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Language Unlocks Reading (2019)

Everyone Ready for School parent with child and book

England is currently facing a huge literacy challenge, with two out of five children from disadvantaged backgrounds not reading at the expected level by the end of primary school, and teachers reporting an increase in numbers of children who have limited vocabulary.

To help address this challenge our Language unlocks reading report sets out a new approach for structured, targeted and explicit language learning, in the home, in early years settings and at the start of school, as a vital foundation for learning to read.

It brings together existing evidence that highlights the crucial link between children’s early language skills and life chances, and calls for sustained government leadership and multi-agency support to ensure that we unlock vital language, reading and learning opportunities for every child.

One key area for action we have identified is to address the skills gap so that all early years practitioners and teachers are equipped with the skills they need to support language learning in early years settings and at the start of school.

We are grateful to the many experts and practitioners who participated in a roundtable discussion held on 4 December 2018, by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy and the National Literacy Trust. This report draws on the content of those discussions, as well as on evidence and insights shared by participants afterwards. Leading policy makers, academics, campaigners, education and health professionals were able to join us for this meeting (a full list can be found on page 7 of the report).

Our thanks also go to Oxford University Press who have supported the production of this document. Their recent Oxford Language Report called attention to a growing word gap affecting children of all ages, impacting on their academic achievement and wider life chances.

Further details

Read a blog about Language unlocks reading on the Nursery World website.

If you have any questions about the report, please email

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