My obsession with the teaching of reading grew out of failure. In the 1980s, I switched to a reading method that backfired. Never again. Over the next 10 years, my obsession intensified: I wanted to find the quickest way to teach children to read and write, and to show that children from Tower Hamlets could learn to read just as quickly as the children in my previous leafy lane school.
Read-a-lot children do well at school, so my aim was to get them to read 'real' books as soon as possible. As we all know, reading, once set in motion, grows exponentially: the more children read the more they love reading and the quicker their vocabulary grows - irrespective of background.
I taught reading every morning, searching for short cuts for speedy children and, most importantly, ways to help starters and strugglers. Each time I thought I was on to something, I'd gather TAs and teachers together and we'd practise my latest idea. We continually improved our methods and soon our children could read 'real' books independently by the end of Year 1.
After 20 years I'm still making improvements. In particular, we analyse films of our trainers working with children across the country. We prove into their teaching – why one action has more impact than another. We update 55 trainers every few weeks on these specific actions, so they can train schools in the practices that reach every child.
However, here's the problem: the most recently trained Read Write Inc. school will always be ahead of the rest in the reading game.
Fortunately, most headteachers understand why we continue to improve what we do. They keep up with us. My trainers work with their staff and children every term (some, every half-term), their reading leaders attend extra training, they use our free online films for practising and read my bi-monthly newsletters. They want their staff to be the best they can be, and they know we reach every one of their children.
Unfortunately, some heads haven't realised how much more we could help their children. Their staff don't progress as much as they could, because they fail to benefit from the developments we have worked so hard to introduce.
If you're reading this, you know this already. But, if you know of schools that don't book development days, don't access our free films, don't send their reading leaders on training, and don't download my newsletters, please tell them what a difference we make – particularly to your struggling children.
A cynical person may think that of course I would say this. If a school does rush to judgement, please encourage them to phone or visit a school that receives our support and see the difference we make.
We have one mission: to get every child out of the reading gate as quickly as possible.