Latest success stories from Renaissance Learning

St Oliver Post Primary School: Reading for Well-being

St Oliver Post Primary, County Meath, Ireland

In St Oliver Post Primary School, County Meath, Ireland, reading is an integral part of the school’s core strategies. They drove their literary vision to promote positive mental health and wellbeing across the whole school community. The Literacy Coordinator & Assistant Principal, Caroline Lambden, said myON, Accelerated Reader and Star Reading are the main pillars of their literacy plan and they also bolster our wellbeing strategy.

“Effective strategies were used in many lessons to develop student’s literacy and numeracy skills”

– Inspection Report, 2018

St Oliver Post Primary have been using Accelerated Reader and Star Reading since 2012. They have carried out the most AR quizzes in Ireland in the last twelve months. Caroline claims that the Star Reading screening tool has been invaluable in generating data. We augment these results with data from other screening and diagnostic tools such as CAT4 and PPAD-E. This allows us to accurately pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in attainment and progression across a range of indicators. Caroline reiterated that it is integral to their screening and referral process. She said, as a school, they work hard to make sure they provide a literacy intervention at the earliest opportunity, but they cannot do this unless they have the data to pinpoint students most in need.

“The data generated by Star Reading helped us recognise the changing literacy needs of the school. The data showed that many of the incoming students have a reading score so far from the average for his/her class that we needed to be concerned about it”, says Caroline. In response to these needs, Caroline wrote a Junior Cycle Short-Course called ‘Literacy’, which was subsequently approved by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA). This Junior Cycle course teaches students about the symbiotic relationship between reading and wellbeing and reading and cognition. The course outlines Star Reading and Accelerated Reader as core elements in aiding students to be aware of their reading journey. All juniors across the school follow the course. Integral to its delivery is the school’s graded library and myON.

“myON made reading accessible outside the classroom by providing a personalised selection of books to the students”

St Oliver Post Primary introduced myON by Renaissance, an enhanced digital library, after the pandemic hit. myON facilitated the delivery of the literacy course remotely and it continues to maintain the reading culture in the school. Caroline highlighted that junior students especially love using myON. Caroline says: “The weaker pupils love the privacy with myON. It allows them to read freely at their own pace, at a reading level appropriate to their need, with extra support from the audio function, and nobody else in the class can tell that they have a book that’s for a weak reader.” She also likes that myON links the pupil’s Star Reading score to the student’s suite of books in their own myON account.

“The data and screening reports generated by Star Reading are invaluable.”

The data and screening reports generated by Star Reading are invaluable. Caroline explains: “Our journey to introducing screening has been incremental. We are several years into this process now, and it’s important for us to continuously review and examine the reliability of our screening tests. To do this we develop a profile for each student that scores in the lower percentile. The profile includes Star Reading data, CAT 4 data and most recent scores from the PPAD-E suite of sub-tests. What we have found is that the scores generated across the range of tests are reliable. The tests are identifying the same pupils and the combination of test results gives us profiles that are more comprehensive and across a range of disciplines. The profiling informs our referral to SET (special education teaching) and it helps us identify the area of most need for student support. From here our SET coordinator shortlists the evidence-based interventions needed to progress the students in one-to-one or small groups.”

“In 1st year I began having literacy class two times a week. This boosted my reading age from around 15 to 16.06 in a few months. Even now in 2nd year, I still look forward to literacy class every week.” 

– Student

Caroline explains that sharing results with pupils and parents is a positive experience. They don’t share Scaled Scores with parents or students, as it’s difficult data to explain, but they do share the individual reading score and the class average reading score privately with students and their parents after students voted that they wanted to see their results in this detail! She says: “However, we felt that it was also important to return the class average score, as it puts the student’s ability more into perspective and they find it an easier way of making sense of test scores. The data needs to be used with caution and it’s very important that a culture of positivity is generated by the teacher because you want the students to feel good about reading and reflect on their ability to change and manage accomplishments. Progression and feeling good about reading can only be generated if scores are reported in a positive way.”

“When I started first year my reading age was 9 years and 11 months, but the average reading age in my class was 12 years and 4 months, so it showed how little reading I was doing. I decided to really start trying to improve. Now my reading age is 11 years and 10 months, so it has really improved.”

– Kirsty, Student

Caroline continues: “Students like the feedback from their AR and myON reports. I find that it encourages them to compete with themselves, but they know that this is their own reading journey and they compete against themselves only. We have generated videos for parents to show them how to log in to their child’s account and review the results. However, the class groups do compete against each other, as I announce weekly word counts and we have a class leaderboard that gets rewarded in assembly. Students love the competitive nature, and it incentivises them to read more outside of school.”

“My reading age being so little in first year affected me and now I am still really trying to improve my reading age and get it to the best that I can. It shows just because you weren’t a big reader when you were younger it doesn’t mean you should stop reading. In my opinion, if you don’t like reading it’s probably because you haven’t found the right author yet but someday you will find it just like I did. My advice to you is to not stop reading and if you haven’t started yet it’s not too late to start now.”

– Lorna, Student

“We take the development of lifelong readers in St Oliver Post Primary School seriously”, says Caroline. “The symbiotic relationship between reading and wellbeing is long documented. Students love literacy class, they find it relaxing and they experience the sense of calm that reading brings. We have a literacy timetable twice a week for our 1st Year students and once a week for our 2nd Years. We hope that creating a relaxing environment to foster a love of reading will nurture lifelong readers and give them a skill for life. Students see reading as relaxing; it’s downtime where they can select a book, experience a quiet space, and opt to read themselves or have the audio of the book played.”

I’ve learned that, whenever I am stressed all I need to do is pick up a book and my worry and stress is forgotten, I am transported to a place where nothing bothers me. Then when I am finished reading, I can tackle my problems with a clear mind, if you don’t believe me a study done by the University of Essex found that reading just 30 minutes a day has the same benefits as doing 30 minutes of yoga, AMAZING!!”

– Lucy, Student

Watch this short showcase on St Oliver Post Primary’s literacy class and Renaissance products:

To find out more about how your school can utilise Accelerated Reader, Star Reading and myON, click here.

Caroline Lambden, Literacy Coordinator & Assistant Principal, St Oliver Post Primary


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