age, reading

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The measurement of a child's reading ability in terms of the average ability expected at a particular age. Thus, a very competent reader at the age of 6 might be deemed to have a reading age of 9. The idea of a reading age in years, however, can be misleading, particularly when related to adult literacy levels, and does not necessarily correspond to thinking and comprehension age, especially for children with dyslexia. The very concept of ‘reading age’ was challenged in the Bullock Report as early as 1975, and continues to be questioned by educationalists such as Stierer and Maybin (1994). It is more usual now to express competence in reading in terms of readability levels rather than reading age. The National Literacy Trust defines readability levels by sentence length and complexity of vocabulary, where levels can be calculated for any piece of prose using a simple formula. In schools, National Foundation for Educational Research tests are now widely used to provide a ‘reading quotient’, or standardized score.

A child's reading age was commonly appended to a child's school report prior to the onset of the National Literacy Strategy (1997). Children are now expected to reach national levels for reading and writing; level 3 at 7 years of age, level 4 at age 11, and level 6 at age 14. Government research suggests that reading skills have improved in the UK since 1997. The Department for Education and Skills has produced lists of words that children should be able to read, depending on what school year they are in. These are known as high‐frequency words. These are part of the framework for literacy teaching.

Further Reading:

Barry Stierer and Janet Maybin (eds) Language, Literacy and Learning in Educational Practice (Multilingual Matters in association with the Open University, 1994).

http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/About/FAQs.html Data on reading skills assessment.

http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/primary/publications/literacy/nls_framework/486193 Guidance on national standards.

Subjects: Education.

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