Case Studies - The Reading project (Norway)
Society demands reading skills. They are needed in working as well as in social life. In the Norwegian education system, reading is one out of five basic skills that all students should master and it is the responsibility of all teacher to teach accordingly, whatever subject they teach.
For the five past years about 40% of our first year students have scored under the critical limit in our reading tests. This is a higher number than the allegedly average national score. This resulted in our school`s making of an action plan on how to develop our student's reading abilities.
What inspired us of to do this was our partner meeting at Viskarstrand gymnasiet in Borås, Sweden. Our Swedish partner introduced us to a reading project they had introduced a few years earlier and that they felt had been very successful. All their students use 20 minutes every morning to read books or magazines in order to increase their reading skills.
If students are going to STAYON and succeed by passing their examinations, it’s paramount to be motivated, to master school skills and thereby succeed in the learning process. Reading skills are very essential in the learning processes.
The main aim of the reading project is to improve the student's experience with reading. We want to help them see the joys of reading, to help them improve their literacy and to “widen their horizon”.
2. Institutional implementation
We decided to start a reading project at Haugaland Vocational Upper Secondary School from the beginning of the new school year in August 2014, based on the experiences at Viskarstrand.
A project group was established and a strategy for our project was developed based on the assumption that a lot of students that drop out, do so because they struggle with their reading skills and their lack to cope with understanding the content of many of our textbooks.
How is it done?
We encourage students to borrow books and other reading material from the schools library or to bring it along from home. It’s important that all teachers are positive to and in support of the project towards the students. Teachers must be encouraged to read during the reading lessons themselves and thereby be good role models.
The students can eat during the reading lesson, except for warm food or “noisy” food.
The students should read in the rooms where they are going to have their first ordinary lesson of the day, which implies reading in the workshops as well as in the classrooms.
Management and the project group have followed up the project closely from the start.
We have made an evaluation by interviewing teachers and students at midterm, and will follow up with another such evaluation in June.
The annual survey we make of student’s reading proficiency in August, at the beginning of the school year, has been repeated in May the following year, in order to see if there are any improvement in the results.
The project has also been evaluated by the National Reading Centre in Stavanger, Norway.
The evaluation from the Reading Centre was very positive. Our project won the national reading prize and the evaluator from the Reading Centre concludes that the project has had positive effect on the student`s ability to decode words, especially for the students that seem to struggle the most. In addition, the project has produced a few other very positive results that we didn’t plan for.
Firstly, it has led to a much more calm atmosphere among the students and it has put an end to all the pushing and shoving around that sometime can be a problem among boys and that easily develop into unnecessary conflicts and bad learning environment.
Secondly, when the 20 minutes are gone, the students are very calm and ready to listen to the teacher starting the lesson. All teachers are now very positive about this reading project and report back that the morning lessons runs much more smoothly than before. In the student’s survey in October this is confirmed by the results for peace to work, which has improved greatly and we had for the first time at our school the highest score possible.
Thirdly, the students are very pleased (75 % are positive with all aspects of the reading project) with this calm, pleasant way of starting the day, where they even can enjoy a cup of coffee and some food while reading their book.
The Reading Project is to be continued, most likely “for ever”. Whether it will exist in its present form or will be altered according to the evaluation and advice given from the National Reading Centre is too early to say. So far, our conclusion is that it is a very good way of improving the student’s reading skills and making them see the joys of reading. The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training states in “The framwork for basic skills”:
Reading means to create meaning from text in the widest sense. Reading gives insight
into other people`s experience, opinion and knowledge, independent of time and place.
The reading of texts on screen and paper is a prerequisite for lifelong learning and for
active participation in civic life. (Point 2:2)
To create systems in order to get students to master the basic skill that reading is, must be fundamental to all teachers and all schools. This is done in a number of ways, and our Reading Project is one way of accommodating this directive.