Reading Pals at Home

Parents and Siblings


The pre-written scripts act as a coaching tool for parents, giving them knowledge and experience in asking comprehension questions and having stimulating discussions about the child’s book.

Many parents are keen to support their child’s reading development at home but lack confidence and knowledge of how best to do this. Many parents are reluctant to admit to school staff that they would like help, some parents are even actively resistant to accessing schools for support. The Parent Workshops we offer can be a bridge for the parents into shared reading. The workshops are supportive and encouraging and the Pals scripts can be used at home by parents to develop their skills.

The online training video has allowed parents to use Reading Pals themselves with their children, or to supervise their siblings using it. This is particularly helpful during the pandemic when many parents are home educating their children.

After using the reading scheme books, together with the scripts, for a short time the parents will be familiar with and confident in using the four levels of questions. They will then be able to apply the four levels of questions to any books they read with their child. Importantly the parents will also be able to use the four levels of questions to stimulate their child’s oral language during shared leisure activities. Enriching a child’s oral language will positively impact on all aspects of their learning and social engagement.


Achievement Gap

In an article on Teachwire Jonathon Douglas of the National Literacy Trust clearly explains the benefits of empowering parents to effectively support their child’s education:

We have reached a crossroads – despite 20 years of government efforts to improve social mobility in England, a new report from The Social Mobility Commission shows that a significant achievement gap still remains between our country’s richest and poorest children.

According to the commission, it will take 15 years at the current rate of progress before all children have a good level of development by the time they start school at five and it will take a staggering 40 years before the attainment gap between rich and poor at that age is closed.

We can’t wait for four decades to be able to give all children in the UK the equal start to life that they deserve. It is now time to extend support for the early home learning environment.

Early childhood is a period of rapid growth and development, and a wealth of evidence shows that what children learn in the early years provides the foundation for later learning, health and success. Yet children from poorer backgrounds in England start school, aged five, already 19 months behind their wealthier peers in development. What’s more, 60-70% of gaps in attainment at age 11 are due to inequalities present at age five.

Parents are their child’s first and most enduring educators, but despite strong evidence that parental involvement in their child’s early learning can be a more powerful force for academic success than socio-economic factors, our research shows that one-quarter of parents from poorer backgrounds don’t consider themselves to be the primary influence on their child’s learning.

We must now shift public and political thinking to ensure that engaging and working with parents in the early years is recognised to be just as important for a child’s future as quality pre-school provision.’


Breakfast Clubs

Reading Pals is an ideal intervention for Breakfast Clubs for the following reasons:

National Requirements

  • Using Reading Pals in breakfast clubs will meet many of the requirements of the new Ofsted Framework, including: ‘Inspectors will make a judgement on the personal development of learners by evaluating the extent to which: the curriculum and the provider’s wider work support learners to develop their character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy.’ During an Ofsted inspection, in Summer 2019, the Inspector was very impressed by the use of Reading Pals in the breakfast club: ‘The inspector commented positively on the reading focus at the sessions. He commented on the excellent peer support and skills in questioning.’ Emma Bolton – Headteacher, Queens Park Academy, Bedford
  • Excellent use of Pupil Premium grants. Children can be targeted to take part in Reading Pals in the breakfast club, who would benefit from reading, speech and language development but also be part of the ‘Wider strategies,’ that ‘relate to the most significant non-academic barriers to success in school, including attendance, behaviour and social and emotional support.’ EEF Pupil Premium Guidance 2019

Adding Value to the School Day

  • There is no need to withdraw the children from different lessons, the children present are already of mixed ages.
  • It adds value to the cost of running the club. Reading Pals Monitors can be responsible for setting up and putting away, so very little support needed from the Club Staff.
  • It is a focused, calm activity which helps to ‘settle’ the children before the school day begins.
  • It is an excellent way to sensitively target vulnerable children to enjoy Reading Pals and have a healthy breakfast before school. Some parents of children offered free breakfast do not take up the offer, perhaps due to stigma, or not understanding the importance of breakfast. Many of these parents will make the effort to bring their children earlier if they feel it will help to raise their child’s academic achievement.
  • Added enjoyment of the school day. In practice when used in breakfast clubs the children have really enjoyed taking part and enthusiastically volunteered to be involved. ‘Breakfast Pals is a big part of our Breakfast Club. The older children always ask to read even on days they are not expected to.  They love having the responsibility of helping the younger children and in return the younger children prefer to read with a child rather than an adult.’ Learning Mentor – St Aloysius Infants School, Camden


Reading Pals can be used flexibly in ways that works for each school.

