At Ark Acton we want to develop a lifelong love of reading and literature in our students.

We want to do this because we recognise that reading is a gateway into the human experience and we want all our students to leave us with an understanding of the breadth and wonder of the world around them.

The Sora Reading App

The Sora App allows pupils to read an extended list of the library’s ebooks and audio books.

The Sora App can be downloaded and used on all smart phones, tablets and PCs. It can also be opened in a web browser:

The Sora App offers pupils an interactive reading experience. When viewing ebooks on the Sora App, pupils can highlight text on the page, leave notes in the margins, quickly locate dictionary definitions and listen to a narrator for difficult passages in the text.

Sora encourages reading for pleasure. Rewards are earned when pupils use the App. A sophisticated ‘suggested reading’ component suggests new books for pupils based on their reading history and preferences.

Watch this video on the Sora App to learn more about LGBTQ+ culture and identity this LGBTQ+ History Month. FileSora tutorial 3 - LGBTQ+ History Month.pptx


Students reading

Why reading for pleasure?


Becoming a lifetime reader is predicated on developing a love of reading. Research with children has shown that reading for pleasure is positively linked with the following literacy-related benefits:

  • Increased reading attainment and writing ability (OECD, 2000) for reading that is done both in school and out of school.
  • Greater text comprehension and grammar, even after a variety of health, wealth and school factors were statistically controlled for;
  • Increased breadth of vocabulary, even after other relevant abilities such as IQ or text-decoding skills are controlled for;
  • positive reading attitudes, which in turn are linked to
  • achievement in reading ;
  • greater self-confidence as a reader;

The above relationships hold for first and second language acquisition, and for children and adults. Correlational studies have also consistently shown that those who read more are better readers. Indeed, reading amount and reading achievement are thought to be reciprocally related to each other – as reading amount increases, reading achievement increases, which in turn increases reading amount. 

Overall, when individuals read for pleasure frequently, “they experience the value of reading as efferent and aesthetic processes. Thus, they are more likely to read with a sense of purpose, which further supports their developing reading habit”[1]

What this looks like in the academy


At Ark Acton our reading programme consists of two main strands:

  1. Knowledge (schema) building through each subject booklet to ensure students have the requisite contextual knowledge to access more academic texts as they progress through the subject from Year 7 through to Year 13.
  2. Morning Reading and our sequenced reading intervention programme

Knowledge building through our academic curriculum

A schema is:

  •   a mental structure of ideas/words
  •   a framework representing some aspect of the world
  •   a system influencing how we perceive and what we notice in any new information

The accessibility of a schema (how quickly it comes to mind) influences the attention we can give to new information. Readers and listeners are more likely to notice things that fit into an existing schema. Rapid noticing enables ‘chunking’ of familiar ideas or words. This frees up working memory to embrace new content, take in the overall flow of a text or think about what is being apprehended.

Schemata therefore affect uptake & absorption of new content.

“The limits of short-term memory do not allow the integration of ‘unchunked’ material, and so crucial parts of meaning are lost to memory while other parts are being painstakingly worked out…. In this process, speed of comprehension is equivalent to quality of comprehension, because without the speed and the shorthand provided by well-organised schemata our circuits get overloaded”.

E.D. Hirsch Jr (1988), Cultural Literacy, p.57

So the speed with which we recognise a word and fix on the right meaning reflects the range of knowledge that sits underneath the word. The workings of schemata mean that pupil readiness for something new can be deliberately created.

By attending to the cumulative effect of specific knowledge teachers can shape readiness because that prior knowledge shapes what pupils then see/notice. Schools can manipulate curriculum content and structure – its choices, blends, sequencing and patterns of recall and revisiting – to ensure readiness for new or more demanding content and for more complex operations.

Morning Reading and our sequenced reading intervention programme


Closing the Reading Gap: Reading Provision at Ark Acton Academy

Structure of our reading interventions

Morning Reading

At Ark Acton, students participate in morning reading to improve their fluency. Students can decode accurately so the goal is now to build confidence in reading aloud texts from our Ark Acton canon. In addition to this, students are given the opportunity to learn new vocabulary, make predictions about what they are reading, summarise key events and share their opinions on characters and themes. We want students to experience narrative satisfaction; the joy that comes from immersing yourself into a book and learning about different cultural experiences.


If a student can decode accurately but NGRT data suggests there are weaknesses in their comprehension, Lexia is deployed to support their reading. Lexia is a computer-based platform, which generates data about what students have struggled with and when the teacher needs to intervene with instruction before continuing with the programme. When students make a year’s progress in their reading, they graduate out of Lexia and into Morning Reading.

Fresh Start

Fresh Start is a teacher-led phonics reading programme for students who still struggle to decode words. In each sequence, a new phoneme is taught to students and then students practise saying it, reading it in a short extract and using it in their own writing. Students are assessed every six weeks; when students are able to accurately decode, they graduate out of Fresh Start and into Lexia.

Thinking Reading

When students are significantly below their chronological reading age and has identified SEN, students engage in a six-month programme of 1:1 phonics and vocabulary instruction. After each session, the teacher inputs data about what students were able to achieve and a bespoke plan is created for the next session. Once students have reached their chronological age, students can graduate into Morning Reading.

Rosetta Stone

If a student arrives in year 7 or is an in-year admission with minimal English, we use Rosetta Stone to help them get to a level of conversational English. Once students acquire the foundations of English language, students are in a position to learn how to decode and participate in Fresh Start.

[1] Reading for Pleasure: a research overview. NLT 2006