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In all shapes and sizes

How to find the right path to Reading Recovery for every pupil

Startling results from the first year of the Every Child a Reader project show that struggling readers given one-to-one help progressed more than four times as fast as their peers without such help. And even the presence of a trained Reading Recovery teacher in the school often helped boost reading progress for all the children.

Here, experts provide tips for classroom teachers.

Find the right books for the child

Most children not making good progress are struggling to read books that are too hard. Use a reliable measure (for example, running records) to make sure that your children are reading books that challenge but don't overwhelm them. Work together at foundation and key stage 1 to organise a wide and interesting collection of books arranged in coded sections according to a gradient of challenge to the reader. This will help match the child to the book, so that they move from one successful reading to the next.

Re-read familiar books

A musician doesn't play a new piece of music once and then move on.

Revisiting a piece allows the budding musician to become smoother on the tricky bits, to develop fluency on the easier bits, to notice subtleties missed the first time around - and just enjoy the music. It's the same with children and books. Re-reading allows them to experience the joy of being a fluent reader.

Make sure reading and writing connect

Reading and writing support each other. Reading requires a child to go from print to ideas in a fast, fluent process. Writing requires the child to go from ideas to print in a detailed, analytical process. Children can make discoveries in writing (e.g. that we leave spaces between words) that will help them to make sense of reading, and discoveries in reading that will help them make sense of writing. Let them use a practice page alongside their writing page to try things out.

There is no silver bullet

Children think differently. There is no one way to teach reading that will be equally successful for every child. If a child is not making progress in reading, it is unlikely to be because he has simply not taken in what you taught him - he probably cannot make sense of the way you taught it. More of the same won't help; you need to find this child's path to understanding through informed, close observation

Julia Douetil and Sue Burroughs-Lange are co-ordinators of the Reading Recovery national network, Institute of Education, University of London

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