By Tom Burkard and Hilary Burkard.
No one disputes the need for intervention to help poor readers. The personal consequences of illiteracy are devastating: the National Child Development Study found that poor readers are far less likely to find stable, well-paid employment—and this is true, even after controlling for formal academic achievement. The social and economic costs of illiteracy in England are immense: no one really knows what they are, but estimates have ranged up to £10 billion per year. There is a growing consensus, with which we also concur, that early intervention in primary schools is necessary to resolve this problem. Unfortunately the Government’s response has been to fund one expensive programme, ECAR (Every Child a Reader), to the exclusion of all other available interventions. This decision was taken before a pilot into the programme was completed and in the absence of any independent evaluations in this country.