Redefining children’s reading: How well are the nation’s children really reading?

Every year, as parents and educators, we look to Key Stage 2 national curriculum assessment results as a benchmark of how well children are reading as they move from primary to secondary school.

However, recent changes in national assessments at age 11 — both in what is being assessed and how achievement is expressed — mean that we can no longer make year-on-year comparisons of children’s reading scores. This means that we don’t really know how well our nation’s children are reading.

This posed a problem for the Read On. Get On. (ROGO) coalition which was set-up in 2014 to get all children in England reading well by the age of 11. We run the coalition, which is made up of 12 charities and educational organisations.

No longer able to base children’s reading levels on national assessment results alone, we began to reconsider the definition of ‘reading well’ and broaden it out to include the wider skills, attitudes and behaviours that we know help children to become good readers.

Following an in-depth review of the wealth of research in this area, ROGO developed a new tripartite model of reading well at age 11. The model asserts that, in addition to strong cognitive skills (including comprehension, phonics and decoding), children must also have positive affective processes (including high levels of reading enjoyment, motivation and reading attitudes) and good reading behaviours (including daily reading outside school and reading a wide range of texts) in order to be a good reader.

Read On. Get On. tripartite model of reading

Based on this model, experts from the ROGO coalition, the Department for Education, NFER, GL Assessment, Renaissance Learning and teaching professionals spent the past year creating a new, more robust measure of children’s reading — the ROGO Index.

For the first time, we’ve been able to bring together government, commercial and third sector data to measure the three elements that make a good reader at age 11, according to our new tripartite model. Data from the Department for Education, GL Assessment and Renaissance Learning has been used to measure children’s cognitive reading skills, and data from the National Literacy Trust has been used to measure children’s levels of reading enjoyment and reading frequency.

ROGO Index 2016 (published in 2017)

The ROGO Index shows that:

  • Children’s cognitive reading skills have remained consistent over the past three years, despite changes in Key Stage 2 national curriculum assessments suggesting fluctuations in attainment
  • Children’s levels of reading enjoyment (75%) and daily reading frequency (50%) are both lower than their levels of cognitive reading skills (85%)
  • Girls outperform boys in all areas of reading

Despite reading for enjoyment being an important part of the national curriculum, the ROGO Index shows that children’s levels of reading enjoyment are actually lagging behind their reading skills. To give children the best possible start in life, we must close this gap. We, as a coalition, are therefore calling on the government to redouble efforts to improve children’s levels of reading enjoyment.

But it’s also crucial to remember that we all have a role to play in helping children understand the value of reading and the importance of enjoying reading. That’s why we’ve also published some brilliant top tips to help get parents and teachers started. For example:

  • Make time to read: research shows that reading with your child for as little as 10 minutes a day can significantly boost how well they do at school. Set aside a regular time every day to read with your child, whether it’s for 10 minutes when they get in from school or reading a bedtime story together. Little and often works best.
  • Let children choose what to read: children are more likely to enjoy reading if they get to choose what they read. Join your local library for free and help children explore a wide variety of books from animals and sports to cooking and wizards.
  • Explore different reading materials: as well as fiction there is a whole world of comics, magazines, ebooks, audio books and non-fiction for children to discover.
  • Be a reading role model: children learn from their parents and teachers so seeing you enjoying and valuing books can be a great inspiration!

The ROGO Index will be published on an annual basis to hold the nation to account for the reading levels of its children. It will also be a litmus test for the impact of national policies and provide a benchmark against which individual organisations can measure the impact of their work on children’s reading.

We want to help more children fall in love with reading for a lifetime and we hope you’ll help us with our mission. It’s time to put reading for enjoyment at the heart of our children’s lives.

Head to the campaign website for more information and the full top tips resources for parents and teachers: www.readongeton.org.uk

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