Sent to the Guardian (UK) (Hat-tip Ray Wiggin)
The real reading problem in England is that policy-makers in education have not read the research on literacy development. Results are very consistent: (1) Direct instruction in grammar and spelling produces very limited results. (2) Nearly all of our knowledge of grammar and spelling is acquired, absorbed, through extensive reading.
These studies have been appearing in scientific journals regularly for over the last 100 years. Policy-makers are free to disagree with the research, but not free to ignore it.
University of Southern California
Cook, W. (1912) Should we teach spelling by rule? Journal of Educational Psychology 3, 316-325.
Cornman, O. (1902) Spelling in the Elementary School. Boston: Ginn.
Elley, W., I. Barham, H. Lamb, and M. Wyllie. (1976) The role of grammar in a secondary school curriculum. Research in the Teaching of English 10, 5-21.
Hammill, D., S. Larson, and G. McNutt. (1977). The effect of spelling instruction: A preliminary study. Elementary School Journal 78, 67-72.
For more sources, please see:
Krashen, S. (2004) The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport: Libraries Unlimited.