The Knowsley Reading Project Using Trained Reading Helpers Effectively

Greg Brooks, Cres Fernandes, Vivienne Cato, Ann Tregenza

01 March 1996

Pupils leaving primary school for secondary school in Knowsley face the increased literacy demands of the secondary curriculum. But are their reading skills up to the challenge? When 500 Knowsley Year 5 pupils were tested in June 1994, their average reading level was found to be 16 months below the national average. Then, during the school year 1994/5, while they were in Year 6, they were given substantial individual help with the reading by trained adult volunteers. When the pupils were re-tested in June 1995;

The Knowsley Reading Project will be of interest to all those seeking to broaden the range of effective strategies for improving pupils' reading.

Key Findings

  • The average reading level of the majority of pupils had gone up by 20 months in one year.
  • They had therefore made up half the gap towards the national average, and were much better equipped for secondary school than they would have been.
  • The fact that the main improvement in reading was demonstrated on a standardised test showed that the progress achieved was significantly greater than would have been expected if these pupils had experienced 'normal' provision in Year 6.
  • However, a small group of pupils with very low initial scores had made little progress, and would need further specialist help.
  • The attitudes to reading of the great majority had improved.
  • In particular, the proportion who had recently enjoyed a work of fiction had more than doubled, to 78 per cent.
  • The Knowsley teachers and adult volunteers involved were united in identifying the improvement in pupils' attitudes and attainment, and in affirming the value of the Project.
  • Because the reading helpers were volunteers, the Project was highly cost-effective.