DRETReads – A Reading Programme
We have an opportunity presented to us by the DFE Recovery Premium to have a long lasting impact on the culture of reading in our schools. We want for our children to become fluent, independent readers who have confidence in their reading ability and have developed good reading habits, enabling them to read widely outside of school. We know that there are clear links between children who read independently and their academic outcomes.
‘Reading enjoyment has been reported as more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status’. OECD 2002
Reading data pulled together from across the Trust caused us all significant concern. According to our Accelerated Reader data:
• 64% of all pupils in year 7 read below their chronological age.
• 65% of year 8 pupils read below their chronological age.
(Even more acute in some schools)
Daniel Willingham said that ‘Reading tests are just knowledge tests in disguise’.
‘To grasp the words on a page we have to know a lot of information that isn’t set out on a page’.
Cultural Literacy: What every American needs to know. E.D. Hirsch
Therefore, our curriculum is a powerful tool in addressing this. It is our first line of defence.
Limited reading ability for some of our children means that they are unlikely to be able to access some of the texts that we might consider important cultural capital for all of our children, for example Great Expectations or I am Malala (both have a reading age of 13). Nationally 25% of 15 year olds have a reading age of below 12, so many of our pupils couldn’t easily access these books independently.
Dickens wrote Great Expectations and other novels as an important comment on society, and the books were not meant to be exclusive. By reading these books aloud we allow all of our children in. We shoulder the burden of the fluency and pronunciation and intonation and grammar, and we open the door.
We have drawn upon a number of studies and research to determine how best to add the most impact for our pupils:
‘In listening to and following a text read aloud by a more capable reader, who provides scaffolding, a less fluent reader can experience autonomy and fluency and bypass frustrating ‘sticking points’ at phonemic, semantic or word level to focus on comprehension.’
Wood et al 1976, Kuhn et al 2010
‘Reading a text aloud creates a community of readers who produce their own situated reading practices in the classroom over time’
Brown et al 1989, Sutherland 2015
Participation in shared reading groups is linked to enhanced relaxation, calmness, concentration, quality of life, confidence and self-esteem, as well as feelings of shared community and common purpose.
[Longden E., Davis P., Billington J., et al (2015) Shared Reading: Assessing the intrinsic value of a literature-based intervention Medical Humanities
This programme was further refined following review of similar programmes which recorded the following outcomes:
Analysis by Kirsch comparing the engaged reading time of 2.2 million students found that –
- 0-5 mins per day = well below national average
- 5-14 mins per day = sluggish gains, below national average
- 15+ mins = accelerated reading gains
20 mins per day = likely score better than 90% of their peers on standardized tests. National Center for Education Statistics
‘Simply reading challenging, complex novels aloud and at a fast pace in each lesson repositioned ‘poor’ readers as ‘good’ readers, giving them a more engaged, uninterrupted reading experience over a sustained period. In 12 weeks students made 8.5 months progress, but poorer readers made 16 months progress’. Westbrook 2019 – Just Reading: The impact of a faster pace of reading narratives on the comprehension of poorer adolescent readers in English classrooms
We also listened to educators who had done similar projects in their schools, Joanne Tiplady who is Trust Curriculum Research Lead at TEAL Trust wrote a great blog which influenced us greatly, and Alex Quigley’s book ‘The Reading Gap’ covers some of the brilliant work done around the country and lessons they learned, from which we were able to benefit.
The Result - DRETReads
We determined that we would make space for 20 minutes in the day (sometimes through pinching minutes from changeover time and a few minutes from period 1, other times from reducing break slightly) with tutors for them to read aloud to their tutor group. This must be every day.
Books would be chosen to be age appropriate but challenging – they should not be something a student could easily access independently, that would be missing the point – this is about access to something otherwise difficult to engage in without adult support.
The adult would read at pace. No child must be asked to read, the adult must shoulder the burden of the fluency of the reading. To support some members of staff we have purchased audiobooks but the understanding must be that the staff are reading along with the children – not a time to check emails!
‘We climb into the story together’.
Students follow along with a ruler. We know that this is a compromise for some pupils who would perhaps rather engage with their eyes closed for example, but we know that there are added benefits to the children seeing the words as well as hearing them and we want to ensure that staff at a glance can see if any children are unable to keep up, hence children follow along with their bookmark/a ruler.
