Since 2005, Learning and Teaching Scotland has been working in partnership with the Scottish Government, Project Scotland and pilot authorities to place young volunteers aged 16–25 in schools where they have been supporting literacy skills through paired reading. The pilot also aimed to develop a number of skills in the volunteers themselves, from communication and organisation to the enhancement of their own reading skills. The initiative was based on sound academic research, with the expertise of Professor Keith Topping from Dundee University being utilised to evaluate the pilot and provide volunteer training materials.
Teachers observed that pupil motivation, in terms of being more inclined to choose books and read independently, has been heightened, alongside self-esteem and belief in abilities to read with understanding and for pleasure. Interestingly, pupils did not view these sessions as a stigma in that they had been singled out, but rather felt privileged to have been chosen to have a reading partner. Parents were also most appreciative of the one-to-one input that their children received during the paired reading sessions. Working closely with pupils had been a worthwhile and inspiring experience for the volunteers, who had found the schools to be welcoming places.
Building on the success of the volunteer model of Scotland Reads, Calderside Academy adopted this approach and carry out training with S6 enhancement pupils who are then paired with new S1 pupils. The pupils meet at registration on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Pupils can reap the benefits in terms of increased engagement and self-esteem. Indeed our current cohort of S1/S6 pupils and parents/carers have spoken very highly of the benefits of taking part in this programme.
How does it work?
S1 pupils who would benefit from working with an S6 buddy are identified. S6 volunteers are then paired up with the S1s. When the buddies first meet, they will complete the Getting to Know You questionnaire – this helps the S6 pupil find out a bit about their general likes and dislikes and their reading habits.
Paired reading is a tried and tested method. It gives pupils more choice and control in reading and therefore can lead to greater enthusiasm. Selecting their own reading materials gives pupils a sense of ownership and of their interests being valued. They also exercise choice when deciding whether to read alone or together. There is ample thinking time given, and pupils are not under pressure to get words right on their own, but are given help with pronunciation and meaning. They also have an excellent example in their reading partner, who acts as a role model for using expression, etc. There is emphasis on questioning, so that pupils understand what they are reading and are not just decoding the words. The pupil’s confidence is boosted because they are given praise and one-to-one attention. It has been shown that pupils become more positive about reading in general as a result of paired reading sessions, and feel encouraged to read more independently.
The S6 buddy will ask questions to enhance the reading experience, open discussion and build understanding, which are carried out before reading, during reading and after reading. There are suggested activities that can be completed too.
Praise is a very important part of paired reading. It recognises pupil effort and achievement, and raises self-esteem and confidence.
Scotland Reads has been very successful in Calderside Academy. Staff have noticed S1 pupils have shown increased confidence, they have built upon their social and communication skills and they have improved teamwork skills. Some pupils have been getting help with organisational skills and homework from their S6 buddy.
Pupil voice is very important to us and we ensure that this is incorporated into everything we do in the Support for Learning department. We are currently in consultation with our S1 pupil groups from 2017/18 session to discuss how they see the future of Scotland Reads.
Watch this space for changes for 2018/19…