The Value of Reading at Manshead
There is an ever-increasing body of research that says regular reading is a vital tool to support both the well-being and academic development of young people.
The research says that some of the impacts for students who read regularly and widely include:
- Improving their ability to read (practice makes perfect!)
- Improving the ability to concentrate
- Developing vocabulary and language skills
- Developing knowledge of the world around them
- Developing their imagination
- Improving relaxation and reduces stress
- Students who read more frequently achieve more highly across all subjects due to an improved ability to access all learning resources.
For all of these reasons we are continually looking to improve our students as readers and have developed an approach to reading within the Academy, led by research, that is growing and beginning to reap rewards.
There are five key areas to our approach that I would like to share with you along with the impacts we are seeing;
-Structured reading in class across the Academy
-Echo reading at Key Stage 3
-Use of The Day during form time
-Accelerated Reader at KS3
-Rewards, communication with parents and raising the profile of reading
Structured reading activities take place in lessons where students read out loud. Whilst not all students initially warm to this, we are seeing student confidence improve and a keenness to read grow. Furthermore, the research is clear, “Reading out loud has significant cognitive benefits — even for experienced readers.” (The Science of learning 2018). These reading activities focus on developing students’ vocabulary, retrieval skills and develop students’ ability to infer and gain understanding from what they have read. The Education Endowment Foundation conclude that this style of vocabulary enrichment and reading comprehension strategy can further improve student progress by at least 6 months. We are seeing the impact of this in the classroom as students use more sophisticated vocabulary in their writing and one teacher described Year 7 students as “engaging with poetry in a way we would previously see in year 10!”.
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The Government’s ‘Skills for Life’ paper and The National Literacy Trust are in agreement that a reading age of 10 years old is part of the “minimum literacy skills required for coping with everyday life”. It is no coincidence that this is also the minimum reading age required to access exam papers at GCSE.
We aim for all students to have a reading age in line with or above their chronological age. Where this is challenging we recognise a reading age above 10 years old is essential. Every Student with a reading age below this is supported through our Echo reading program. This involves three small group echo reading intervention sessions per week reading a wide variety of stimulating materials, ranging from the origins of Count Dracula to understanding the behaviour of dolphins. In each sessions students Echo Read. This is where the teacher models a sentence and the students then read that sentence back to the teacher. Sessions focus on developing vocabulary and gaining understanding from the selected texts. Our Echo Reading program has yielded exceptional progress for students, with an average increase in reading age of 18 months in just a 12 week period.
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The Day is an online newspaper written for students. It covers topics you would expect from across the globe in any newspaper, in a student friendly way. One form time per week is spent reading a selected article from The Day with the aim of developing students’ knowledge and understanding of the world around them. Again, reading out loud is key. Students within each form take turns to read, key vocabulary is highlighted and explained and the articles provide a great stimulus for debate within each tutor group. The Head of Year 10 observed “this activity is brilliant, students are engaging in world news like never before. Discussions carry on out of form, you can hear them still debating the week’s article in the canteen!”
Students can access The Day at home for further reading of world news by logging into the Manshead Portal with their regular username and password and clicking on The Day icon.
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Accelerated reader ensures students have a wide range of books available to them from our library that are appropriate to their ability, will support their reading development and aim to foster a love of reading. Students read a book, then take a quiz to check their understanding of what they have read. All students in Y7 and Y8 have a target to read their accelerated reader book for at least 15 minutes each day. This regular reading practice is shown to have a significant impact on their progress across all subjects.
The Accelerated Reader program allows us to track Y7 and Y8 students’ reading progress and ensure that students have appropriate library books. This tells us that those students who read regularly, and hit their accelerated reader targets, see an improvement in their reading age which is on average 5 months greater than their peers who do not read regularly across the academic year. An Education Endowment Foundation research paper made similar findings, that “students engaged with accelerated reader could see an improvement in their reading age of 5 months greater than their peers who do not read regularly”.
For this reason, we are incredibly keen to further increase student engagement with accelerated reader. Form tutors will now more regularly discuss accelerated reader with their tutees, providing credits for those on track and encouragement for those who need to increase their reading to meet their 15 minute targets. Students who hit their Accelerated Reader targets for the half term will gain Manshead Star Reader certificates and I will be writing to all parents of Y7 and Y8 students half termly to update you on your child’s engagement with accelerated reader. As parents I would ask you to do all you can to support us in encouraging your child to read for at least 15 minutes each day.
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Rewards, Communication with Parents and Raising the Profile of Reading
Many of our students read widely and regularly and we have recognised that we need to improve the way in which we reward students for their reading efforts. We have become more focussed on awarding credits linked to reading, Y7 and Y8 students can now gain certificates for their engagement with accelerated reader as well as credits and our echo reading students have all been rewarded for their efforts with a book of their choosing.
We realise that as parents you will want to know how your child’s reading is progressing so that you can best support them. To aid this, reading age, effort and progress with Accelerated Reader can now be found on Y7 and Y8 reports to ensure that as parents you are aware of your child’s reading progress. Further to that you will receive half termly updates informing you of your child’s progress towards their Accelerated Reader target.
As part of our developing culture of reading staff have shared their favourite books as part of our Masked Reader competition. As well as being a fun activity for students we aim for this to further encourage students to read. (If you have not already done so you may like to see if you can identify the Masked Readers! https://mansheadschool.co.uk/the-masked-reader/ )
Reading During Lockdown
As we continue to move forward and national restrictions relax, it would be remiss of me not to inform you of some of the exceptional efforts of our staff, students and parents linked to reading during the most recent lock down. Our library remained open, not only to students in school but 162 books were taken out by those not in school. Some of which were sent by post but many were delivered by our fantastic and dedicated librarians. Our echo reading continued for those in and out of school, with resources and a how to guide sent home to parents and significant numbers of students continued to quiz using Accelerated Reader from home. I would like to say thank you to all those involved, especially you as parents, who continued to support the development of students reading during this time, and I’m sure will continue to do so in the future.
Thank you for reading this. I hope that you have found it informative and believe as we do that regular reading for all pupils is an essential part of achieving our school vison – “High achievement and a strong sense of well-being for all is our shared responsibility”
If you would like further advice on how to further support your child’s progress with reading please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Your continued support is very much appreciated.