Thursday, January 24, 2008

What reading programs work? Some evidence

The “Sunshine in South Africa” literacy project
Warwick Elly and Brian Cutting

International Journal of Educational Research
Volume 35, Issue 2, 2001, Pages 193-203


In South Africa, most black students are expected to learn in English, their second or third language. READ Education Trust, a non-government organization, has introduced book-based programs in many schools, and trained thousands of black teachers in methods of using the books constructively. Several formal evaluations have been conducted to investigate the impact of the READ programs. In the “Sunshine in South Africa” Project, a New Zealand publisher, Wendy Pye Ltd. donated 4000 books from her “Sunshine” series to 22 schools, in six different provinces, and READ staff trained teachers of these schools in the Shared Reading methodology during short workshops. Students in Year 2 and 3 were tested at the beginning and end of 1997, and their progress under the new program was compared with that of matched control groups, who followed a traditional textbook approach. The findings showed that Year 2 students in the “Sunshine” programs improved their reading skills at twice the rate of control groups, and showed impressive gains in listening comprehension. Strong significant improvements were also found for Year 3 Sunshine pupils. READ staff are extending these programs to many new schools throughout the Republic.

The “books in schools” project in Sri Lanka

International Journal of Educational Research
Volume 35, Issue 2, 2001, Pages 181-191

Lionel Kuruppu
Ministry of Education and Higher Education, Colombo, Sri Lanka


In Sri Lanka, English is taught in the primary school, by language specialists, starting in Grade 3. During 1995, staff at the National Institute of Education investigated the impact of a “Book Flood” of 100 good quality English reading books per school, in 20 small disadvantaged schools, at Grades 4 and 5. Half the schools were urban and half were rural. The books were donated for the project by Wendy Pye, a New Zealand publisher. In preparation for the project, teachers were trained, in short workshops, to use the Shared Reading method, and to read stories to children. The books were used for 15–20 min daily during normal English periods. The achievement levels of the pupils were tested before and after the program, which continued from March 1995 until January 1996. In comparison with matched control groups, the project groups showed highly significant gains in reading achievement, approximately three times that of control groups, and substantial improvements in writing and listening skills. Apparently, the daily practice at reading and related activities contributed to a marked improvement in English literacy acquisition. The Ministry of Education recommended extension of the program to all schools, in English, Tamil and Sinhalese. Teachers in over 400 schools have now been trained in the approach.

Conclusion: what have we learned?

International Journal of Educational Research
Volume 35, Issue 2, 2001, Pages 237-246

Warwick B. Elley
12A Kiteroa Terrace, Rothesay Bay, Auckland 1310, New Zealand

The results of the nine studies reported on in this special issue suggest quite clearly that a book-based program consistently accelerates the language acquisition of school children in situations where (1) they are learning a second language; (2) they have minimal access to interesting reading materials; and (3) their teachers are themselves teaching in a second language. In this closing chapter, a set of generalizations derived from these studies is presented. More specifically, three areas are discussed: (1) the link with other empirical studies; (2) theoretical issues raised by the results of the studies; and (3) policy questions raised by the results of the studies.

Which educational inputs to primary schools in Zimbabwe have most impact on the reading achievement of pupils?
International Journal of Educational Research, Volume 23, Issue 4, 1995, Pages 361-371
Saul Murimba, Manasseh Nkamba and Christopher Busang

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