Reading Recovery expands literacy efforts

Holy Innocents’ Zaina Verma reads with her teacher.

Holy Innocents’ Zaina Verma reads with her teacher. Photo: Kitty Beale

Reading Recovery teacher Emma-Jean Cheng believes that the first years of school are crucial to building a foundation in literacy learning.

That’s why she is dedicated to giving one-to-one instruction to five students from Years 1 and 2 who need additional support in reading and writing this year at Holy Innocents Catholic Primary Croydon.

After more than 70 hours of training, Ms Cheng is qualified to deliver the Reading Recovery program, which helps students struggling with the written word to catch up with their classmates.

“It’s always been at the back of my mind to gain more knowledge in this area and to instill a love of reading among children,” she said. “I believe in the reading recovery program and have seen how it makes a difference and changes children’s lives.”

Ms Cheng, who has been a teacher for 10 years, says she has learned a range of strategies within the program to help children become confident and independent readers.

“At the start of the year, one student started at a zero reading level. Now, they are at level 17 after 20 weeks of individual instruction,” she said. “It has effective long-term benefits for remediating reading text skills among the lowest performing students using a range of literacy approaches. With some children it’s about inspiring them to want to read and write. With others it’s about motivating them to be problem solvers.”

In Sydney Catholic Schools, 2015 NAPLAN data showed that 95 per cent of Reading Recovery graduates, in both Years 3 and 5, performed above National Minimum Standards in all areas of literacy assessment. In Year 3, up to 30 per cent of Reading Recovery students achieved literacy scores in the top two bands. In Year 5, it was up to 18 per cent.

“This is a remarkable improvement considering these students were in the lowest achieving group of readers when they started Year 1,” said Cathy Forrester, Head of Primary Curriculum. “In the last five years, our data shows that more than 90 per cent of the 1000 reading recovery students who finished the program demonstrated reading levels equal to the rest of the state.

“In fact, their NAPLAN Literacy scores were 10% better than the rest of their cohort,” she added.

Since the scheme began in 1991, Reading Recovery intensive training programs have trained 406 teachers to help more than 20,000 students learn to read. Ms Cheng joins 95 expert Reading Recovery specialists working across the Sydney Catholic Schools supplementing early literacy intervention for a minimum of 10 weeks up to 20 weeks so that these students can continue learning without the need for on-going support.


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