Reading

Our latest read-a-thon ends on Friday 21st of December; thank you for your continued support.

The theme has been one of saying ‘Thank you’ and showing gratitude to those people at home who listen to the children read. Several prizes have already been given out and hopefully the prizes reached the intended recipients!?! There will be 3 more winners drawn this Friday and next, and then all remaining prizes will be given out on the 21st during our celebration assembly.

Listening to your child read and /or reading to them gives your child a fantastic boost, and not just in reading. Below are the highlights from a recent article in the national ‘Headteacher’ magazine; yes, my choice of reading materials are scintillating…

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Choosing to read – what the evidence tells us…

Written by: Liz Twist | Published: 08 November 2018
Literacy and numeracy are critical skills for pupils to develop if they are to reach their potential and achieve rewarding outcomes during and after education.

Children who enjoy reading tend to read more frequently than those who don’t – and they are better at it. There’s nothing unexpected in that statement and nothing to disagree with. We can always find exceptions but, yes, it’s a virtuous circle. Reading is generally accepted to be “a good thing”, and each time a child chooses to curl up with a book, they are practising and improving their reading skills

Reading – what the evidence says

The American psychologist Keith Stanovich (1986) coined the term the ‘Matthew Effect’ to describe the reciprocal relationship between the development of reading comprehension and the development of vocabulary knowledge… The term is referring back to the Bible passage in which the rich-get-richer and the poor-get-poorer…

In a British context, data from the 1970 British Cohort Study shows how reading leads not only to improvements in vocabulary and hence better reading but has an even wider effect. Using the data from this longitudinal study, Sullivan and Brown (2013) found an impact of voluntary reading beyond that of developing better reading skills.

They found that frequency of reading for pleasure was linked to increases in the rate of cognitive progress over time. So while reading makes children better at reading, it has an even greater significance. It is linked to improvements in other skills that are important to success – in school and in life. And these skills aren’t just those which we might intuitively associate with reading, such as vocabulary, but also others, such as mathematics. This has implications across the school, for all year groups and all abilities.

Reading for enjoyment

A well-known study by McKenna, Kear and Ellsworth (1995) looked at attitudes to reading among US primary-aged pupils and found that there was a steady fall in interest from Grade (Year) 1 to (Year) Grade 6 among pupils of all abilities.

There were positive attitudes from most pupils in the youngest grade, with similar measures across high, medium and low ability groups. By Grade 6 not only were attitudes in each group much less positive, but the differences in attitudes had become more marked, with lower attaining pupils having much less positive attitudes than higher attaining pupils.

In addition, there was a wide gender difference, with boys much less engaged than girls – boys had a lower engagement level at the start and the gap had widened substantially by Grade 6.

Given that McKenna et al noted that enjoyment in reading was at its peak at the start of schooling and fell with increasing age (and presumably growing reading competence), it seems reasonable to recognise it as a whole-school issue.

More recent data from the OECD’s 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) endorses the links between reading competence, reading engagement and frequency of reading (Mullis et al, 2017). Across almost all participating countries, higher reading performance within a country is associated with greater enjoyment of reading and reading more frequently. This isn’t just an issue in England or even the UK.

What reading offers

In a rare moment of lively prose, the (English) national curriculum points out that: “Reading … feeds pupils’ imagination and opens up a treasure-house of wonder and joy for curious young minds.”

Sullivan et al (2013) emphasised the impact reading for pleasure had on children and young people’s vocabulary scores – and the contrast between the complexity of vocabulary used in written texts compared to the spoken word is well-established.

Cunningham and Stanovich (2001)… emphasised the vast range in the amount of words children who read out of school are exposed to, depending on the volume of their reading.

So what can school leaders do?

There are enormous pressures on schools to ensure pupils make progress and are happy, engaged and challenged learners. What can schools do that does not add to the pressures they are already under?

Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report (2017) put language and literacy at the heart of the curriculum for the Reception year. But it is not just needed at the heart of the curriculum for the youngest children in school. There are ways of putting reading at the heart of every classroom.

Reading aloud – not just while children are in the early stages of learning to read – fulfils the vital task of exposing children to books that they are, as yet, unable to read independently. Books they hear should be those that they would not otherwise come across or that they could not read themselves, that give them a flavour of the world of books that lies ahead of them.

The importance of school leaders encouraging this passion for reading throughout the school shouldn’t be overestimated. The evidence shows us how reading fully justifies its place at the heart of the curriculum.

What we are doing at Maes-y-Llan…

  • all class topics throughout school are linked to a book or series of books 
  • all children read and/or are read to every day
  • termly author visits
    • ‘The 2 Steves’ and now ‘Just 1 Steve’
  • lunchtime library is open to all pupils
    • run by pupils for pupils
  • Read-a-thons
    • these are only a success with the support from home; all staff are truly grateful for the continued support
  • wide range of books to choose from
    • including authors such as Tom Palmer, and his rugby and football books, to choose from