Bug Club

An Effective Reading Program Can Change Outcomes

A strong foundation for academic success begins not just with the skills to read, but the love of reading.

Bug Club is a reading program designed to engage today’s young learners who are used to reading and playing online. It brings together more than 350 books for different reading levels, in print and online, with supplementary games and quizzes that make reading fun. Bug Club is used in more than 5,000 primary schools in the UK by learners from ages 4-11.

As part of Pearson’s commitment to outcomes, we have been studying the impact of Bug Club. Our research has shown that the program contributes to positive reading behaviors and helping all students reach age-appropriate standards.

"In comparison to what we’ve used before, we’ve certainly seen an enthusiasm for the books...they’d have read a book everyday if they could."

–Lindsay Maloney, Literacy Coordinator, Allenby Primary School, UK

Intended outcome

Learners achieve the appropriate reading standard according to age and aptitude.

Learners who used Bug Club made highly statistically significant progress in some of the important building blocks of reading compared to their peers who did not.

1,510 learners drawn from 30 schools participated in the study from January 2015 to July 2016, covering five academic terms in the UK.

This sample included: 

  • 757 girls and 753 boys
  • 719 Year 1 students and 791 Year 2 students
  • 748 learners using Bug Club and 762 learners in the control group
  • 15 intervention schools and 15 control schools

After almost six months, when compared to their peers who did not use Bug Club, learners who used Bug Club were on average:

  • 3 months ahead in word decoding
  • 3 months ahead in spelling
  • 2 months ahead in reading comprehension

After a full year, learners who used Bug Club were on average:

  • 3 months ahead in word recognition
  • 10 months ahead in word decoding when reading

Making Gains for Disadvantaged Learners

Research shows the connection between literacy skill development and disadvantaged environments.1 Bug Club has been found to support Reading skill development of learners who receive free school meals in the UK.

After almost six months, Bug Club was found to have a statistically significant positive impact on learners’ reading progress in schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged learners (including those designated in the UK as receiving free school meals and or additional funding through the pupil premium program).

Furthermore, after one year, this impact was still shown to be statistically significant in these schools and for these learners.

Intended outcome 

Contributes to positive learner attitudinal behaviours to reading, (engagement and enjoyment).

Learners who love to read take the first step on the path to long-term academic success. In our interviews with study participants, all 30 interviewees agreed with the statement that use of Bug Club was "providing enjoyment and motivation" to their students.

"The children really like it...it’s so orientated towards children, they have their own platform on there…it motivates them to read more."

–Robin De Geus, Year 1 teacher, Allenby Primary School, U.K.

Using a Proven Approach to Create a New Generation of Readers

Pearson introduced Bug Club in 2011 in the UK as a cutting-edge product to promote phonics-based reading instruction and engage primary school learners in reading. Bug Club and Phonics Bug, a phonics-focused strand of the product suite, were created in consultation with reading experts and practitioners based on a pedagogy built on the seven-year Clackmannanshire study.2 The study found that systematic synthetic phonics is an effective way to teach children to read and it subsequently provided the basis for UK government policies for teaching reading in schools.

Bug Club has been designed to engage a generation of children used to reading and playing online. It brings together more than 350 books for different reading levels, in print and online, with supplementary quizzes and games. Bug Club books are in line with the national UK curriculum and the nationally recognized Book Banding system to support progress for all learners. Bug Club also offers professional development support for teachers and support materials for parents.

Case Study: Preventing the Summer Slide

St. Mary’s Academy in Suffolk was concerned about the drop in achievement children often experienced over the summer holidays between Years 2 and 3 when children did not practice reading at home. By September some children fall backwards in their attainment, and this proved challenging for the key stage 2 curriculum in the UK. To address these needs, they loaded each child’s Bug Club account with online books for the summer period. The school told the children they had a library of books, and informed parents that this was available for their children over the summer holidays. The books given to children were a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, all the level they had been reading prior to the summer holidays—giving them choice and the correct level of challenge.

Children were measured using Phonics and Early Reading Assessment, (PERA) before and after the summer holidays. Unlike previous years, when Bug Club was used no drop in attainment was seen.

As one little boy put it: “Sometimes in the holidays, I forget how to read, but this time I didn’t.”

Report Downloads

Read how we conducted the research in the 2015-2016 Research Report.

1 Warren, H. (2014). Reading England’s Future: Mapping how well the poorest children read., Available from http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0003/5567/ROGO_Reading_Englands_Future_Nov_14.pdf

2 Johnston, R. S. and Watson, J. E. (2005). A Seven Year Study of the Effects of Synthetic Phonics Teaching on Reading and Spelling Attainment, Available from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2005/02/20688/52449