Reading the Past: Written and printed sources

Primary History article

By John Fines, published 7th December 2010

Please note: this article pre-dates the 2014 National Curriculum and some content may be outdated.


Be positive, ambitious and bold

Many teachers, when they realise how deep the literary requirements are which history makes on the young learner, will hastily declare that their own class is either too young or too poorly skilled in reading techniques to cope with the proper study of history. Instead of seeing history as a useful area of practice, in which pupils may improve their literary skills, they simply declare that the hurdles are too high, and attempt to retreat from the race.

Whilst we would all agree that there is room for improvement (there always is!) in the teaching of reading to KS1 and KS2 children, the true problem lies elsewhere:

teachers do not realise that they have already given the children the tools to read even the hardest document.

We expect you are saying, ‘It's easy to criticise, but if we are not to read seriatim, not to read in silence, not to read round the class, what the devil are we to do?' Fair question, and the answer lies entirely in the goal of confidence-building, making pupils believe they can read, that the task is possible, and that they will be able to do it themselves. Any text, not least the daunting chunks we give children, looks impossible at first glance - too long, too complex, too boring; we will never be finished with it...

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