TextNow® is about motivation rather than the mechanics of reading. As such, it has been proven to help young people make rapid progress in their reading skills.
The origin of TextNow® stems from the identification of a lack of effective interventions to improve the literacy of older teenagers and young adults. Where these programmes do exist, they are often characterised by very high attrition rates. Initial analysis indicated that a programme that focused mainly on increasing motivation to read rather than additional instruction in the mechanics of reading had the potential to affect reading performance positively for struggling and reluctant readers. Consequently, a project model evolved around the following key features that it was thought would stimulate motivation and thereby effectiveness in learning:
- Intensity – regular sessions over ten weeks
- Support – a one-to-one relationship with a volunteer reading coach
- Engagement – an award scheme to engage young people and enable them to establish a personal library of books through rewards earned by attendance.
The emphasis throughout is on making reading accessible and enjoyable. To that end, the reading coach shares their own reading experience and enthusiasm and the young person is encouraged to develop skills in choosing texts, including through the online MyChoice! bookstore.
The young person is reading every day. To begin with, he was reluctant and only wanted to be read to, but now he is becoming much more confident and is finishing a book every night.
Initially, the model was tried and tested with young people in the most challenging of circumstances who had become completely detached from mainstream education. It has been continually refined and adapted to different environments on the basis of recurrent evaluation and feedback.
The need for a national programme that specifically targets 11 to 19-year-olds is clear. Currently, an estimated 400,000 young people in the UK are detached from education, looked after, within the youth justice system or unlikely to achieve a grade C at GCSE.
Not only has the TextNow® programme proven to be popular and engaging with teenagers, but it has also shown striking outcomes in terms of literacy progress.