Readathon for outpatients

Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service (GHES) is an alternative education setting, providing outreach home-based education to children from 4-18, unable to attend school due to extenuating medical needs. Up until the pandemic, most of the pupils accessing GHES did so because of immunocompromising conditions including cancer and heart conditions. When well enough, children would rejoin their mainstream setting. In addition, GHES provided their education service to some children unable to attend school due to significant mental health needs. 

By nature of serving a community of pupils who are at home, many hospital outreach services report issues of isolation, as children are no longer socialising at school, nor are within the four walls of the hospital where they could meet other children. Finding communal activities that can help combat the isolation is always a challenge for the teaching staff. 

Read for Good approached Gloucestershire Hospital Education Services (GHES) to explore the possibility of piloting a project to motivate their children to read, informed by our work in schools and hospitals. We wanted to combine the wonderfully positive mental health benefits of reading, with the benefits of a shared, purposeful activity in which each individual pupil has a sense of community, shared goals, and working together using our reading tracker tool Track My Read®:

  • GHES set a challenge for all pupils to collectively read for 5,000 minutes over a two week period.
  • Meeting the reading target ‘unlocks’ a donation of books and comics to families accessing local food banks providing the all-important motivation to help others. 
  • In addition, GHES would receive brand new reading for pleasure books for their pupils, continuing their engagement beyond the duration of the project.

Each child under GHES’s care received a unique log in which they could access on a computer, tablet or phone whenever they wanted, where they record what they’ve read, for how many minutes, and how much they enjoyed it through a simple emoji rating. 

As well as enabling children to log everything they read, Track My Read provides rich insights showing reading attitudes and behaviour data by pupil. 

The project provided GHES with

  • Access to Track My Read for all pupils
  • Guidance on how to use Track My Read which included a short film and also email support
  • A launch film, sent to participating children to get them excited about the project
  • Ongoing support for the duration of the Readathon

At the end of the activity, Read for Good provided:

Results and reflections

We used data from Track My Read, and interview answers from the team’s Literacy Leadto understand the impact of this pilot project on children.

Quantitative Impact

Track My Read provides data to Read for Good to assess how children engaged with the project (NB. this data is anonymised for Read for Good but the full data set can be accessed by the school). TMR data enabled us to understand to what extent the pupils engaged with the app, and to what extent they enjoyed reading. Highlights include

  • Pupils more than doubled the target of 5,000 minutes originally set by GHES – with a total of 10,060 minutes!
  • More than half of pupils were active on Track My Read – there were 62 active pupils out of 114 pupils registered (54% engagement)
  • On average each child read 153 mins over the two week pilot
  • There were 281 reading sessions recorded – with an average 34 mins per session
  • Reading times ranged from 5 mins to 120 mins (max you can enter)
  • Children’s average enjoyment rating was 4.3 out of 5
  • “The data captured on Track My Read was super helpful.”  
  • “It was easy to use the site and I sent out a copy of the results spreadsheet a couple of times during the Readathon which staff found really helpful to see.”
  • “Some of our pupils hadn’t logged their reading or had said they’d been reading when they hadn’t so it was useful for tutors and teachers to show them that they could monitor individuals’ minutes!).”
  • “Our pupils really loved the idea that they were reading to help others.

Community impact – helping others:

  • “The best thing about it has been that our pupils have felt part of a team which is so hard for us to achieve in Outpatients, with our pupils all over the county, and so many of them having mostly online lessons so a huge thank you for arranging for our service to take part.”
  • “[Pupils] were really motivated by the fact their reading would help families using the food bank to access magazines and books.”
  • “Our pupils really loved the idea that they were reading to help others.”

Reading impact

  • “We have loved taking part in the Readathon.  It has meant that even some of our most reluctant pupils have been reading.”
  • “We saw a direct boost in the reading for pleasure of our pupils were doing as a result of both the challenge and the books we received.”

We hope that this case study provides helpful ideas for other similar settings, particularly where children and young people can feel isolated.

Read the full report here

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