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News Rhythm for Reading

additional classes for parents, in order to help encourage greater involvement in children’s reading at home following participation in the programme.

As well as being an invaluable tool for students with weaker reading comprehension, ‘Rhythm for Reading’ gives its students a deeper and more integrated understanding of a text, which is useful for the more and less able students alike.

However Rhythm for Reading is specifically designed for those students with comprehension and accuracy scores, which fall below the age appropriate level. Nick is one such child. A Year 7 student, his reading comprehension scores were 33 months behind the expected reading level for his age. Following the ‘Rhythm for Reading’ sessions however, he has now been brought up to the appropriate reading level for his age: ‘Before, I could not read with the books because it’s too hard to read, but now I can just read it. It’s fine! I’m reading in lessons – it’s completely changed.’


f you told a child they were about to be given a ‘reading intervention’ to try to raise standards, you could normally expect their enthusiasm to be almost non-existent. However Dr Marion Long has found a way to markedly improve reading standards in sessions which leave children laughing and enjoying themselves, often without knowing they are partaking in a reading intervention at all.

‘It was not until sometime later, when I discovered that attainment in reading had markedly improved among students participating in my music sessions, that I really started to ponder the potential of using rhythm-based approaches to learning.’

Whilst it can seem incredible that music and rhythm can really impact reading ability and literacy skills, the results are astonishing. When the sessions were delivered weekly to a class of lower-attaining Year 5 students for ten minute periods over six weeks, they made 11 months average gain in reading comprehension.

‘Rhythm for Reading’ is tapping into the classroom with a range of rhythm-based activities designed to stimulate classroom engagement and enhance reading skills. Dr Long’s initiation into rhythm- based teaching was born out of one session with a particularly challenging music class, ‘I knew that I had to find a new approach to learning that would work quickly and effectively. I intuitively improvised some rhythmic exercises using their feet, as they loved football, which seemed to immediately engage them.’

May 2014

As extraordinary as this progress is, when the research is examined more closely, the link between rhythm and reading is not altogether surprising. All language, from poetry and prose to the spoken word, has a natural rhythm. Through these fun ten-minute sessions, children can begin to experience the relationship between rhythm and reading and go on to describe dramatic effects on their literacy.

The ‘Rhythm for Reading’ programme was developed in 2012, the product of Dr Long’s own work, with the research of Albert Bregman Marie Reiss-Jones and other such distinguished scholars at the forefront of the programme’s design. Featuring varied and upbeat music composed by Eric Crees which keeps the children

enthusiastic and engaged, it is structured around theoretical perspectives on the psychology of music, complementing established phonic-based approaches. However it is more than a reading aid; it is a source of enjoyment for the students involved, developing rhythm, physical co-ordination and balance. The children become attached to particular pieces of music, requesting certain songs each week, and by achieving that ever-desirable balance between fun and learning, ‘Rhythm for Reading’ means students are seeing significant leaps in their reading comprehension. ‘It is clear that the students absolutely love taking part in the sessions’, says Carole Berry, Inclusion Leader at Launcelot Primary School. ‘The beauty of the programme is that it is kinaesthetic and it allows children to develop their reading skills in a lively way. It actually supports the way they want to learn.’

Launcelot Primary School, a two form entry school of over 400 pupils in Lewisham, has now rolled out ‘Rhythm for Reading’ across the school, having seen the benefits of the scheme during a pilot with Year 5, Year 6 and Year 2 classes in a nearby primary school. Although they are currently being led by Dr Long herself, as a part of the package teachers are also instructed on how to lead the sessions themselves. There are also

Results like these are difficult to achieve through traditional phonics based methods, which focus on small units of sound. This method alone can leave pupils struggling to understand longer words and wider sentences. ‘Rhythm for Reading’ helps students to tackle those difficult multi-syllabic words and sentences with more confidence and fluency in less time.

It is widely understood that children with good and above- average reading attainment are more likely to have better outcomes in later life. For those students who find that level of literacy achievement a bit beyond their reach, it can be difficult finding a way to keep them enthusiastic about learning, and even more challenging to get the necessary results to offer those students the best possible advantage in life. ‘Rhythm for Reading’ can do just that- if you can keep the kids from tapping their feet for the rest of the day. 13

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