When she spoke, the audience was rapt. You rarely go to a conference and sense an electric atmosphere, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But this was one of those times.
Presenting to an audience of literacy coordinators, Laura was outlining the impact of ReadingWise on a group of 6 thirteen-year-old young people. These were young people with specific learning difficulties; those that life had dealt a tough hand; those that had not responded to the LA-wide literacy interventions. At the school level, expectations were low. Their school-path seemed pre-ordained: poor outcomes and little hope of educational success.
The LA-wide approach to improving literacy was a ‘chalk-and-talk’ style literacy intervention with a trained teacher delivering to groups of struggling readers. Word on the street was that the accompanying boxes of books were more often used to hold doors open than to actually deliver the programme – it was not popular either with students or staff.
As Laura described the young people’s background, looks of recognition were evident among the audience. Which literacy coordinator or SENCO doesn’t look after young people for whom chances are limited – but for whom they hold out that hope? They champion these children, as many of you reading this do.
So, Laura outlined to the audience how she had received training for ReadingWise, identified a cohort who might benefit from the programme and set about delivering daily 20-minute sessions to this group. And Laura described how several unusual things happened. First, the young people actually seemed to engage. And seemed keen to turn up. These facts alone represented a breakthrough. They seemed to value the independence of the ReadingWise programme, the shift to an internal locus of control and the fact that there was no way to be embarrassed by exposing their reading weaknesses in front of others.
Second, their confidence seemed to grow. A sense of belief in their capacity to improve their reading – independent of others – appeared to manifest. Was this due to the small, regular successes embedded in the programme? That each 20-minute session may see them completing successfully (and independently) up to 10 individual lessons? That they could see their progress – and that no-one else could be responsible for it?
Finally, tangible impact. Using SWRT pre and post assessments, they saw their reading ages increase, from 6 months to 4.5 years. Any increase in their reading would have been a break from the norm, but these increases were dramatic.
As the audience digested the enormity of the impact in the context of those young people, you could feel Laura’s passion. She had battled hard to carve out the time and space to give these children another shot. The reward was that little bit of movement, a little more self-belief and confidence among the 6.
As I watched Laura wrap up, I thought back to our qualitative study with Cambridge University, ‘Reading More Wisely’, where key themes like place, independence and stigma were examined. And how ultimately it’s people like Laura – and people like you, champions of those struggling in school for myriad reasons – that are the critical factor in determining positive outcomes.
Text (c) Jamie Fries, CEO, ReadingWise
With roots in India, ReadingWise has been developed to allow schools to rapidly improve reading among those falling behind. It is designed to empower learners, and helps schools to reach large numbers effectively. To date over 35,000 children have completed a ReadingWise programme in over 300 UK schools.
If you’d like to find out more, you can book an online demo here: readingwise.com/enquiry
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