Developing good reading habits

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Father helps child with reading

Alltwen Primary School improved pupils’ reading standards by running a weekly internet reading café. This allowed them to work with parents to increase the frequency of reading opportunities and improve reading habits. Nearly all pupils who attended the scheme made progress and increased their reading age. The majority of pupils are reading more at home. The scheme also allowed the school to develop positive relationships with parents.

Number of pupils: 228
Age range: 3-11
Date of inspection: October 2018

Information about the school

Alltwen Primary School is in a small village near Pontardawe in the Swansea Valley, in Neath Port Talbot local authority.

The school provides education for 228 pupils from three to eleven years old, including 22 who attend the nursery class part-time.  There are seven single-age classes, including the nursery, and one mixed-age class in the foundation phase.  Nearly all pupils are of White British heritage.  A very few pupils speak English as an additional language.  A very few pupils speak Welsh at home.

The three year average for pupils eligible for free school meals is around 17%.  This figure has reduced over time and is now just below the Welsh average of 18%.  The school has identified approximately 37% of pupils as having additional learning needs, which is well above the Welsh average of 21%.

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

The school has a strategic ambition to focus on improvements and raising standards whilst engaging and maximising the community’s strengths.  Improving pupils’ reading capabilities was a whole school priority in 2015-2016.  Initially the school improved its provision, frequency of reading opportunities and teaching through:

  • audit of current provision in terms of resources, such as individual and guided reading schemes and staff capability, understanding and pedagogy
  • purchasing additional and supplementary reading books
  • implementing a whole school agreed consistent approach to the teaching of reading, including whole school timetabled guided reading sessions
  • triad (group of three teachers) conducting lesson observations with a clear focus on improving the teaching of reading skills
  • staff performance management targets linked to reading and individual pupils and lesson observations linked to reading
  • staff meetings with a clear focus on reading, provision and impact
  • all pupils reading progress tracked and monitored and the data shared with parents
  • listening to learners – what and why do you like reading?
  • listening to parents– what support would you like to help you read with your child at home?
  • A whole school open-evening about support and strategies to develop ‘reading at home’

However, through robust and extensive self-evaluation it became evident that most pupils did not read at home and were generally disengaged with reading.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The school responded both to listening to learners and to parents’ questionnaires by purchasing an on-line eBook reading scheme.  As a result, each child has access to an appropriate reading book through their individual password and username.  To ensure that all pupils have access to the reading materials, pupils and families were invited to the weekly ‘internet reading café’ hosted by the school in the community room ‘the Cwtsh’.  Within the ‘Cwtsh’, the families utilised the school’s ICT infrastructure to access their child’s individual reading book.  This pilot project lasted for six consecutive weeks.  Initially the school supported:

  • families without internet connection (data gathered from an ICT focused questionnaire)
  • families and pupils who had disengaged with reading (names put forward by class teachers)
  • pupils who had been highlighted with needing additional reading support (using a reading data tracking)

On entry to the Cwtsh, the pupils and families were greeted by an experienced and skilled teaching assistant who provides helpful intervention and a range of reading support strategies.  If needed, the teaching assistant would also support the families in logging on to the pupils’ reading books and offer a range of refreshments and snacks. 

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The school measured the impact of the pilot on completion of the ‘internet reading café’ by reassessing the pupils’ reading ages and encouraging the pupils and families to complete a questionnaire.  When retested, nearly all pupils who attended the pilot made progress and increased their reading ages, with a few making significant progress.  Within the questionnaire, all parents and pupils confirmed that they would recommend the ‘internet reading café’ with a majority of pupils reading more at home.  When questioned on what three things went well, the parents responded with a range of statements including “the atmosphere of the Cwtsh”, “the support provided by the TA”, “the range and quality of reading materials” and “having quality undisturbed time with my child”.  The pupils also responded with a range of positive comments such as “having quality quiet time with mamgu”, “it’s great as I get to learn more and Nan can help”, “my mother was proud of what I read” and of course “the snacks and drinks”.

With both strong quantitative and qualitative self-evaluation evidencing the success of the pilot, the school also began receiving requests from parents who wanted to attend the ‘internet reading café’.  The community appreciated the time allocated, and the quality of support and engagement in assisting in enhancing the pupils’ good reading habits.  With this is mind, the senior leadership team and the school’s governing body agreed to invite all parents from Year 2 to Year 6 within the academic year.

The ‘internet reading café’ project has improved both the reading standards and reading habits of pupils as well as further developing positive relationships and the school’s community engagement.  Families are now familiar with being invited to share positive earning experiences within the school and the ‘Cwtsh’, which has improved relationships, mutual respect and trust.   

How have you shared your good practice?

The school has shared its good practice with local authority staff and neighbouring schools, and through many school-to-school visits.