  • Reading Pals can be introduced as an additional activity with the children already present
  • Children who would benefit from additional reading support, speech and language development, earlier arrival at school, a healthy free breakfast, can be invited to the club. This could be for the whole hour, or a 20 minute soft-start before the bell.
  • Children can be allocated pairs that come at the same time each week; or there can be flexible system, where the Older Pals partner any of the Younger Pals wishing to take part.


Examples of Good Practice

St Aloysius Infants School, Camden

The Learning Mentor used Reading Pals as the reason to invite children, she considered to be most vulnerable, to come to a free, targeted breakfast club. She nominated Monitors who would set-up and put away the books and the children worked independently, leaving her free to supervise the breakfast. All children were expected to eat their healthy breakfast first. There were other activities available so the children could rotate activities but many chose to do Reading Pals every morning. There was a significant positive impact on attendance, lateness and behaviour issues in class for the children who joined the breakfast provision. Using Reading Pals as the reason for the invitation meant more parents brought their children to school earlier and it removed stigma associated with an invitation based on low income alone.

 Rye Oak School, Peckham

Reading Pals was introduced into the already running, large breakfast club, which had as many as 80 children attending on one day. The monitors set-up and put away the scheme. Younger Pals would fetch their book and reading record and find an Older Pal waiting for them at the designated table, after they had eaten their breakfast.

Give a Book charity generously contributed a Book Club, children could select from the range of new, carefully chosen books. The staff noticed that the Older Pals, having gained confidence from using the Reading Pals scaffolded question scripts, were keen to then help the younger children choose and read books from the Book Club. The Older Pals also started offering to listen to the younger children read their allocated homework books. The Older Pals were able to check their comprehension and write positive and meaningful comments in the Younger Pals homework books. For many children, who had not been supported with their reading at home, this meant they were able to complete their homework in the club and not worry that their books had not been signed.

The Forest Academy – Rebecca Hancock, Literacy Coordinator, PhD with specialist interest in literacy

Good news though… We kicked PALS off last Friday. It’s going really well. Each person has their own partner that they always read with – I’ve done it this way so that we always have the two year age gap.

We’ve marketed it as the magic breakfast book club. Every member has their own pass/badge that they wear all day (and love). They also receive one sticker every time they read and a bonus point (points they collect to spend in the prize shop) if they read two days in a row. We are going to have ‘reading pair of the week’ in our celebration assemblies too.’

Case Studies

Case Studies

Examples of how Reading Pals has supported individual children in different ways:


Liam was a Year 5 boy who was struggling with reading compared to his peers. As a result of finding reading difficult he had lost confidence, causing a reluctance to read in class or at home. When Liam was chosen to be the Older Pal to a Year 2 child, it was found he was easily able to read and ask questions about the Level 2 book that the Younger Pal was reading. Being put in a position of being a ‘better’ reader, and being ‘looked up to’ by the Younger Pal, gave Liam a much needed confidence boost. He fully engaged in the scheme and was given much needed reading practice with the scripts and books.


Aaron was a Year 5 boy chosen to be an older Reading Pal in a group ran by a School Home Support practitioner. Aaron was becoming increasingly disruptive in the mainstream class. He was often unkind, and could also be physically and verbally aggressive to his peers. In the first session the SHS practitioner was concerned at Aaron’s negative response to his younger peer. She explained to him the importance of helping his Younger Pal to feel safe and happy with his support and positive feedback. Over the next sessions Aaron’s responses to the Younger Pal became increasingly positive and the two formed a strong bond. Aaron’s teacher also noticed his behaviour towards his peers in the class improved significantly.


Aysha was one of many children in the school who came from a family with English as a Second Language. Aysha had already been trained as a Young Interpreter providing peer support to other children learning English as an additional language. Aysha said that Reading Pals helped her in this role as she gained experience of more in-depth questions to facilitate interesting discussions. She also said she was able to use her experience supporting reading to help her younger siblings with their reading homework. This was something her parents weren’t able to do because they did not have enough knowledge of English themselves.

English as a Second Language

During the School Home Support pilot, in Islington primary schools, several children reported that the Reading Pals sessions had given them the confidence to help their younger siblings with reading at home.

This is particularly significant for families where parents simply do not have enough time to read with the children, families where parents lack the motivation or confidence to read with the children, and families where English is not the first language. If the older children are enjoying reading with their siblings this is a great way to improve both the older and younger sibling’s language and literacy skills.


One child reported that the sessions had helped her in her role as a Young Interpreter, this scheme enables migrant children to learn English from their peers.