'LITERACY IS FREEDOM' - UNESCO 2012
'We believe literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen well. A literate person is able to communicate effectively with others and to understand written information.' National Literacy Trust
Literacy and reading are key skills in accessing the wider curriculum. Reading is integral to our whole curriculum. If our pupils can’t read well, they can’t access the learning that our curriculum has to offer.
“Young people who leave school without good literacy skills are held back at every stage of life. Their outcomes are poorer on almost every measure, from health and wellbeing, to employment and finance. The most recent estimates suggest that low levels of literacy cost the UK economy at least £20 billion a year” (Education Endowment Foundation, "EEF").
Our reading mission
- At Ralph Allen School we prioritise time and resources to the teaching of reading.
- At Ralph Allen School we aim to build a reading culture where students develop a love of reading and read for pleasure.
- At Ralph Allen school we prioritise reading by providing and investing in, bespoke high quality literacy interventions for struggling students and training for staff.
Our Reading Ambition
Skilled reading, writing and talking is crucial for our students to succeed. We want to ensure every member of staff and every student values the power of reading and literacy, not only in their learning and teaching but also in their ability to communicate effectively and to make sense of the world.
Health and Wellbeing - Research suggests that regular reading increases health and wellbeing. Reading for pleasure has been found to improve self-esteem, providing the grounding we need to pursue our goals and make life decisions. Reading can also aid our sleep, reduce feelings of loneliness and increase our emotional intelligence.
Lifelong Readers - We want to empower every student for lifelong learning by creating a literate environment. Our ambition is for all our students to be reading at or above their chronological age by the end of KS3. This will allow our students confidently to access the KS4 curriculum and undertake their external exams.
We know how important reading is to building confidence and supporting our young people for lifelong learning. Reading regularly will help boost students’ vocabulary, increase cultural capital and develop their empathy and imagination. Our intent is to provide targeted vocabulary instruction in every subject and develop students’ ability to read complex academic texts.
Research-informed – We use research, rather than assumptions, to inform our approach to reading and literacy. Our intent is that our strategy is rigorous and comprehensive, to ensure our students develop the reading fluency to flourish in school and future employment.
Research shows us how essential reading skills are for our students to make connections between their subjects. The average reading age required to access GCSE level texts and examination papers is 15 years and 8 months.
“Language and literacy provide us with the building blocks, not just for academic success, but for fulfilling careers and rewarding lives”. EEF
"Pupils studying for GCSEs need to be strong enough readers to understand their course textbooks and comprehend exam questions” National Literacy Trust Charity
Reading in the Curriculum
Reading in the Curriculum
Our aim is to equip students with the reading skills and competencies they will need in later life. Along the way, we take every opportunity to expose students to ideas, cultures and experiences they may not otherwise encounter. Reading is at the core of English as a subject, but we also recognise that it provides the foundational skills for a wide range of other school subjects, as well as the important links it has to the emotional and social aspects of young people’s development.
We also know that our students come to us with a wide range of reading histories. Our curriculum is designed to provide opportunities to stretch and develop readers of all strengths, whilst developing the core skills that students will need to undertake their exams and for their future careers. It is of vital importance to us that students leave school with the reading skills they will need later on in life, and the reading habits that will bring them enjoyment, empathy, and an understanding of the nuances they will encounter in everyday communication. At the core of everything is a shared responsibility between all staff to share their love of reading, ensuring that students encounter a variety of reading role models and not just their English teacher.
Reading skills for life outside of education
Our reading curriculum is research-informed, rigorous and constantly evolving. We work hard to ensure that the changing nature of the world is reflected by the texts students encounter, and that our text choices are scrutinised at the end of each unit to assess their suitability for learners. The texts students encounter throughout their time at Ralph Allen are rigorous and carefully selected to compliment the skillset being taught at different stages of their learning journeys. We teach Tier Two vocabulary to develop students' comprehension and analytical skillsets, and to ensure that they are given ample opportunities to master more challenging language.
