Janvi Pala shares her work on paired reading
After graduating in BA Education Studies and English Language (joint honours) from De Montfort University (DMU) in July 2014, I decided I wanted to broaden my knowledge and gain a further understanding of the education sector and its impacts on teaching and learning. It was mainly my passion and curiosity that led me to continue my journey in education.
Currently, I am a master’s student at DMU studying Education Practice. Alongside my studies, I also work at a community college (age 11-18) in the public relations department, but my main contact with students comes from my voluntary work at the school. I do academic mentoring with the year 11s and most importantly, I have been a part of the reading intervention called ‘paired reading’ for nearly three years; this is through the DMU Square Mile, who have always been very supportive and enthusiastic about my volunteering throughout my time at DMU. Last year I was awarded with the Inspirational Student Award for paired reading!
What is ‘paired reading’?
Paired reading is a programme where adult mentors work with pupils, on a one-to-one basis, to help improve their reading skills. It involves pupils reading aloud to their mentor with the goal of enhancing and building their reading and general literacy skills. This programme targets those pupils who have a below average reading level for their age.
Having experienced reading with dyslexic students, it has given me the awareness of the type of support they require. I also read with a student who speaks English as an additional language, which increased my understanding of the barriers they face within education. Every week, I provide students with feedback and over a period of time, I am able to identify the progression they make. It is very rewarding to see the increasing development in those students who initially struggled with their reading. I have developed a good working relationship with my reading mentees and have seen them flourish while working with them.
Paired reading enables mentors to notice any gaps in students’ reading competence, so teachers can provide effective support for their learning, especially to boost their literacy skills. Due to my increasing determination to enhance the literacy of pupils, I chose to study this intervention for my major dissertation project this year, focusing on the impact of paired reading to enhance students’ reading comprehension.
The National Curriculum states, “it is vital for pupils’ comprehension that they understand the meanings of words they meet in their reading across all subjects” (Department for Education 2013, p.11); this illustrates the importance of understanding written material. As part of the reading process, successful word decoding leads to greater reading fluency, this then leads to the main goal of obtaining a good understanding of the text, comprehension. Or does it?
The main purpose for reading is to comprehend the ideas in the text; without comprehension, reading would be empty and meaningless (Casper et al., 1998). Reading comprehension is one of the main focuses at all levels of education, even within paired reading; not every pupil has sufficient competency in this reading skill even at secondary school.
Paired reading was introduced to boost reading skills as a result of students receiving low literacy levels and grades. It has been proved to be effective in enhancing word reading fluency, word recognition and speed of reading; the skill of comprehension is something the students do not usually grasp, and there is a lack of awareness about this. I aim to raise an awareness and its importance so that teachers can meet individual needs by focusing on the areas that need further improvement.
Reading aloud is said to improve a student’s fundamental reading skills but also to help the student develop higher-level comprehension skills (Gagen, 2007). However, when reading aloud, if the process of comprehension is absent, then only the words are being read out. A lot of students at secondary age, and beyond this, go through the process of Word calling, which occurs when individuals have well- developed skills in decoding but are relatively poor at comprehending what they read (Shankweiler et al., 1999; Thomson and Nixey, 2005; Choo et al., 2011). This is my main focus.
I am particularly keen on providing students with individualised learning support in order to meet their unique needs. I have particularly seen an immense progress of those students who are part of interventions like paired reading, as it provides them with learning opportunities that are tailored to their needs, making them progress further.
The broad aim of my small-scale qualitative research study will be to see whether the intervention of paired reading at the secondary school is an effective intervention to enhance students’ reading comprehension. The focus will be on how mentors use different strategies when reading with students.
The data collection methods will be through carrying out initial naturalistic observations of paired reading sessions to identify the strategies used followed by pre and post tests in comprehension with the students to recognise the effective strategies. I will then interview the mentors to gain a reflective insight into their views regarding the intervention, and whether they think it is effective to enhance students’ general reading comprehension.
Many thanks for reading!
CASPER et al., (1998) Comprehension: Theories and Strategies [WWW] Dominican College: School of Education. Available from: http://www.dominican.edu/academics/education/about/madaliennepeters/compprehension [Accessed 04/12/2014].
CHOO, T., ENG, T. and AHMAD, N. (2011) Effects of Reciprocal Teaching Strategies on Reading Comprehension. Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal, 11 (2), pp. 140-149.
(Also available from: http://www.readingmatrix.com/articles/april_2011/choo_eng_ahmad.pdf )
DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION (DfE) (2013) National curriculum in England: English programmes of study. London: DfE.
GAGEN, M. R. (2007) The Importance of Guided Reading [WWW] Available from: http://www.righttrackreading.com/guidedreading.html [Accessed 27/02/2015].
SHANWEILER, D. et al. (1999) Comprehension and Decoding: Patterns of Association in Children with Reading Difficulties. Scientific Studies of Reading, 3 (1), pp. 69-94.
(Also available from: http://www.haskins.yale.edu/Reprints/HL1103.pdf)
THOMSON, D. and NIXEY, R. (2005) Thinking to Read, Reading to Think: Bringing meaning, reasoning and enjoyment to reading. Literacy Today, pp. 12-13.