A study published in Oxford Review of Education evaluates the effects of TutorBright tutoring on the reading and maths skills of children in family foster care. TutorBright uses one-to-one, at-home tutoring with detailed instructor’s manuals and customised pupil workbooks. Children receive two one-hour tutoring sessions per week, on designated days of the week, for up to 50 hours of tutoring. Children in the waiting list control group were asked to continue with their schooling as usual and not seek additional tutoring or academic support during the school year, and were then offered the tutoring intervention at the end of the school year. TutorBright tutors all had experience with teaching or mentoring, and an undergraduate or master’s degree (completed or in progress).
For the randomised controlled trial, conducted by Andrea J
Hickey and Robert J Flynn, child welfare workers nominated foster care children
in Ontario, Canada, who met the following criteria: enrolled in grades 1–11 (Years
2–12), fluent in English, currently living in a foster-family setting, and
judged likely to remain in care for the duration of the study. Thirty-four
children were randomly assigned to tutoring, and 36 to a waiting-list control
The results suggest that the tutored children made greater
gains than those in the control group in reading fluency (effect size = +0.16),
reading comprehension (ES = +0.34) and maths calculation (ES = +0.39).
of the TutorBright tutoring programme on the reading and mathematics skills of
children in foster care: a randomised controlled trial (July 2019), Oxford Review of Education, 45:4
Evidence for Learning in Australia has published an evaluation report of a randomised controlled trial of MiniLit, a small group, phonics-based programme for struggling Year 1 readers. The intervention is targeted at the bottom 25% of pupils struggling to read, and focuses on improving pupils’ literacy in five areas: phoneme awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.
The programme involved struggling readers from Year 1
classes in nine Australian primary schools located in New South Wales, and
consisted of 80 one-hour lessons delivered four to five days per week over 20
weeks. The lessons were delivered in school outside of regular lessons by
teachers to small groups of up to four pupils. A total of 237 pupils
participated, of which 119 were allocated to the MiniLit intervention group and
118 to the control group. Pupils in the control group received the school’s
usual learning support for struggling readers, which could include whole-class
approaches and/or support programmes for struggling readers.
Overall, there was no evidence that MiniLit had any
additional impact on pupils’ reading at 12 months, measured using the York
Assessment of Reading Comprehension – Passage Reading (YARC-PR) tests compared
to pupils receiving usual reading support (ES = -0.04). However, there were
some positive effects for reading accuracy (ES = +0.13) and reading rate (ES =
+0.06). There was also evidence of improvement in foundational reading skills
at six months, particularly letter sound knowledge, which was also sustained at
The researchers point out, however, that the findings were
dependent on the quality of the MiniLit lessons which were provided to pupils. Schools
were limited to 20 weeks’ duration, and in many cases, teachers reported that this
length was not sufficient to complete the programme for all groups. They suggest
that improving how MiniLit is implemented may lead to more positive outcomes;
however, this requires further evaluation to determine.
Learning impact fund: Evaluation report (2019). Independent report prepared by the Murdoch Children’s Research
Institute and the University of Melbourne for Evidence for Learning
A meta-analysis in the Journal of Research in Reading has synthesised the findings of studies comparing print and digital text regarding time required to read, reading comprehension and readers’ perceptions of their comprehension. Researcher Virginia Clinton performed a systematic literature review, only including studies using random assignment and that were published between 2008 and 2018, yielding 29 reports of 33 studies for analysis. She found that readers require equal amounts of time to read print and digital text, although screen reading negatively impacted reading comprehension (effect size = -0.25). Readers were more accurately able to judge their comprehension on paper (effect size = +0.20) than on screen.
The negative effect on performance for reading text from
screens rather than paper did not vary for readers who were adults or children
(under 18). However, the author suggests this finding should be interpreted
with caution because there were more studies with adult participants (26) than
child participants (7).
Best Evidence in Brief reported on an earlier meta-analysis solely examining reading comprehension, whose results also favoured printed text.
Source: Reading from paper compared to screens: A systematic review and meta‐analysis (May 2019), Journal of Research in Reading, volume 42, issue 2
The Ministry of Education in France introduced a policy in 2002 that reduced class size to no more than 12 pupils in areas determined to have social difficulties and high proportions of at-risk pupils, called Zones d’Education Prioritaire (ZEP). In order to evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of this policy, researcher Jean Ecalle and colleagues in France examined the results of the policy-mandated class size reduction on the reading achievement of first grade (Year 2) pupils (Study 1), and compared them to the effects of an evidence-based literacy intervention on the reading achievement of at-risk children in normal-sized classes (20 pupils) (Study 2).
