Google Find us on Google+

An Interview with Dr. Amanda Ince and Dr. Sue Burroughs-Lange, Institute of Education

Jun 8, 2013 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

  1. You are about to publish a book on Reading Recovery. How did this come about?41E9j2pdtNL._SY300_

Reading Recovery is not new; it has been in the UK and Ireland since 1990, when the first group of Surrey teachers began working with children struggling with literacy. Internationally there are a number of texts on Reading Recovery but nothing that offers the UK and Ireland perspective. Nor has anything previously been written about the later developments in Reading Recovery that extend the benefits school wide to reach more children’s literacy needs – the Every Child a Reader (ECaR) strategy.

It seemed important to provide a book that charted the development of Reading Recovery here, including the government-funded national roll out of ECaR in England. There were issues to explore: how national policy can achieve a long term change in literacy levels; why the professional development model that underpins Reading Recovery has such a powerful impact; and lessons learnt from extensive scaling up of a literacy reform.

Our writing of this book coincided with, in England, the removal of ring-fenced funding support for the most vulnerable literacy learners. This sharing and examination of an educational history, policy and practice seemed timely.

  1. Could you tell us some of the features of Reading Recovery?

Reading Recovery is a school-based literacy programme for the lowest achieving children aged five or six that enables them to reach age-expected levels within 20 weeks. Based on the research and practice of Professor Dame Marie Clay, individual children with the most need receive daily, 30-minute literacy lessons. It relies on highly skilled literacy teachers rather than a commercially produced scheme. Experienced primary teachers engage in a year long, supported, professional development course, internationally recognised and accredited by the Institute of Education, University of London, to gain this expertise.

The Reading Recovery lesson is thirty minutes packed with focused and intensive activity on text and each lesson with each child is tailored to meet their precise needs at that point in their understanding, building on their strengths. The child reads several little books at varying levels of independence, has specific teaching about phonics, words and decoding, and writes a few sentences. The interaction between teacher and child is often described as ‘apprenticeship’, the teacher enabling the child to work at the cutting edge of their ability through independent practice to consolidate recent learning, and supported practice to reach out to new learning. A new book is introduced every day, and the child is supported to read it as independently as possible learning how to handle new challenges, such as decoding problems, at a slightly higher level of complexity. The following day that same book is read without assistance, and the teacher uses it as an assessment opportunity, to check on how the child actually initiates and uses the strategies they have been taught. Over the next few lessons, that book becomes part of a ‘familiar reading’, to foster independent and fluent processing, to build reading stamina and to experience the joy of reading for oneself.

Similarly in writing, the teacher and child collaborate on the composition and construction of a short but meaningful (to the child) message. Early in a child’s lesson series the teacher models and demonstrates, helping the child to understand how writers use the letters and sounds of language to construct words; learning how to learn known words in order to become a fluent and efficient writer; and learning how grammar and punctuation can help to convey meaning. As the lessons progress, responsibility for initiating problem solving passes to the child, enabling them to become an independent, enthusiastic and accurate writer.

  1. When you mention “Every Child a Reader”, where did this idea come from?

Every Child a Reader (ECaR) developed from a criticism that whilst Reading Recovery’s effectiveness has been well established and over time, the teacher only works with a small number of children at any one time, making it seem expensive. ECaR helps to build successful schools by using the professional investment in Reading Recovery to drive whole school improvement. Specialist teachers working to close the literacy gap share their expertise to improve practice and raise standards across the school. Research shows this is the most effective way to get the greatest possible impact and value for money from Reading Recovery.

The skills of the Reading Recovery teacher are used to establish and support systems in school that can ensure that all children receive the most appropriate level of literacy intervention and support that they require. It works by matching the interventions to the child’s diagnosed needs, monitoring progress and adjusting to ensure success. This is in strong contrast to sadly repeating patterns of children being fitted into intervention groups where, as research shows, they often spend their primary years moving from one support group to another, a damaging situation for the child and not cost effective for the primary nor the secondary school where it continues.

A pilot of ECaR was funded by a group of charities led by the KPMG Foundation, and included Shine, Indigo, Esme Fairburn and others. The results demonstrated strong positive progress achieved by this wider group of children. ECaR was rolled out through matched funding by the Government and then incorporated into the Primary Strategy in England.

  1. Who is behind Reading Recovery? When did it start?

Reading Recovery is a research based literacy intervention drawn from the work of Professor Dame Marie Clay. It began in the 1970s from Clay’s research and was adopted by the New Zealand government in 1978, quickly spreading to USA in 1984 and then Australia, Canada and arriving in UK in 1991 and moving to Scotland, Ireland and Wales. It is also available in French, Spanish and Danish. Reading Recovery is trademarked and copyright in those countries.