Students will study at least one novel per year in their English lessons, alongside plays, poetry and a wide range of non-fiction texts. Alongside this, students in Y7 and Y8 have a fortnightly scheduled Library lesson to foster independence and allow for personal choice, encouraging them to pursue their own passions and develop lifelong reading habits. A unit we are particularly proud of is our Reading for Pleasure unit in Year 9, for which students select any book of their choice to study in a critical, analytical style. This unit not only develops the independent skills that students will need as they approach GCSE, but encourages students to see that they are able to apply the reading skills and strategies they have developed in Year 7 and 8 independently to a text of their own choosing.
As students move into GCSE, we encourage mastery of their texts through a wide range of reading strategies. These include building confidence with challenging vocab through deliberate practice, as well as signposting our most able students to materials outside of lesson which will develop their own critical interpretation of texts. We also take every opportunity to enable students to develop their understanding of voice, audience and the subtleties of tone, whilst preparing them for the unseen elements of both the language and literature GCSE. They leave school confident in their own ability to read and decipher the multiple layers of meaning that will be presented by any text they encounter in their wider life.
At Ralph Allen School we firmly believe that by prioritising Disciplinary Literacy across the curriculum, we ‘increase our pupils’ chance of success in their subjects’ (Education Endowment Foundation, "EEF").
More information on Disciplinary Literacy at Ralph Allen School can be found here.
Reading At Home & Recommended Reads
What difference can you make as a parent/carer?
You can make a huge difference! Parents/carers are the most important educators in a child’s life. Research shows that children who read regularly at home develop their language and literacy skills at a faster rate. Please encourage your young person to keep reading at home.
Encourage your children to discuss their reading with you; what books do they enjoy? What books are they getting out of our brilliant library?
Click on the links below for some top tips on supporting your young person's reading at home and for some great book recommendations from our school librarians:
Tips for Parents
Book Recommendations for Years 7 & 8
Book Recommendations for Years 9, 10 & 11
Book Recommendations for Sixth Form
The Accelerated Reader programme
Ralph Allen is partnered with an exciting reading scheme, 'Accelerated Reader', that we use to encourage an active interest in reading for our KS3 students. More information can be found here.
The premise is that our students read books identified by the scheme, which they access via our school library or online via their MyOn login, and once finished, take an online quiz that is specially designed for the book they have read, to solidify their comprehension of the text.
Pupils develop reading skills most effectively when they read appropriately challenging books – difficult enough to keep them engaged, but not so difficult that they become frustrated. This is their ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD), also known as their book level. The ZPD ranges from 1.2 up to 13.5, with 13.5 being the most challenging text in terms of content and vocabulary. Their ZPD is determined through their initial Star Reading assessment. This is a computer-based reading assessment, where the 34 questions adjust to a pupil’s responses, making the difficulty easier or harder depending on the comprehension of the previous question. The test uses multiple choice questions and takes 20-30 minutes to complete. Our teachers will support our students taking this assessment in their literacy lessons up to three times per year. Students will choose books to read based on their book level from the Star Reading assessment.
According to an independent study by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), Accelerated Reader produces ‘particularly positive effects’. They state that 'the internet-based programme increased the reading age of pupils by three additional months in just 22 weeks. The effect on low-income pupils was even greater, with their reading age improving by five additional months in the same amount of time'.
Accelerated Reader also gives our teachers the information they need to monitor students’ reading practice and make informed decisions to guide their future learning. A comprehensive set of reports reveals how much a student has been reading, at what level of complexity, and how well they have understood what they have read. Vocabulary growth and literacy skills are also measured, giving teachers insight into how well students have responded to reading schemes and class instruction.
Accessing Accelerated Reader quizzes
'To access Accelerated Reader quizzes from home follow this link' Accelerated Reader
We recommend regular reading and children who read at least 20 minutes a day with a 90% comprehension rate on the AR quizzes see the greatest gain. We have thousands of books to choose from in school, however we are also aware that our students may like to read their own books from home.
You can visit the website Accelerated Reader Bookfinder UK & Ireland - Quick Search (arbookfind.co.uk) to search all of the available books with AR quizzes to see if the book your child wants to read is on the scheme. The quizzes can also be completed from home.
