Word rich readers
The Weald School are conducting an evaluation of an innovation designed to keep pupils reading during the primary/secondary transition phrase.
The amount of time that Key Stage 3 pupils spend in reading for pleasure drops dramatically during the primary/secondary transition phrase. The National Literacy Trust found a significant drop in boys’ reading enjoyment between ages 8-16; from 72% at ages 8– 11 to 36% at ages 14-16. Girls’ pleasure reading also reduced in the teenage years, though less markedly (Sellgrin, 2017). This pattern is replicated in a number of different ways in our school, represented in a 40% drop in fiction loans from school library between Year 8 and Year 9, for example. There are a number of reasons for this; not least that students face increased pressure to prepare for GCSE literature study, combined with greater ‘digital’ demands on their time than ever before. However, reading for pleasure between the ages of 10 and 16 is reported to be more important than influences before the age of 5 and socio-economic factors combined in relation to academic attainment overall (Sullivan & Brown, 2015). This is, in part, because reading research shows that ‘a pupil’s vocabulary and the extent of their background knowledge make a huge difference to their ability to infer meaning from texts’ across the curriculum (Christodoulou, 2016: 87).
Our innovation will see intervention groups of Year 8 pupils read a novel in class at the start of each half term, ensuring that participating pupils will have read six novels by the end of the academic year; control group pupils will continue to read the two that form part of existing schemes of work.
Participating pupils will be ‘word-rich’; that is, they will have ‘consumed’ approximately 200,000 more words than their non-participating counterparts. The reading will not incorporate additional study of the texts, they will simply be encouraged to enjoy good narratives. Novels will be carefully chosen for their contemporary appeal. The innovation creates conditions for widespread reading for enjoyment, and has the aim of increasing reading outcomes for pupil, based on findings from Sutherland (2017) in relation to ‘Faster Reads’; a project involving two novels read back-to-back, after which quantitative analyses showed pupils’ mean comprehension increased by 8.5 months overall and 16 months for poor readers.