ... lqplg.html ... 07687b0c23 ... ng/7145452

Australia has a serious problem with a research-to-practice gap in our schools and casting Delta as a “Reading Recovery” teacher will only serve to widen the gap.

Steven Capp, Sarah Asome and the educators at Bentleigh West Primary School in Melbourne are one proactive school bringing education research to their classrooms. I strongly recommend you consult with them regarding how Delta is represented in your show. Maybe consider casting her as a literacy coordinator or learning support teacher instead of a Reading Recovery teacher?

Kind regards,


Tanya is relieved that her home state of Queensland "got rid of Reading Recovery years ago".

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