Navbar button The Headteacher

How EdTech can close the reading gap

April 18, 2021, 13:39 GMT+1
Read in about 4 minutes
  • Julia Clouter explains the benefits of reading support pens...
How EdTech can close the reading gap

In the middle of the biggest teaching challenge, we must ensure that our students read, because this is the key to the process of engagement, enrichment and participation.

Learners who require additional support with reading and accessing text have always been our priority. Learning at home is challenging, it has caused a re-think in how we provide support. Modifying programs of study and accessibility has been an all consuming task that has gripped the teaching profession.

But one major positive about this day and age is fabulous technology. Reading support tools come in many forms, high, mid or low tech, but it can be a simple addition to a student’s toolkit that completely revolutionises their learning journey.

Let’s focus on the basics – reading support, the backbone of learning. The 2019 UK Government Assessment SATs Data identified that 73 per cent of students starting secondary school had achieved the expected standard reading age. This means that one in four students will be struggling to access age appropriate reading materials.

Build confident readers

For many students with reading difficulties such as dyslexia, it isn’t the lack of cognitive ability that hampers progress, but simply the reading and processing of written text. There is technology available that provides learners with the power to independently read and decode at home or school.

With a ReaderPen, reading support is achieved independently of a human reader. Scanned text is simultaneously read back and instantly increases comprehension and confidence – the starting points for engagement and achievement. Because the text is simultaneously highlighted on the screen students access multi-modal learning support.

There is fantastic research from the Audio Publishers Association that shows students who are engaging in this simultaneous visual and audio support show a 67 per cent increase in motivation.

When selecting assistive technology to use in education settings, especially in the primary phase, it is vital that it be easy to implement and use to its full potential.

Reading aids fall into the category of ‘Mid-Tech’, adhering to the needs mentioned above. Mid-Tech means something sophisticated, yet easy to use. It requires no WiFi, so is accessible anywhere, and has a built-in battery to make charging as simple as charging your mobile phone.

Teaching and learning impact

With a built-in primary dictionary to support comprehension and to compliment the read aloud feature, this affordable and easy to use assistive technology has been proven to have a profound impact on the learning of primary students. Research from the Malta Secretariat for Catholic Schools showed that in an eight-week period, students’ reading accuracy increased by 13 months while their comprehension levels saw a ten-month increase.

The toolbox approach is the best way to close the reading gap. To empower our learners we must consider new ways to ensure that text can be accessed. Reading is the wedge that keeps the door to the curriculum open, so it is vital that we provide strategies for reading support at home and at school.

For a go to guide of resources and strategies to support young learners with reading difficulties, please head to D.E.A.R for Dyslexia and for more information or free trial of a ReaderPen visit

Julia Clouter is Scanning Pens’ head of education.