Word rich readers
Based directly on the ‘Faster Read’ research by Westbrook, Sutherland, Oakhill and Sullivan (2018), the Weald School are conducting an evaluation of a project designed to keep pupils reading during the primary/secondary transition phrase to promote development of reading comprehension
The amount of time that 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’ reading for pleasure also reduced in the teenage years, though less markedly (Sellgrin, 2017). This pattern is replicated in a number of different ways in The Weald School, for example by a 40% drop in fiction loans from school library between Year 8 and Year 9. There are a number of reasons for this, not least that pupils 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 strongly correlated with 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).
The research seeks to extend the proven concept that reading two novels, back-to-back, in a term, measurably enhances Year 8 pupils’ reading comprehension and engagement (Westbrook et al., 2018; Sutherland et al., 2019), by seeing Year 8 intervention group 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.