THE Government’s insistence that all children are taught how to read in the same way may “almost be a form of abuse” against those who are already comfortable with books, a leading North-East academic has warned.

The interests of able readers are being threatened by ministers’ stipulation that all English state primary schools teach synthetic phonics, where children are taught common letter sounds which they then blend to form words, exclusively to all pupils at the start of school regardless of how advanced individuals already are in their ability to read for meaning, it is claimed.

Able early readers, and those already well on their way to reading, are likely to be put off by the Government’s requirement that they read books specially written only to feature words for which they have been taught the phonetic rules in class previously, rather than a wider range of books.

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The claims are made by Andrew Davis, research fellow at Durham University’s School of Education.

Dr Davis, a former primary teacher, says a “small minority” of children begin school already able to read for meaning, and that a larger group know some words.

“To subject either the fully-fledged readers, or those who are well on their way, to a rigid diet of intensive phonics is an affront to their emerging identities as persons,” he writes.

“To require this of students who have already gained some maturity in the rich and nourishing human activity of reading is almost a form of abuse.”

The new national curriculum, to be taught to English five- to 14-year-olds from September, says that, in year one, children should be taught to read only using “books which closely match their growing word-reading knowledge.”