The Institute of Education (IOE), University of London, holds the trademark which is managed by the European Centre for Reading Recovery. The European Centre for Reading Recovery at the IOE is one of only four centres worldwide licensed to train Reading Recovery professionals (Universities in Ohio and Texas in USA, Auckland in New Zealand, and London in Europe). The national leadership team based at the IOE is responsible for Reading Recovery and ECaR. They provide professional development, quality assurance, data management and reporting.

  1. Tell us about this “ Change Theory “

When the teaching and learning of teachers and children has been successful in “islands of innovation” (Fullan, 2001)* there is evidence to support a move into the broader context of change at system level. However, examining existing theoretical knowledge about change processes may not be perceived as a priority. In this book the authors look backwards and forwards to draw theoretical, as well as practical, lessons about what enabled or impeded the progress of Reading Recovery and ECaR up to and during their rapid expansion. For example, one discovery was that the outcomes of this up-scaling bucked the recognized trend towards adulteration – the same quality of outcomes was sustained over the years as it grew (Fullan, 2011)*. This was achieved by defending integrity whilst simultaneously adopting the working/reporting patterns of a national bureaucracy. Ensuring that this balance was not threatened involved informed management and pacing of expansion based on the very latest data on progress. In understanding where we were theoretically, we realised we had discarded linear models of effecting evidence-based change (Coburn & Stein, 2010)*. We directed our efforts towards drawing the expanding numbers of participants into a shared conceptual understanding of the reform’s premises and enactment (Coburn, 2003)*.

Coburn, C.E. (2003) ‘Rethinking scale: Moving beyond numbers to deep and lasting change’. Educational Researcher, 32 (6) 3–12.

Coburn, C.E. and Stein, M.K. (Eds.) (2010) Research and Practice in Education: Building alliances, bridging the divide. Plymouth, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield.

Fullan, M. (3rd ed., 2001). The New Meaning of Educational Change. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.

Fullan, M. (2011) Choosing the wrong drivers for whole school system reform. Centre for Strategic Education. Seminar Series Paper No. 204 (April)

  1. Has OFSTED approved this approach?

Ofsted identified Reading Recovery schools in its most improved schools list and has identified Reading Recovery teachers as providing excellent practice. A selection of recent Ofsted reports and comments on Reading Recovery and ECaR are listed below:

Chaucer Infant School, Derbyshire
Ofsted Inspection, 19-20 March 2013:
“The reading-recovery programme is an outstanding example that enables pupils who had fallen behind to receive specialist individual help in making-up lost ground.”

Ash Grove Primary and Nursery School, Cheshire
Ofsted Inspection, 12-13 February 2013:
“Where pupils need an extra boost, one-to-one teaching of the ‘reading recovery’ scheme is highly successful.”

Victoria Park Primary School, Bristol
Ofsted Inspection, 30-31 January 2013:
“School strategies such as ‘Reading Recovery’ have played a key part in promoting pupils’ interest in reading and improvement of skills.”

St Barnabas CE VC Primary School, Bristol
Ofsted Inspection, 29-30 January 2013:
“The introduction of the ‘Reading Recovery’ scheme and the whole-school focus on reading and literacy skills has had a strong impact on the progress of the less-able pupils.”

  1. And how much time, effort and energy is involved?

At school level: Most schools are organised so that the Reading Recovery teacher works daily with four children individually for 30 minutes each. Some are part time and others then teach whole classes or provide other interventions to groups of children for the rest of their day. If the school operates ECaR then teachers are involved in supporting other staff in providing interventions, monitoring outcomes for effectiveness and cost benefits. Review and development of book collections and their accessibility across the school generally form part of this role (IOE publications’ ‘Book Bands for Guided Reading’ grew out of Reading Recovery to assist this). Uniquely everyone involved in Reading Recovery is required to regularly teach children themselves, maintaining currency of skills and importantly credibility with the professionals and volunteers for whom they provide professional development and quality assurance.

At regional/district level: Reading Recovery teacher leaders train teachers in Reading Recovery, provide Continuing Professional Development for qualified Reading Recovery teachers, teach children and maintain the quality of the implementation in the region. They offer advice and guidance, enabling schools to adjust the implementation to local needs to get the best outcomes for children. They are qualified at Master level for this work.

At national/international level: A small team of doctoral level professionals are based at European Centre for Reading Recovery at the Institute of Education, University of London. They provide national leadership and international liaison for the training of Reading Recovery teacher leaders and all activity to promote, research, develop, innovate, lobby, share institutionally and professionally and quality assure the whole enterprise for UK, Ireland and support for Denmark.

Maintaining communication with governments, academic and professional bodies and media is what underpins their responsibilities to the children who don’t learn to read and write in our schools, forming the central focus for the overall enterprise.

  1. Tell us what you are trying to communicate with the book?

Every child deserves to become literate. Reading Recovery and ECaR offer that opportunity to ALL children. The interventions are research based with a long standing implementation track record and application showing amazing levels of success however challenging the educational environment in some schools may seem.

