Your child stumbles over the method of answering some obscure eleven plus question. You hold your tongue and quietly ask him or her to read the question again. You then ask to have the question read aloud. You question yourself; “Can my candidate actually read the words of the question?”
Many years ago Cyril Burt devised a test of word-pronouncing ability. There were 110 words graded in approximate order of difficulty. Ten words were assigned for each age level from four and a half to fourteen plus. The child was asked to read as many words as possible – at his or her own speed. The test was stopped when five consecutive words were failed.
In today’s eleven plus world it would seem likely that the test would not be regarded as conclusive. Some would say: “It is too short.” Others would argue about the validity of the cut-off point. Some would even start developing books along the lines of: “One Hundred Eleven Plus Ways to Improve your Reading Aloud.”
There could also be great confusion over the correct way to pronounce some of the words. Would regional differences have to be accounted for? Could a teacher from one area of England gauge the pronunciation of a child from a vastly different background?
The main value of a test of the ability to read aloud is that it is another test and thus throws light on another aspect of eleven plus preparation. There is also another reason – in that the score reached on a reading test of this nature can be remarkably close to scores reached on other eleven plus tests. In ten minutes parents, teachers and grammar schools could have a reasonably reliable method of testing children.
If the debate encouraged more children to read – then the test may even be useful!