Reading is a skill for life and like most things the more you practise, the better you become. That’s one of the aims of the indigenous reading project – to get students reading more to improve comprehension and fluency, and it appears to be working.
The Director of the Indigenous Reading Project (IRP), Toni Hassan, believes motivating students to read, through providing Kindle e-readers, is one of the keys to success and points to the good results of the IRP’s 12-month pilot program. “We want to be sure that what we do is evidence-based and the results of our pilot have been very encouraging,” she says. The pilot showed improvements in fluency, time spent reading, speed of reading and comprehension when compared with baseline data. The IRP is a new, non-government, not-for profit organisation that uses e-readers loaded with age-appropriate books to improve the literacy levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. “It’s a simple idea, it’s inexpensive, accessible and fun, and kids are switched on to technology. The e-readers connect with and motivate kids who are struggling and make things happen for them.” Reading levels lag inmost geographical areas between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, particularly in very remote areas.
Only six per cent of non-Indigenous kids failed to meet the national minimum standard for reading. In contrast, more than 60 per cent of Indigenous kids from very remote communities failed to reach this level. “In remote areas there is often not much of a library and our Kindles are fully loaded with books. Our volunteers are scanning for age-appropriate texts all the time,” Toni says.
The IRP works with teachers and parents to find kids who want to improve their reading. They are lent a Kindle and their progress is monitored over time. If they improve their reading ability, they get to keep the Kindle. In the pilot year, a total of 20 students from cities, regional centres and bush communities received a Kindle. “The average amount of time spent reading by our kids was up 123%. Scores for reading fluency were up by 49% and reading comprehension scales improved by 43%,” Toni says. The recent evaluation of the pilot showed extremely good individual results. One South Grafton High School student’s reading increased by 150%, comprehension by 60% and fluency by 18%. “The Kindle helps me get books faster and I can read so much more. I love it,” the student says.
Another student of South Grafton High, whose reading was up by 71%, along with comprehension up by 40% and fluency by 20%, said: “I still love my Kindle and the new books are great!” The next step for the IRP is to expand the project to reach 100 students in 2013 and the IRP is looking for donations. For just $3.50 a week or $15 per month one child can be sponsored through the project. “We don’t receive any government grants and we are a small organisation. The Kindles are funded through donations and we are always looking for more donations,” Toni says. For more information about the IRP, head to www.irp.org.au