Taking something that works and rolling it out on a national scale is the goal of many policies and initiatives aimed at effecting change in the quality and longevity of progress. This book provides an analysis of what works and the lessons learnt from just such an endeavor offering policy makers and those seeking system wide change a blueprint for success.

If your child couldn’t read or write after one year in school wouldn’t you want this for them?

  1. What have I neglected to ask?

Underpinning Reading Recovery is a unique professional development model which invests in skilled teachers not resources. It is this model which has contributed to the success of the scale of the roll out of ECaR with no drop in the quality or efficacy of the intervention.

For every £1 spent on early literacy intervention between £11-17 are saved in the long term costs of illiteracy:

  1. Is there any research backing up this approach?

Reading Recovery has been the subject of close scrutiny through wide ranging research studies, including research conducted by Reading Recovery organisations and independent research. In 2011 an independent evaluation of ECaR was commissioned by the Department for Education to investigate its implementation, impact and value-for-money. It showed very positive results from this wide-ranging investigation. The report can be accessed via the site which also hosts a range of published research about Reading Recovery, some of which are listed below:

Allington, R. (2005) ‘How much evidence is enough evidence?‘. Journal of Reading Recovery, 4 (2), 8-11.

Burroughs-Lange, S. and Douetil, J (2007) ‘Literacy progress of young children from poor urban settings: A Reading Recovery comparison study’. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 12 (1), pp 19-46.

Burroughs-Lange, S. and Douetil, J. (2006) ‘Evaluation of Reading Recovery in London schools: Every Child a Reader 2005-2006’. University of London: Institute of Education.

D’Agostino, J.V., and Murphy, J.A. (2004) ‘A meta-analysis of Reading Recovery in United States schools’. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26 (1), 23-38.

Department for Education (2011), Evaluation of Every Child a Reader (ECaR)’, DFE-RR114

Florida Center for Reading Research (2008) ‘Florida Center for Reading Research: Reading Recovery’. Florida State University.

Holliman, A.J., Hurry, J., & Douetil, J. (2010). ‘Standardisation of the Observation Survey in England and Wales, UK‘. London: Institute of Education, University of London.

North American Trainers Group Research Committee (2006) ‘Six Reading Recovery studies: Meeting the criteria for scientifically based research’. Reading Recovery Council of North America: Columbus, OH, USA.

Promising Practices Network (2013) ‘Programs that work: Reading Recovery’ RAND Corporation

Quay, L. C., Steele, D. C., Johnson, C. I. and Hortman, W. (2001) ‘Children’s achievement and personal and social development in a first-year Reading Recovery program with teachers in training‘. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 5 (2), 7–25.

Reading Recovery Council of North America (RRCNA) (2002) ‘What evidence says about Reading Recovery‘. Report in response to internet letter distributed to members of Congress in Spring, 2002.

Rodgers, E., Gómez-Bellengé, F., Wang, C. and Schulz, M. (2005) ‘Predicting the literacy achievement of struggling readers: Does intervening early make a difference?’ Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Rodgers, E.M., Wang, C. and Gómez-Bellengé, F.X. (2004) ‘Closing the literacy achievement gap with early intervention’. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA, USA.

Schwartz, R. M. (2005) ‘Literacy learning of at-risk first-grade students in the Reading Recovery early intervention’. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97 (2), 257-267.

Schwartz, R. M., Hobsbaum, A., Briggs, C. and Scull, J. (2009) ‘Reading Recovery and evidence-based practice: A response to Reynolds and Wheldall (2007)’. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 56 (1), 5-15.

Schwartz, R.M. Schmitt, M.C. and Lose, M.K. (2012), ‘Effects of teacher-student ratio in response to intervention approaches’ The Elementary School Journal, 112 (4), 547-567

What Works Clearinghouse (2008) Intervention report: Reading Recovery’. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

Every Child a Chance Trust (2009)

11) Now, where can interested individuals, reading specialists get a hold of this book?

This book will be essential reading for literacy specialists here and everywhere that teaching occurs. But as the title suggests it tells a potent story and provides a valuable tool to a much wider group – to those interested in the history of innovation, those involved in effecting change through educational policy and practice and beyond, and simply those who may have heard of Reading Recovery or Every Child a Reader and just want to know more.

It is available to order in North America from Stylus Publishing and can also be ordered from online book retailers such as Amazon and library distributors. In the UK you can purchase it from all good bookshops, online retailers and library distributors. Please visit for more book information and suggested ways to order.

The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London that specializes in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise two-thirds of the Institute’s research activity was judged to be internationally significant and over a third was judged to be “world leading”. The IOE was recognized by Ofsted in 2010 for its “high quality” initial teacher training programmes that inspire its students “to want to be outstanding teachers”. The IOE is a member of the 1994 Group, which brings together 11 internationally renowned, research-intensive universities.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts


Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.