Study 1, reducing class size, involved assigning classrooms to
either small (12 pupils/class n=100 classes) or large (20–25 pupils/class,
n=100 classes) class sizes (with the support of the Ministry). At the start of
the 2002–03 school year, 1,095 children were pre-tested on pre-reading skills
and matched at pre-test. At the end of the school year, children were post-tested,
with results favouring the small-class-size group on word reading (effect size=+0.14)
and word spelling (effect size=+0.22).
In Study 2, researchers separated 2,803 first grade (Year 2)
pupils in ZEP areas into an experimental group who received an evidence-based
reading intervention, and a control group who did not. The intervention was a
protocol developed by the Association Agir pour l’Ecole (Act for School), who
developed a hierarchy of teaching reading based on evidence-based methods of
learning to read, progressing from training phonological skills, to learning
letter sounds, decoding, and fluency. Act for School monitored compliance with
the protocol weekly. Class size for both groups was 20 pupils. Experimental
teachers received one day of training, and provided 30 minutes of teaching a
day to average or high readers in groups of 10 to 12, and one hour a day for
lower readers in groups of four to six. Again, children were pre-tested on
reading skills and matched between groups. All areas post-tested favoured the
experimental group, with significant effects in word reading (effect size=+0.13)
and word spelling (effect size=+0.12).
Researchers stated that based on the results of both studies, the
optimal recommendation to improve literacy skills for at-risk pupils would be a
double intervention, combining evidence-based practices within small classes.
of policy and educational interventions intended to reduce difficulties in
literacy skills in grade 1 (June 2019), Studies
in Educational Evaluation, Volume 61
A study published in Reading Research Quarterly examined the effects of installing an in-class library providing students with age-appropriate books on student reading outcomes and achievements in rural China.
Most previous studies of the effects of
age-appropriate books have been conducted in developed regions. However, in
rural China, not only are age-appropriate reading materials scarce, but
schools, teachers, and parents believe independent reading will negatively
affect students’ performance on high-stakes college entrance exams.
To examine the actual effects in rural China, Hongmei Yi and colleagues conducted a randomised controlled trial including 11,083 fourth- and fifth-grade students from 120 schools in Jiangxi province in China. In the treatment schools, an in-class library stocked with 70 extracurricular books was installed in each classroom. The books were carefully selected based on recommendations of reading specialists and educators. Students received a baseline survey before the intervention and a follow-up survey after eight months of the intervention. Besides asking students about their attitudes toward reading and reading habits, students’ performance in Chinese language and maths was evaluated, and an assessment made of their reading skills using test items from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). They found that:
The in-class library significantly improved students’ reading habits after eight months. Students borrowed books more, read more, enjoyed reading more, and communicated more with their friends about reading.
There were no significant effects on students’ performance in maths and Chinese, despite the beliefs in China’s highly competitive system that independent reading would lower test scores.
However, there was no significant effect on students’ reading achievement.
The authors suggest that the lack of positive effects might be due to the book choices, short duration of the programme, and the fact that tasks were not assigned to teachers regarding the use of the in-class libraries. They suggest that the results highlight the importance of providing age-appropriate reading resources to primary students in rural China.
Source: Do Resources Matter? Effects of an In‐Class Library Project on Student Independent Reading Habits in Primary Schools in Rural China, (March 2019) Reading Research Quarterly
A meta-analysis conducted by Claire Noble and colleagues explores the impact of shared reading interventions (where an adult reads with a child) on children’s language skills, and whether they are equally effective across a range of different outcome variables, for children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and across a range of study designs.
The analysis included 54 studies conducted between 1989 and 2017.
These studies included 316 effect sizes and 5,569 participants. Nine of the studies
reported follow-up effects. Children in the studies were typically age 7 years
findings suggest that, while there is an effect of shared reading on language
development, the effect size is smaller than suggested in previous meta-analyses
(+0.23). They also found that the effect size is moderated by the type of
control groups, and when compared to active control groups, is closer to zero
(+0.04). In addition, the meta-analysis indicates only modest differences
between types of language outcome, no effect for socioeconomic background, and
a near-zero effect at follow-up.
given the low dosage of many of the studies included in the meta-analysis, the
authors caution against the conclusion that shared reading interventions have no
real effect on children’s language development.
Source: The impact
of shared book reading on children’s language skills: A meta-analysis (October