TextNow will be delivered by Unitas, a national charity which helps young people participate and progress in mainstream education. It was originally designed for young offenders, and aims to help children enjoy reading and develop confidence and fluency. The programme is delivered by volunteer readers over 10 – 15 weeks of daily 20-minute sessions. TextNow recognises that volunteers do not have the same skills as qualified teachers, and so does not seek to replicate ordinary classroom methods. Instead, the focus is on informal guidance and encouraging enjoyment.
In addition to the 20-minute sessions with volunteers, children are expected to read independently for 20 minutes every day. Participation and engagement are incentivised through an awards scheme: pupils can earn credits that can later be used to buy books through an online shop called MyChoice
Programmes that attempt to increase the number of children who read for pleasure are increasingly popular. A recent evaluation using standardised tests, suggested that pupils using TextNow make progress at a faster than normal rate. Although this is not a properly controlled study, the size of the improvement is very encouraging and indicates that a more robust trial is worthwhile
There is also some indicative evidence which suggests that reading for pleasure is important for both personal and academic development. However, there have been few robust evaluations of the effectiveness of these programmes, particularly outside the US.
This programme is being evaluated by a joint team from the University of Sheffield and Queens University Belfast. The evaluation is set up as an effectiveness trial. Effectiveness trials aim to test whether an intervention can work at scale in a large number of schools.
The evaluation will be designed as a randomised controlled trial involving 40 schools. There will be three experimental groups: the first will receive 15 weeks of TextNow and one year’s access to MyChoice, the second will receive 15 weeks of TextNow and six weeks’ access to MyChoice, and the third will act as a control group.
To view the project’s evaluation protocol click here.
The evaluation report will be due in autumn 2014.