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How to Support Struggling Year 7 Readers

Without good reading skills, learners risk getting left behind, warns Fiona Evans – so let’s do what we can to stop that happening...

  • How to Support Struggling Year 7 Readers

Almost 155,000 young people began Year 7 this September unable to read well. If these students don’t get the help they need to turn their reading around, their entire education could be limited.

In fact, in 2016, just 11% of learners who had started Year 7 unable to read well achieved a C grade or above in their English and maths GCSEs.

Happily, it’s never too late to make a difference; and here are some ways you could help:

Make it personal

Get to know your students who are struggling with their reading. Work with them to identify the biggest barrier they are facing and then implement the right reading intervention to tackle it.

The National Literacy Trust’s Annual Literacy Research and Policy Guide is filled with evidence-based interventions on everything from comprehension to decoding, while programmes like Accelerated Reader can help your students improve their reading mileage.

Inspire enjoyment

Helping students discover a love of reading is vital. Make sure an orientation around the school library, if you have one, is timetabled in the first few weeks.

Encourage tutors, and other subject teachers to take part in these sessions alongside the librarian. Reading should be a choice, not a chore, so let your students’ interests guide them.

We know this approach works; our Skills Academy programme helps Year 7 and 8 students improve their reading, rewarding their progress by teaching them exciting football tricks.

In just 10 weeks, 1 in 3 participating students improve their reading age by an average of 11 months. In the coming months, we will be adapting this programme to tap into students’ other interests, such as beatboxing.

Start a club

Seeing their peers enjoying and valuing books can be a great inspiration for students who don’t read much. Try setting up a reading buddy scheme, or book club, where older learners read and discuss books with younger pupils. Book talk and discussion is at the heart of developing comprehension skills.

Become a role model

Leading by example, you can help your students develop positive attitudes to reading. Showing students that teachers of all subjects – not just English – read books, is really important:

  • Sharing and discussing books in tutor time is a great way to get to know each other. If the tutor reads aloud, it means all students can access the text, whatever their reading level. Comment on bits of the book, and invite discussion.
  • Get your students involved in creating a display in your classroom dedicated to the books they are reading. This can include reviews, drawings, a book of the week, and recommendations.
  • Try to broaden your knowledge of children and young people’s books and popular culture, and give your students ideas and advice on what they might like to read.

Take it home

Parents are key to developing a student’s reading. As teachers, there are a number of ways you can help to encourage good reading habits outside the classroom:

  • Make sure students always have something to read in their school bag, whether it’s a book, a comic or a newspaper. As part of an assignment, ask children to discuss their reading material with their parents and ask them for help in choosing additional texts.
  • It might be especially hard for parents who don’t have English as their first language, or who are illiterate, to engage with their children’s reading. Encourage your school library to stock translations of books in your pupils’ home languages. Let students take these home to share with parents.
  • Let parents know what texts are being read in class through your school’s social media account and suggest some topics for discussion after school.

Fiona Evans is head of school programmes at the National Literacy Trust. For more information and advice, visit literacytrust.org.uk.

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