Aston Literacy Project

Aston Literacy Project

The Aston Literacy Project is a large study tracking children's literacy from school entry into secondary school. This website is written for teachers, parents and pupils involved in the Aston Literacy Project, and others interested in our research findings.

If you are the PARENT of a pupil taking part in the Aston Literacy Project, please click here for our parent information sheets and consent forms.

If you are a PUPIL taking part in the Aston Literacy Project, please click here for our pupil information sheets (including a guide to the reading diary).

Click here for a summary of our ongoing work (2018 - 2020).

What does our previous work tell us about how best to prepare children for reading? Click here.

What does our previous work tell us about how parents can help support their children's phonics? Click here.

In the first phase of our research (Skills for Reading), we investigated the skills that are crucial for reading in children at the beginning and intermediate stages of literacy development. This research was funded by an ESRC grant (2011 - 2016) and conducted by Dr Laura Shapiro (Principal Investigator), Dr Caroline WittonProfessor Joel Talcott, Professor Adrian Burgess, Dr Anna Cunningham (Research Fellow 2011 - 2015) and Amy Fox (Research Coordinator in 2016). For a summary of key outcomes from this phase, click here.

In the second phase of our research (Reading and Vocabulary, RAV), we are investigating the relationship between reading and vocabulary. Specifically, whether the amount of reading that children and adolescents do is important for vocabulary growth. We look forward to working with these secondary schools from autumn 2018. Reading and Vocabulary (RAV) is funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant (2018 - 2020) and conducted by Sanne van der Kleij (Research Fellow) and Dr. Laura Shapiro, Dr. Jessie Ricketts and Professor Adrian Burgess.

We also have a PhD student linked to the Aston Literacy Project, Natalie Walsh (2016 - 2019). Natalie is investigating types of reading difficulties and the different approaches used with struggling readers. Natalie is currently interviewing teachers to find out about the range of approaches used in our participating schools. We will then feedback this information to provide a synthesis of current practice. Natalie's PhD is funded by an Aston University Life and Health Sciences studentship.


We held a launch of our Nuffield Foundation funded project (Reading and Vocabulary; RAV) in April 2018, attended by advisors from primary and secondary education, the charity sector, policymakers, academics and other stakeholders. Laura Shapiro and Jessie Ricketts gave a presentation on findings from the Aston Literacy Project and the Vocabulary and Reading in Secondary School project, then outlined our plans for RAV (presentation available here). Thanks to everyone who attended, we gained really valuable feedback from our discussions (summarised here).

We presented a summary of our project and gained valuable feedback from teachers at the Aston Brooke Staff Inset day in October, 2017. You can download a copy of the presentation here.

We held workshops in January 2017 for participating teachers. We gained valuable feedback from teachers which has informed the next phase of our project. Click here for a summary of the findings we discussed, feedback from teachers and next steps.

Our initial findings were published in Cognition (2015). You can read our paper by clicking here.  This paper is written for a specialist academic audience. For a summary of these findings, written for teachers and parents: click here


The project involves two large groups of children originally from 16 infant and primary schools in the Birmingham area.

  • Sample 1: Longitudinal sample of ~800 children assessed from the beginning of school
  • Sample 2: Comparison sample of ~600 Year 2 children assessed in Spring of Year 2

Progress of the research:

We have conducted six large data collection phases across 16 schools in the Birmingham area. We are currently working with the same children in Year 6 during Summer 2018 and will continue to work with the same children as they progress into secondary school.

Thank you to all the pupils, teachers and research assistants who have contributed to our research.

Thank you to the ESRC for funding the first phase of our research (Skills for Reading; 2011 - 2016).

Thank you to the Nuffield Foundation for funding the current phase of our research (Reading and Vocabulary; 2018 - 2020).

The Reading and Vocabulary project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.


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