Natalie Clayton with a group of students Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: British expat Natalie Clayton is on a mission to “leave no child behind” when it comes to reading.

Clayton, a literacy campaigner, was a consultant trainer for schools in the UK for 10 years, besides doing partnership work with the Department of Education there. Now a teacher at Brighton College Dubai, Clayton specialises in phonics (linking sounds to letter patterns), which she uses to teach children how to read properly.

Besides teaching correct reading at her school, Clayton hopes to interact with teachers from other schools on the subject, once the COVID-19 pandemic eases. She said most teachers are so busy with their own coursework they don’t get the time to study phonics and then teach them to students. This is partly why there are many students in higher grades who still cannot read properly, based on her vast experience in the UK.

Besides teaching correct reading at her school, Natalie Clayton hopes to interact with teachers from other schools on the subject Image Credit: Supplied

Slipping through the net

“That does happen and we can’t allow that to happen. We’ve got to teach them young and make them passionate about it young,” Clayton said. Some children want to read but they are put off because they struggle with it, she added. “They are the children who I want to make sure they don’t slip through the reading net — and that happens. It takes skill, determination, passion and perseverance, and we don’t give up until the last child can read.”

Why it matters

Clayton said “learning to read” is time-limited, with the process hopefully going smooth by age six or seven. But “reading to learn” is lifelong, and skilled readers will find it easier to study or read for pleasure. “That’s why it matters to teach children to read as quickly and as easily as possible,” she added.

A childhood dream

Clayton’s passion for reading — and teaching reading — began when she was a little girl. “I just loved reading. I’ve got a younger brother and he had found reading really difficult. I remember listening to my parents having conversations about what they could do to help him. And I remember thinking, nobody should be worried about learning to read. Growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. I remember teaching my dolls and things like that, and then obviously I went on to teaching reading.”

Clayton is also the Middle East rep and trainer for the ‘Read, Write, Inc’ programme.