David Ross Education Trust

David Ross Education Trust

Our mission is to broaden the horizons of our pupils through the provision of a world-class education.

DRET Reads

DRET Reads

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?’

Book Choice

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.


Year 7

Year 8

Year 9

Year 10

Year 11

Year 12/13

Read via DRET Reads

  • Iliad and Odyssey
  • No Ballet Shoes in Syria
  • Mythos
  • Noughts and Crosses
  • A Kestrel for a Knave
  • Asha and the Spirit Bird
  • I Am Malala
  • The Book Thief
  • Great Expectations
  • Becoming
  • The Giver
  • The Hobbit
  • Touching the Void
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • A Life on Our Planet
  • All Quiet on the Western Front
  • Lord of the Flies
  • Purple Hibiscus
  • Circe
  • The Great Gatsby
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Rebecca
  • Things Fall Apart
  • Life of Pi
  • The Silk Roads
  • The Midnight Library
  • Prisoners of Geography
  • 1984
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Brave New World
  • The Colour Purple
  • Jake’s Tower
  • Fingers in the Sparkle Jar
  • Tenant of Wildfell Hall
  • Erebus
  • The Outsiders

Read and studied in English

  • The Odyssey
  • The Knight’s Tale
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Oliver Twist
  • Frankenstein
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Journey’s End
  • Poetry Anthology
  • Things Fall Apart
  • A View from the Bridge
  • Animal Farm
  • Poetry Anthology
  • Jekyll and Hyde/A Christmas Carol
  • An Inspector Calls
  • Macbeth
  • Poetry Anthology
  • Jekyll and Hyde/A Christmas Carol
  • An Inspector Calls
  • Macbeth

Poetry Anthology



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.

References https://www.jotterpadteachersnotes.com/2019/08/whole-school-tutor-read-aloud-programme

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/

Alex Quigley


DRET Reads Video