Private tutors report Early Years reading skills slipping among UK children

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017
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Adam Caller, founder of global private tutoring company, Tutors International, issued a statement this week voicing his concern that children are not exploring books at home as much as other generations, and urges parents to support schools with early literacy.

In a recent article for The Guardian [1], author Andy McNab pointed a finger at schools for failing to dedicate enough time to encouraging the enjoyment of reading due to the increased amount of admin involved in modern teaching roles in the UK. However, Mr Caller observed, from his own experiences – and those of the private tutors he places with clients - that parents need to step in earlier to ensure that their children remain on track with Early Years literacy.

Mr Caller commented: “Many parents read every day with their children but overall we’re seeing a downward trend in children’s reading ability in younger age groups. This could be because parents see it as the school’s job to teach these skills, or because they just don’t know how to practice reading effectively with children who do not show a natural interest in books, or that some parents are trying too hard to get children “reading” before they’re ready.”

Reading, according to Mr Caller, should be seen primarily as an enabler to provide children with the opportunity to make their own way and satisfy their own curiosities in the world. He argued that even well-intentioned parents could be doing more harm than good by pushing children on through a series of learning-to-read books at home that concentrate on “de-coding” words, without helping children to understand what they are reading.

Mr Caller added: “There have been instances where parents take things too far the other way - trying to ‘prep’ children in advance on their classroom reading books. This can be detrimental to teachers’ ability to assess their actual reading level and comprehension of what they are reading. We should be encouraging a love of reading in young children to enable them to know more about the things that fascinate them.”

“Not every child,” he continued “loves story books, but he or she will have some other interest. Some, for example and quickly learn to “read” the names of their favourite Pokemon, logos on shops and breakfast cereals, and from there, learn to both decode words and contextualise them. It’s a strategy private tutors use with fantastic results – observing a child’s own passions and interests and using them to engage them in learning activities, which often results in requests for further reading because the child is invested in the topic. This isn’t something that can realistically be done for every child in a traditional classroom environment. It has to happen at home.”

According to Mr Caller, parents who want to ensure that their children are on track with their literacy should turn literary cues in everyday life into a learning activity to encourage them to read aloud. Street signs, instructions, lists, cards, and menus can all be used to encourage children to navigate their way in the world and solve problems through reading.

Tutors international was founded in 1999, and has found great success in matching tutors with children of all ages and abilities, in countries around the world. To find out more about the services offered by Tutors International, visit


[1] Andy McNab says joyless education is damaging poor children’s literacy Danuta Kean. The Guardian. 31st January 2017

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