How Reading for Pleasure in a school improved engagement?
10/17/2019

Browzly Ltd released the results of its reading for pleasure program after 13 months of its continued usage, in a pilot school, where the data was studied.

Online PR News – 17-October-2019 – Dubai – Results showed three times improvement is reading engagement over 13-month usage period (July 2018-Sep2019) with an increase in both number of books read per student (2.5 times) and more than doubling of number of reviews shared by the children. The program was implemented in the school to support reading for pleasure amongst students and families who voluntarily opted into the program acting with personal agency.

Dubai British School (DBS), an outstanding rated Taaleem school in Dubai, UAE, following National Curriculum of England and Wales, started using the company's flagship reading for enjoyment program on top of their regular guided reading classroom sessions, in July 2018. The program was launched in a school assembly addressing students and teachers and a newsletter informing parents was then sent. Use of program in class or at home was not made mandatory.

The company sources reveal, "For signing up DBS teachers, parents and students- we integrated our software with isams to allow easy sign ins for users who were accustomed to using their isams emails and passwords every day for school purposes; Class QR codes were also made available to send home for younger students to login. Parents and teachers could record their own reading as well as support their students with positive feedback, book swaps and recommendations"

Once signed in, users are prompted to add the books they've read and then review it either as text or a video. The books and reviews by students become visible to other members of their school, who can then encourage them with their questions, positive feedback or add the books to their own 'to be read' wishlist. Since social sharing of information with friends is inherently rewarding and satisfying, children enjoy reading and get encouraged to read more. The software also helps children, parents and teachers discover the most appropriate and relevant books for each child whilst encouraging them to read independently and widely as the reading recommendations are customized for each individual child - readers are matched to books of reading levels that they would likely find of being medium level text complexity so reading remains interesting and challenging and helps them move forward. Additionally, the software considers age level and genre suitability for the child before the books are recommended to them. Books & reviews marked read by friends also facilitate discovery and interest.

Methodology:

In DBS, the study spanned a period of 13-months or 424 days, during this time the reading data (collective for whole class/school) generated from 147 students in primary years was split into two halves of 212 days each to compare and contrast the impact of BRFPP on DBS students' reading. The two halves present a great comparison with all other parameters remaining constant as readers' demographic and socio-economic profiles remain constant and consistent even as new students join and some students fall out, the school activities and inputs also remain consistent and therefore present a great way to study the impact of the program. If the study was to compare data from two different schools the impact of other factors could not have been deemed as constant and hence isolating this impact as being due to the program specifically would have been not so clear.

The results:

Data shows that during the 424 day period, average per student reading engagement improved significantly with readers recording 3 times the number of reading related interactions in second half as compared to the first, overall 2.5 times more books per student were marked read whilst number of reviews written or created by the students were more than 2 times that of the first half of the study. Reading Engagement (a company defined metric) here indicates the sum total of all activities related to reading recorded by students from their accounts- these include adding a book as read, writing a text review, creating a video review, adding a book to swap with friends, requesting a book to read , encouraging a school member to read by either marking a like on their post or giving a positive feedback, or adding a book they wish to read.

in Nov 2018, the first half of the study, teachers of one form group at DBS- Yr 4B encouraged some of their students to the use the app in class on their iPads after their guided reading time and record the review of the book that was read. Reading habits of students in 4B were compared with another form group 5S, which had also engaged actively with the program, although this was not done in class and did not have teacher intervention. The results showed that teacher intervention helped encourage more students from 4B to engage with reading and record it on their Browzly accounts regularly for the rest of the year, long after their class use had finished. Infact, the number of readers in 4B, who ever recorded their reading on the app, more than doubled in the second half of the year as new students joined even when teachers were not using the app in class. Overall engagement also continued to grow 65% more in second half for 4B meaning students connected with their school community to review, like, support, request and wishlist the books on their own initiative.

Why is reading engagement so significant?

An analysis of scores of more than 174,000 students' on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) revealed that on an average, students who spent more time reading achieved higher scores on PISA's combined reading literacy scale. In the data collected from the US, it was noted that reading engagement had a higher correlation with reading literacy achievement than many key factors such as time spent on homework, student-teacher relationships, a sense of belonging, environment in the classroom. Pressure to achieve was infact seen to be negatively correlated.

Comments

Bhavna Mishra, Founder says- "Reading for pleasure works, it is very important to create opportunities for children to independently discover titles that are right for their age and suitable for their individual ability, for them to want to talk and reflect on them , our effort is to make the program so enjoyable & dynamic that children irrespective of their ability, look forward to reading more and learn in the process. Their ability to focus and decode higher level texts whichever subject they choose in future, cannot come unless they read widely and do so with enjoyment, schools need to adopt this, reading widely outside of curriculum cannot be ignored"

In conclusion
In India, where language lessons in most schools still primarily revolve around textbooks and getting higher marks in examinations is the key objective, children are most often coaxed into doing homework and reading from textbooks. Reading for the joy of it, even though proven to expand a wider world view, improve vocabulary and emotional intelligence, is unfortunately seen by many as a waste of time -a non-productive expensive pursuit. School librarians usually take on the role of caretakers of their silent towers of books that have returned or sat there safely- keeping them clean, governing how long, how many and which books children will be allowed to read from rather than actively recommending and conducting interesting reading activities or read aloud sessions. When it comes to English, for decades, even if we have been able to read and write the language, the flair for it in the international context has been a major area of improvement. Use of texting language and mixing English with the vernacular, has further adversely impacted children's proficiency in their mother tongues too.

Is it time now to step up as parents and as teachers and change this mindset? Could reading for pleasure be the key to unlock language proficiency in our children who are at the risk of achieving at best mediocrity in languages- be it English or their mother tongue? Is your family or classroom different from this more generalized view? Do share your thoughts in comments.

Written by Supriya Jain, writer & accomplished marketing strategist with 12 years of experience advising and leading brand and content strategy for over 100 companies. Previously Global Head of Thought Leadership and content strategy at Wipro Ltd, Supriya has also authored a book- 'A piece of Him' based on her life story of vulnerability, strength and resilience following a deep personal loss.