We recently atended a Helen Arkell talk, presented by Dr Jessie Ricketts. She is passionate about her work , and was recently a speaker in a Westminster event about measuring children’s progress in literacy and how this informs teaching. This presentation, ‘How can we Harness Reading Skills to Promote Vocabulary Learning?’ reflected research completed by Jessie and her colleagues. Her studies examined how existing reading and vocabulary skills relate to new word learning. The conclusion, where participants were in the 7-9 age range, was that reading provides opportunities for children to learn new vocabulary and build language, but is dependent on existing reading and language skills. Children are more likely to learn words that have been taught with support from orthography (the visual image of the written word), and whilst this is particularly so for advanced readers the findings have been replicated in typically developing children and others with minimal levels of ability in reading. It also applied to those with a specific language impairment and autism spectrum disorders, who are also more likely to learn words that have been taught with support from orthography.
Jessie’s biggest project – Vocabulary and Reading in Secondary Schools (VaRiSS) finishes in July 2017. She said that there is little data on vocabulary and reading in secondary school and that teachers feel inexperienced in this area. With approximately 16% of pupils in Year 7 having some level of reading difficulty there are implications for accessing the curriculum. Initial results show that, without intervention, pupils are making (some) progress in word reading and whilst they are not falling behind even more, there is also no ‘catch up’. This highlights the need for universal, targeted reading instruction and teacher training and continuing professional development.
The message for those teaching pupils with dyslexia is that multi-sensory approaches that we use are effective. It also reiterates the need for inclusive, quality first teaching.