Catch Up Literacy is a one to one literacy intervention for struggling readers. It is centred on a 15 minute structured teaching session delivered twice per week.
This report presents the findings from the Catch Up Literacy intervention in NBSS partner schools. Data was obtained for 333 students who received the Catch Up Literacy intervention in 58 post-primary schools.
Students received on average 5.32 months of the Catch Up Literacy intervention and the average reading age gain was 16.78 months.
This NBSS resource provides information on high interest/low readability fiction and non-fiction texts, as well as titles related to subject specific topics.
This NBSS resource provides an overview of commercially available programmes and resources that teachers in NBSS partner schools have used successfully to support the development of reading, learning and literacy skills.

Level 3: Implementing a 1:1 Reading Programme - Catch Up Literacy

Teacher as Researcher - Action Research Project


NBSS research has pointed to the association between failure with reading and behaviour difficulties. For example, an exploration of the reading ages of students (N=2187) receiving NBSS Level 3 behavioural support from the Spring Term 2009 to the Spring Term 2012 revealed that 66.3% (N=1450) of students were reading three or more years below their chronological age. Additionally, 4.3% (N=96) of the students receiving NBSS Level 3 support had reading ages of 7 years or less.

The negative effect of poor reading skills are well documented and wide ranging, for example poor academic achievement, low self-esteem, lower motivation to read, disengagement with learning and school, and behavioural problems.

Greg Brooks (2007) in his review of ‘What works for pupils with literacy difficulties’, noted that ‘although good classroom teaching is the bedrock of effective practice, most research suggests that children falling behind their peers need more help than the classroom normally provides. This help requires coordinated effort and training’. For some students, a tightly focused group intervention will be sufficient to allow them to develop their reading skills and build their confidence to engage more actively in the learning process, while other students need intensive and individualised interventions.

The diversity of student needs, learning style, teaching style and classroom conditions that exist in any school means that no one ‘right’ strategy or programme holds the answer to addressing literacy difficulties. However, using evidence-based programmes as ONE element of targeted support can play an important role in a school’s repertoire of prevention and intervention supports for students. Catch Up Literacy is one of several interventions that NBSS partner schools implement to support reading and literacy skills development - other interventions include, for example, the use of Corrective Reading; Toe by Toe; Acceleread Accelewrite; Rapid Plus; Vocabulary Enrichment; Bridge to Vocabulary; SNIP Literacy programme; The Wordsworth programme; Spell Write Right, among others.


Catch Up Literacy is a one to one literacy intervention for struggling readers. It is centred on a 15 minute structured teaching session delivered twice per week. Catch Up Literacy begins with a comprehensive assessment procedure which provides pre-intervention data from which the teacher determines the student’s Catch Up Literacy level and targets. The level is used to identify a book appropriate for the individual child that she/he will be able to read with 90% success (instructional level).

The individual sessions have three parts. Firstly, during the prepared reading the teacher talks through the text and pictures of the selected book, providing key vocabulary and familiarising the student with the story; The student then reads the story while the teacher records progress and identifies words to follow up. The session concludes with a linked writing or spelling activity based on the student’s miscues earlier in the session.


In November 2010 the NBSS held an introductory Catch Up Literacy information session for school leaders and nominated teachers. Schools were then invited to participate in the Catch Up Literacy project. Subsequently, 37 teachers from 19 schools received three half day training sessions on assessing reading skills, selecting appropriate books, delivering the Catch Up Literacy individual teaching session and ongoing monitoring. The time between each training session enabled the teachers to practise the Catch Up Literacy skills back at school. In addition to this training a half day session was held for one teacher representative from each school to consider in detail the effective management of Catch Up Literacy. The 37 teachers implemented the Catch Up Literacy Programme with 98 students ranging from 1st to 5th year.


Because the work of the NBSS, whether with regard to behavioural, academic or systemic interventions, is evidenced based, all teachers involved in the Catch Up Literacy project were asked to administer the following pre and post research instruments: The Salford Reading Test; NBSS Student Attitudes to Reading survey; and the NBSS Student Learning Behaviour Checklist.


  • 74 pupils (95 pupils participated but complete data is available for 74)

  • Average Chronological Age (CA) at start of the pilot: 13 years 9 months

  • Average Reading Age (RA) at start of the pilot: 7 years 9 months

  • 22% of students had a Reading Age (RA) below 7 yrs.

  • Students received on average 5.32 months of Catch Up Literacy intervention

  • Average Reading Age gains of 16.78 months

  • Average Ratio gain (gain divided by duration of intervention) of 3.37 (where a ratio gain of at least 2 may be considered ‘good impact’, Brooks 2007)

  • More than 70% of the participating studnets achieved a Reading Age gain of more than twice the duration of intervention

  • At the end of the intervention, approximately 20% of the participating students achieved the ceiling test score (10 years 7 months) – i.e. they may be said to be functionally literate.

As a way of monitoring any learning behaviour change pre and post intervention, each students’ tutor or English teacher was asked to complete the NBSS Learning Behaviour Checklist at the beginning and at the end of the Catch Up Literacy intervention. Teachers were asked to rate each learning behaviour using the following scale:

1=Always      2=Most of the time      3=Sometimes      4=Infrequently      5=Never

The table below displays the Pre and Post Intervention Combined Percentage for 'Always' and 'Most of the Time'.

Learning Behaviour
Catch Up
Catch Up


Is able to settle at the beginning of lessons




Is able and willing to follow verbal instructions




Can begin a task quickly e.g. at the same time as other students




Can stay on task (within capabilities)




Can complete a task




Gives effort to her/his written work




Presents work well




Works well in a group




Participates well in class discussions




Can work without direct supervision




Requests help appropriately




Can work without constant reassurance /attention




Is able to speak appropriately to adults




Is able to interact appropriately with peers





The following are a selection teacher comments and observations on the impact of the intervention.

“[He] is improving in his conduct in class and is much more engaged in learning than during the 1st term.”

“…has matured a lot over the last few months. His bad language and aggression have improved immensely…[his] reading and confidence to read has improved this year.”

“Before the intervention X believed she was not good at anything academic and would have to leave school…Many of (X’s) dockets for being uncooperative and aggressive in class were due to her constant and repeated refusals to read aloud in class. Now she is eager to read in class – even puts her hand up. Her self esteem is still rather low however she now firmly believes she can read well and with confidence.”

“[He] grew in confidence, was willing to read in class for the first time and his behaviour improved.”

“[She] works brilliantly in a one to one situation and made great progress in the Catch Up Literacy. She became confident enough to read out in my main class which she had never done before.”

“[She] hated reading at the start of the programme but grew in confidence with the one to one help. She has settled down much better in her mainstream classes recently and is more willing to attempt work and ask questions if she doesn’t understand something. She doesn’t like to admit that she enjoys reading though - it’s not cool!”

“[He] can get frustrated easily in class. He enjoys one to one tuition. This is where he really shows progress. [He] loves being read to and always pays full attention to the story being told.”

“…has improved greatly in class. He engages extremely well with reading exercises and activities. Loves to participate in class discussions and understand the rule of turntaking.”

“[His] behaviour has improved greatly since September. He is responding better
to me and working hard in class.”

“…great tool for intervention - focused on literacy but opens the way to deal with behaviour.”

“Tutors noticed an improvement in reading and attention.”

“Some other teachers, in particular English teachers remarked on an improvement in attitude to reading in class and confidence in reading.”

An oultine of the NBSS Catch Up Literacy intervention 2010-2011 can viewed by clicking on the link below.