Reading test for British kids to include ‘non-words’

The British government has drawn up new plans to include “made-up” words such as “koob” or “zort” in a new reading test for six-year-olds – an idea that has brought about criticism from literary experts. The government said non-words were being included to check pupils' ability to decode words using phonics. This is the reading system by which children sound out words using letter sounds. Non-words were being included to check that children were not just regurgitating memorized words, a spokesman for the department for education said, according to BBC. The proposed new test will take about 10 minutes to complete and would include about 40 items – words and non-words. Experts, however, say the approach will confuse those just beginning to read. The UK Literacy Association said the plan was “bonkers” as the purpose of reading was to understand meaning. “We think that seems a bit bonkers when the whole purpose of reading is to understand words,” said David Reedy, president of the UK Literacy Association. Reedy said the inclusion of non-words would be counter-productive since most six-year-olds expect to make sense of what they read. He said the test itself was sending out the message that all words are decodable using phonics when they are not. “There are many words with which you have to use a 'look and say' approach. This is the case with many common words such as 'the' and 'once',” he said. This was because the English language is not phonically regular like German or Finnish, he said. “Children should be using a number of sources of information to be able to work out what a word is. There is the context, the sentence itself and whether they have that word in their spoken lexicon,” Reedy said. He said it might be useful for the department for education to explain why the secretary of state's surname, Gove, did not rhyme with “love”.

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