- 'Since we started Accelerated Reader with our Year 7 cohort, over 1100 books have been borrowed from the library between January-June. That is an amazing 200% more than last year where Year 7 borrowed 365 books between January and June. It's brilliant to know out students are both accessing and enjoying more reading!'
- 'Here are some of the lovely things our brilliant Year 7's are saying about their experience of Accelerated Reader... 'I like taking quizzes on my favourite books', 'I like seeing how many words I have read', We can just sit down and chill and read in silence'. It's fantastic to hear how much our students are enjoying Accelerated Reader.
Reading Intervention Programme
Celebrating reading in Ralph Allen School
We pride ourselves on the fact that our students enjoy reading and this is because we celebrate it.
Every year the school celebrates World Book Day. This is a themed day dedicated to a love of reading where teachers and students alike share their favourite reads, ‘Drop Everything and Read’ (DEAR) in lessons, dress up and book swap, creating a real buzz around reading.
Some other ways we celebrate reading include:
The BookBuzz reading programme. Run by the Reading Agency, this scheme allows our year 7 students to choose their own book to take home and keep. For some, this is the first time they have owned a brand-new text. This scheme continues throughout the year including prizes for completing the BookBuzz reading challenge, a book club and swap.
The Ralph Allen Poetry Slam. After reading a range of inspiring poems from the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah and Michael Rosen, students write and perform theirs in class and as part of the house competition event. It is here that students are celebrated for their imagination, individuality and performance in front of their peers.
Reading projects. As part of the year 8 and 9 curriculum, students have a Gothic Reading and Reading for Pleasure reading project which require them to give an oral presentation on what they have read. It is here students are expected to challenge themselves and celebrate their reading achievements.
Author visits. Often in collaboration with the Bath Literature Festival, these visits allow authors to share their passion for reading and writing and impart their expert knowledge to our students. They also get the opportunity to ask questions about the writing process and take part in workshops after the talk. Following on from these events, students are encouraged to loan or purchase the books from our library.
Every year, we seek new opportunities to celebrate reading, working alongside the library to ensure that students develop a life-long passion for books.
The RAS Library
The library is at the heart of school life at Ralph Allen. The school library is about more than literacy and silence– it is a haven for all pupils and tries hard to cater for the whole child. The library space itself is often a refuge for students, a safe space where they are comfortable and free to be themselves. The library is a physical and emotional place of safety, away from tough situations and helps to overcome the stress students may have to encounter during the day.
Our library is a warm, welcoming, inspiring space where students can browse the shelves for books, borrow print books, research topics that interest them, get help from a librarian, sit, read, and study, or join in with friends and play one of the many board games on the shelves. We feel very strongly that our school library should be an open space available to students before school, during break and lunch time and after school, as these are times when vulnerable students especially need a refuge or a safe place in school to get away from all the hustle and bustle during a busy school day, a place to gather their thoughts and relax.
Our library is richly stocked with an abundant and diverse selection of fiction books, graphic novels, reference texts, study guides, curriculum resources and popular light reading. We also offer a wide selection of boxed games, card games, some colouring and construction materials and puzzles and the room buzzes everyday with the sound of students playing, joining in and challenging each other. This is a space where friendships are formed, co-operation abounds and confidence builds.
In Year 7 and 8 the English curriculum timetable is supplemented with fortnightly Library Lessons. The focus for these lessons changes every session and can be as varied as ‘What makes a hero’, ‘One world, many stories’, ‘Bad beginnings’ or ‘Focus on fabulous facts’. During library lessons students take part in enriching discussions, browse eye catching book displays and settle into comfy chairs for sustained silent reading -when powerful magic happens in the brain and, finally, every lesson concludes with a hugely popular class wide quiz.
The school library supports Tutor Time by providing every tutor room with a reading selection box of books and is always happy to provide resources for curriculum use. Our objectives are to guide students on their reading journey, to encourage regular independent reading, to provide a comfortable, inspiring, and safe ambience and thereby to grow healthy readership at all levels.