Seven-year-old Soren Kirkman-Jenkins’ reading has accelerated 12 levels after 18 weeks of personalised one-to-one lessons with a qualified Reading Recovery teacher.
Soren’s mother Liz and her husband Brad share a love of words and reading, and have always read to Soren.
However, as Soren settled into Year 2 at Halcombe School in Manawatū he struggled to remain focused during lessons and was getting frustrated when reading certain words. It became clear to his teachers and parents that he required more support.
Following a diagnosis of ADHD, the family was offered the opportunity to receive personalised intervention with the school’s qualified Reading Recovery teacher Margot Mackie.
For the next 18 weeks, Soren spent half an hour each day with Margot learning to read and write in a way that suited his individual needs.
“Soren has always struggled to focus in busy learning environments, so the lessons with Margot gave him the ability to learn at his own pace in a quiet environment,” says Liz.
Margot says the sessions with Soren allowed him to “have a go” at reading in a very secure way where he was happy to learn.
“That's what it's all about isn't it, that he can be comfortable trying new things and feeling successful.”
Margot says Soren’s comprehension developed alongside his sense of story structure.
“Visual information is necessary, it's a code, so we’re helping children develop the sense that the story that they read every day has a beginning, a middle and an end, and something happens. That's comprehension, and there’s no point in reading if you're not understanding what you're reading - and that's lifelong.”
“They've got to enjoy it. It shouldn't just be about the mechanics of it.”
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to work together as a team to enable success in building positive outcomes for early literacy.
Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support (ELS) is made up of a community of trainers, tutors, teachers working alongside classroom teachers, school leaders and whānau to build positive literacy outcomes for tamariki.
Margot says Soren’s classroom teacher and whānau played - and continue to play - an important role in his literacy success.
“Having the teacher onboard in the classroom is a really big part. They are noticing the changes that the child's making, they're teaching them, seeing the increased confidence and building on that.”
Parents are also invited to attend some sessions, which Margot says is “really powerful” for them to see what their child is capable of, and to provide ideas of what they can do at home to continue to support and encourage their child’s learning.
“Having that buy-in from home increases the child's awareness that they're growing and learning and that learning is important,” says Margot.
Since completing the intervention, Soren’s confidence in reading and in himself has grown.
Liz says the material Margot chose for Soren gave him the confidence to learn.
“He was coming home with sentence structures and envelopes where he needed to put the words in the correct order and he enjoyed the tasks,” says Liz.
Principal Alistair Schaw says Reading Recovery reiterates the sense of urgency that all teachers need.
“Margot and Soren were working really hard during those half hour sessions. It is intensive and working with groups into the future will also be as intensive. It’s about the determined teaching of the skill of reading, but also the love of reading. The story of Soren really highlights that and illustrates that well,” he says.