Adult Literacy Intervention Case Study

ReadingWise is not just for children. It can also be successfully used for adults, too.

ReadingWise for Adult Literacy

The programme has been running at Battersea Chapel, a community-based centre delivering adult education for the London Borough of Wandsworth, since November 2012.

Students attending the centre have very little reading skills and often have special educational needs. Michelle Guthrie, the centre’s literacy tutor, tells us about two students whose lives have been improved by the programme.

“Tom is in his 30s. He started the course after losing his job, when it was found out that he had poor reading skills. After losing his job, his lack of literacy made it extremely difficult for him to gain employment, so he enrolled on the course.

“Tom had been trying to learn to read properly for about 20 years after leaving school. When he arrived in our class, he was started on Vocab, the letter recognition module of ReadingWise. He then went on to start blending and chunking in Zip.”

He was able to grasp the lessons on the computer very quickly.

“Within a few weeks, Tom was able to break down words and sound them out. He could recognise vowels and consonants and apply them accordingly, to read words and then simple sentences. By using the programme, he is now able to read words out of context and sound them out appropriately when reading short stories.”

“Tom’s confidence has really improved, and he is always trying to read words that he sees around him in his everyday life.

“Overall, the ReadingWise English program has helped to increase his confidence and self-esteem. More recently, he has achieved the life-changing goal of becoming literate enough to gain employment.”

Tom was not the only one to be helped. Michelle continues:

“Kenneth came to England from the Caribbean about two years ago. He had not have much schooling and when he arrived in the UK, he had two problems – poor letter recognition AND poor learning ability.

“After two years of classes, he had not improved much at all. Last November, we put him onto the ReadingWise English program. From the start, he really enjoyed doing the activities. After two years of little progress, he was soon achieving letter recognition.”

Why adult literacy and adult literacy interventions are so important?

For millions of adults and children around the UK, reading and writing is a skill they don’t have to think about. At ReadingWise, we know this doesn’t happen by accident. 

However, for millions of others, reading is difficult or almost inaccessible, and that has significant personal, social, and economic consequences. 

In schools (primary and secondary), we know that at least 20% of children fail to achieve adequate literacy levels before leaving school. The effects of this go far beyond not wanting or being able to enjoy a good book. 

When it comes to reading enjoyment: “Just 2 in 5 (43.4%) children and young people aged 8 to 18 said they enjoyed reading in their free time in 2023. This is the lowest level since we first asked the question in 2005.”

According to the World Literacy Foundation, a 2018 study found that “illiteracy is estimated to cost the UK economy approximately £80 billion [per year].”

Another National Literacy Trust report states that: “1 in 6 (16.4%) adults in England are estimated to have very low literacy, which means they may struggle with longer texts and unfamiliar topics (OECD, 2016).” 

Adults who struggle to read and write at a very basic level are described as functionally illiterate, and this impacts everything they do in life, including finding and staying in employment.

Literacy has a direct impact on lifetime earnings, and it's one factor that can cause people to be unemployed, rely on benefits (Universal Credit), and even turn to crime. According to that report: “The average worker in the UK with very low literacy will earn approximately 7.1% less than if they had a basic level of literacy.” (Pro Bono Economics, 2021).

Tragically, there’s a clear correlation between illiteracy, the ability to find work, and crime. In 2010, a report found that: “There is a proven correlation between illiteracy, innumeracy and offending... Before custody, 52% of male offenders and 71% of female offenders have no qualifications whatsoever.” Factsheet: Education in Prisons, Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society, 2010 .

Literacy levels have reduced further amongst the prison population since then. A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) report in 2022 found that “57% of adults in prison in the UK have a reading level below that of an average 11-year-old.” 

It’s easy to see how many of life’s rich possibilities are denied to those 20% who struggle to read. We know that without extra support and timely intervention, educational and vocational outcomes for that 20% can be poor.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We know that, given the right tools, everyone can learn to read. We know that because we have seen it for ourselves.

Work with ReadingWise to improve literacy results in your school 

Take a look at our other case studies and testimonials from teachers, TAs, headteachers, and literacy leads at primary and secondary schools and multi-academy trusts (MATs).

ReadingWise offers four core modules, plus a comprehensive Learners Library, Teacher Training, and a Dashboard that you can integrate with other school software, and use to demonstrate attainment against the Pupil Premium Budget. Here is our pricing for more information

Zip : Phonics for primary schools, reception, and Y1. 

Vocab : A special vocabulary programme for learners aged 6 - 16, for primaries and secondaries.

Decoding : A comprehensive module for learners with a reading age below their chronological age irrespective of key stage. 

Comprehension : A powerful, engaging, and fun literacy intervention module to develop the quest for meaning behind a narrative. Its content, structure, and design deliver age-appropriate sessions for Primary and Secondary schools Years 5-9.

Over 100,000 pupils in UK schools have completed a ReadingWise programme! We hope to help you and your children, too.

“ReadingWise is really good value for money. We have seen it as being a highly effective intervention that offers personalised learning to large numbers of children and has a measurable impact in a short amount of time.” Jenny Taylor, Headteacher, Horfield Primary School, Bristol - 85% pass in 2016 reading SATs

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