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OU receives £220,000 grant to understand the role of talk in literacy pedagogy

A young girl, with long, dark hair and wearing a white top and glasses, sitting in a library reading a book

The Open University (OU) recently received £220,000 funding to understand the role of talk in literacy pedagogy and how this supports children to read and write for pleasure. The five-year project forms the second phase of the Mercer Company’s Literacy initiative, which seeks to understand approaches that motivate and inspire children to read and write for pleasure at school and at home. The OU were also the Company’s research partners in Phase 1 (2020-2023). Research evidence suggests that young people who read and write recreationally generally have higher attainment in education, wider achievement credentials, and enhanced wellbeing over time.

This phase involves working with seven secondary and six to eight primary focused London based charities to understand their practices and also involves a literature review with a specific focus on oracy. In Phase 1, the OU team created a Reading and Writing for Pleasure Framework for Practice, which will be used to support the funded Phase 2 charities. This will help charities to be research informed, enabling them to enrich their pedagogy practice to support young people’s engagement with reading and writing for pleasure.

Teresa Cremin, Professor of Literacy, said, “As well as reviewing the research literature on the role of oracy in developing young readers and writers, the University will also be working with other organisations and learning partners who are looking to explore research and practice insights from this work. We will support them in considering their materials and practices to enable this, and we will take a leading role in brokering this.”

“Another key aim of the project is to develop practical ‘ways of working’ that will support teachers and other creative partners in schools – such as authors, artists, actors, etc. This will help to inform the education sector of ways to develop the desire to read and write.”

Although the project is based in London, the goal is to support the wider charity and education sectors to empower children and enable them to find delight and satisfaction as engaged readers and writers. Charities collaborators in the Phase 2 secondary group that the OU is linked to as learning partners include Company Three, UK Reads, West Ham United Foundation: Football Literacy club, Theatre Peckham: Futureland First Story: London Voice Young Writers Programme; Write Back and CARAS: Thriving and learning changing outcomes for refugees and asylum seekers.

Teresa added, “Wider success for this initiative would be a richer understanding of the role of talk in nurturing young people’s positive literate identities. We aim to support schools, teachers, higher education, charities, and policy makers to capitalise on the research from both the Phases, 2020-2023 and 2024-2028. Success would also see more informal encouragement of reading and writing for pleasure – between peers, friends, parents, and relations as the young choose to read and write and share their passion and literate engagement with others. Our ultimate goal and a measure of success would be increasing the number of young people who choose to read and write as this has potential for life enhancement.”

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