The programme is fully funded through the Recovery Premium and has cost to date £61,763 which has paid for the sets of books for every school, read on a rota system so the sets will be shared across the sites at regular intervals throughout the year. This investment into the resources ensures that the programme reaches all 7,000 children and lasts well beyond the year that the funding is allocated for, we believe therefore providing excellent value for money.
Schools which join the pilot will start immediately after the Easter break, with the remaining 4 schools joining at May half term. We will learn as much as possible from the pilot project and pass that knowledge around to other schools.
Resources provided have included:
- Webinar on reading aloud effectively.
- Principal introducing each book to the students – setting the tone and ensuring that it is seen to be of the highest importance to SLT.
- Audiobooks/recordings for staff with dyslexia or who are anxious about reading aloud.
- Copy of a book to read in advance.
- Email address for an expert on the text in case students have a question about it – ‘Ah, I am not sure, shall we email our resident expert for an answer to that?’
Books have been chosen by a wide range of stakeholders in the Trust, the English subject community, the Equality, diversity and Inclusion group, the Principals and senior leaders in schools and the Trust central team, including Trustees. There have been fierce debates and discussions with a clear focus on breadth of coverage, appropriate levels of challenge, diversity and ultimately that they are all powerful examples of literature which students wouldn’t necessarily be able to access independently.
Studied through the English curriculum
Oliver Twist: Dickens
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Shakespeare
Homer’s Odyssey: Homer
The Knight’s Tale: Chaucer
Frankenstein: Mary Shelley
Romeo and Juliet: Shakespeare
Journey’s end: R.C Sherriff
Things Fall Apart: Chinua Achebe
A View from the Bridge: Arthur Miller
Animal Farm: George Orwell
Sula: Toni Morrison
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson/A Christmas Carol: Dickens
An Inspector Calls: J B Priestley
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Robert Louis Stevenson/A Christmas Carol: Dickens
An Inspector Calls: J.B Priestley
Read to by their tutor
Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey: Gillian Cross
Asha and the Spirit Bird: Jasbinder Bilan
Noughts and Crosses: Malorie Blackman
Mythos: Stephen Fry
A Kestrel for a Knave: Barry Hines
No Ballet Shoes in Syria: Catherine Bruton
I am Malala:Malala Yousafzai
The Hobbit: J.R.R.Tolkein
The Giver: Louis Lowry
Fingers in the Sparkle Jar: Chris Packham
The Book Thief: Markus Zusak
Great Expectations: Dickens
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Anne Bronte
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Maya Angelou
All Quiet on the Western Front: Erich Remarque
Erebus: Michael Palin
Purple Hibiscus: Chimamanda Adichie
Lord of the Flies: William Golding
Things Fall Apart:Chinua Achebe
Circe: Madeline Miller
Rebecca: Daphne Du Maurier
The Life of Pi: Yann Martel
The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Midnight Library: Matt Haig
1084: George Orwell
Prisoners of Geography: Tim Marshall
The Silk Roads: Peter Frankopan
Brave New World: Aldous Huxley
The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck
Students will have a bookmark which they will use to guide their reading (held underneath the line they are reading to follow along, ensuring that they are reading the words as they are read, and to support staff to know at a glance who is paying attention) but this will also form a reading log as students will update it with their current reads both inside and outside of school. This will act as a motivator for pupils as they see their list grow.
A list of recommended independent reads will be published and we know that there is a potential barrier for parents knowing what to recommend next. We will publish a booklet for parents towards Christmas which will identify which books their child might like to read next (along similar themes, the same author etc). This can also be used to support staff in making strong recommendations.
We are delighted to have a Trust-wide training session from Alex Quigley and Christine Counsell in two weeks time, to really highlight to everyone the ultimate, long term goal which is to create a reading culture in our schools and for our school community. When children have the fluency to read independently and are enthused to read of their own volition, then we will have achieved our goal.
Joanne Tiplady – TEAL Trust https://researchschool.org.uk/greenshaw/news/making-word-rich-readers
Greenshaw Trust https://learn.teachfirst.org.uk
Westbrook, Sutherland et al. https://www.theconfidentteacher.com/2020/10/do-we-need-to-sort-out-silent-reading/