“Reading has given you a golden ticket for the rest of your lives!”. These are the words the President and Provost of UCL, Professor Michael Arthur, used to welcome primary school pupils to last week’s Reading Recovery Awards at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE). The annual ceremony, hosted by the IOE’s International Literacy Centre, celebrates the achievements of children, teachers and schools.
Reading Recovery is a short school-based programme for children aged five or six who need help to reach age-expected literacy levels. Research shows that a 20 week Reading Recovery course ensures that 85 per cent of six-year-olds will move from being the lowest achievers in their class to catching up with their peers. At age 11, follow-up data show that these children maintain their progress and achieve the expected key stage 2 reading test results for their age. You can find more evidence on the effectiveness of Reading Recovery here and, for the UK specifically, here.
This year’s ceremony coincided with the 25th anniversary of Reading Recovery in the UK, and guests learned that, since the first courses started in 1990, over 8,000 Reading Recovery teachers have been trained across the country, and over 200,000 children have benefitted from the programme – that’s enough to fill Wembley Stadium twice, or more than the number of Glastonbury fans at the recent Lionel Richie concert! In celebration of the anniversary, we made two very special awards to honour key figures in the programme’s history: Jean Prance, the first ever Reading Recovery National Trainer in the UK, and Jean Gross, who spear-headed the immensely successful Every Child a Reader project that took Reading Recovery to a massive scale from 2005. Alongside, we welcomed over 200 people from across the UK, and, in all, recognised pupils and teachers from 40 schools for their achievements in literacy.
We were joined by, among others, the President of the NAHT, Tony Draper, who spoke of the vital role that Reading Recovery had played in ensuring high standards of literacy in his own school. Also presenting schools with their awards was Marc Rowland, Deputy Director of the National Education Trust; Marc praised Reading Recovery for providing early intervention, with quality and precision, and for the community of practitioners it has built. To add to the excitement of the afternoon, we received messages of support from several of our Reading Recovery Champions, including Gillian Anderson.
But of course the real stars of the day were the children. Six-year-old Sophie wrote in her winning entry, “Reading makes me feel strong and happy. The sun shines when I read. I can go anywhere in a book.”
Among our winning schools, English Martyrs’ Catholic Primary School in Preston was praised for putting Reading Recovery at the centre of professional learning to both ensure excellent literacy intervention and extend relationships with parents. Another ‘school of the year’ winner was Queensbridge Primary from Hackney. Sarah Bailey OBE, Executive Head Teacher of Queensbridge, was delighted to collect the award for her school, saying, “Our school has been a Reading Recovery school for many years and we value the programme so much for unlocking the gift of reading for all children. It deserves national recognition. So proud of how ALL our children can read independently.”
It was a privilege to see the excitement and sense of achievement and pride on the faces of young children who, without the skills of literacy, may have been facing quite different life chances. When the UCL President and Provost encouraged the children to return to study at UCL one day, there was a strong feeling in the hall that, thanks to the gift of literacy, many of them will do just that!