What role does a reading programme play in ensuring excellent progress in reading for all children?

Teacher and child in classroom

What are the most important things we can do to ensure excellent progress in reading for all children? What role does a reading programme play in that progress? UCL Institute of Education have been working with the research team in Pearson to find out. Here, researchers and authors of ‘Which Book and Why’ Sue Bodman and Glen Franklin reflect on the project so far.

Research is fascinating. You can explore a situation, finding out how it works, the important relationships within it and suggest ways that it can be improved. Research helps us investigate the complex business of learning and teaching. We’ve both been teaching for more than 30 years and we are passionate about getting good books into the hands of young learners. Finding the right books to help teachers get children reading is important. Teachers need to understand the pedagogy and purpose of the reading programmes they use – it’s just as important as the programmes themselves. In researching Bug Club, we combined our passion for reading with our desire to find out what works well and why.

So we involved schools already looking to develop their reading practice: some wanted to involve parents more effectively. Others were looking to boost reading for pleasure. For some, effective teaching of guided reading was their motivation. Schools were assigned to one of two groups: the first 'experiment' group implemented Bug Club in Y1 and Y2 straight away; the second group provided a comparison during the first year, implementing Bug Club the following year.

We were looking for differences in rate of progress, use of literacy resources, motivation in children, parents and teachers and perceptions of the value of Bug Club. Both groups recorded what resources they used and how often. We asked parents, children, teachers and headteachers their opinions of Bug Club. Children completed online literacy assessments and a home-reading questionnaire. This information helped us find out what was happening in schools and how it affected progress.

Teachers, parents and children liked Bug Club. Children liked the online element, particularly answering quizzes and questions to gain rewards. Teachers were impressed with the guidance materials to support their guided reading and phonics teaching. Most schools felt Bug Club complemented existing policies and practice rather than changed it.

After 5 ½ months, children in the Bug Club schools were ahead, on average, by:

  • 3 months in word recognition
  • 7 months in word decoding
  • 4 months in comprehension
  • 3 months in spelling.

These findings are not due to chance; children in Bug Club Schools really did make more progress. But assessment data does not tell us why. Some schools did not use all parts of Bug Club so using the resources may not be responsible for the better progress rate. Three of the four assessments measure skills with letters, words and phonic knowledge. Yet, many of the ‘experiment’ schools either stopped using Phonics Bug completely, or adapted it to fit their existing phonics programme. So what made the difference?

Now, in the second year of the research, we are focusing on the classes with higher reading gains to try and explain the faster progress. We are asking those teachers to describe in detail how they used Bug Club, what they changed or adapted, and whether using Bug Club had an impact on their own understanding of reading pedagogy and practice.

We’ll keep you posted!

Sue Bodman is one of the leading academics from the UCL Institute of Education who conducted the study. She is National Leader at the International Literacy Centre at IOE. She is also Programme Leader to Masters in Reading Recovery and Literacy Leadership and Module Leader for Reports and Dissertations modules.

A note on the Bug Club Study

A random control study was carried out from January 2015 to July 2016 to understand the impact of the Bug Club programme on pupils’ literacy attainment. 1510 pupils in 36 schools participated, where one group of pupils and schools used Bug Club and the other group did not. The study was conducted by leading academics from UCL Institute of Education (IOE) in partnership with the Pearson UK Research team. It used external standardised assessments, developed independently by the University of Durham, to measure pupils’ progress and the impact of Bug Club. Additionally, qualitative data is being collected to supplement the findings through regular teacher diaries, questionnaires and interviews with teachers, pupils and parents.

Find out about Bug Club