Six-year project in UK primary schools reveals drawing significantly improves reading and writing :: NEWS

Six-year project in UK primary schools reveals drawing significantly improves reading and writing

08 September 2021 Share

 Devised by the CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, The Power of Pictures project (which has run since 2014 in primary schools across the UK) reveals today that using picture books in primary schools and allowing drawing into the learning process improves writing and reading skills significantly in primary age children.

The Power of Pictures was selected for evaluation using a randomised control trial by the RSA/EEF (Royal Society of Arts and Education Endowment Foundation) as part of their Learning About Culture programme to confirm the evidence of the impact of arts-based learning on academic outcomes.  The research into the Power of Pictures programme in schools revealed significant progress in outcomes for literacy in all children who took part in the project and clear evidence of a link between creativity and drawing and writing.

Over 7,000 children and 318 schools across the UK took part in the Power of Pictures in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England, involving award-winning illustrators including Chris Haughton, Viviane Schwarz, Alexis Deacon, Tim Hopgood, Mini Grey, Ed Vere and Ken Wilson-Max. Picture books on the programme included: Croc and BirdIs there a dog in this book?Ssh! We Have a PlanGrandad’s Island and Wild.

Teachers involved in the Power of Pictures reported not only better outcomes, increased writing and reading skills and children who were really excited about learning, but also that teachers felt more confident and happier. Teachers reported pupils increased confidence in expressing and understanding and a willingness to challenge ideas through the work with picture books and illustrators. They also saw an increase in vocabulary and language and developing deeper comprehension skills. 

Vinny Dawson, teacher at Harrow Gate Academy in Stockton upon Tees which took part in the Power of Pictures commented, "The Power Of Pictures has not only developed my career immensely, but the effect it has on pupils is unmeasurable. Even the most reluctant pupils began to find writing and reading pleasurable and rewarding. Examples of the most beautiful, thought-provoking and astonishing pieces of learning were produced as a result of the programme. I highly recommend the POP programme and its benefits to anyone and any school looking for an effective way to enhance their English curriculum."

The research revealed that when children are given the opportunities to draw as part of the writing process, this helps them develop and extend ideas for writing, making their independent, self-initiated writing much richer.

The findings also revealed that picture books are an important genre of children’s literature and not just a step on the route to chapter books.

Lauren Child, former Children’s Laureate and creator of Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean has supported the Power of Pictures project since the beginning. Lauren says, "There’s not enough understanding of how sophisticated picture books can be. If we don’t understand that, then we don’t understand how amazingly sophisticated children are and that they think very deeply and powerfully about things. And we do them a disservice if we don’t see this."

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education launched the Power of Pictures project in 2014. It was developed by CLPE’s Charlotte Hacking and the award-winning illustrator Ed Vere who initially put together a course designed to help teachers use picture books, understand the process that goes into developing picture books and develop meaningful relationships between authors and schools. With a grant from the Arts Council. Grants for the Arts Programme, the project evolved into a three year programme.

Charlotte Hacking, Learning Programme Manager at CLPE says “When we designed this programme six years ago, we had a hypothesis that using picture books and giving children the opportunity to draw as part of the writing process would support all children to become better readers and writers. Over the six years we have seen evidence of this being true time and time again for all children, including those who receive Free School Meals and those who were previously perceived as finding literacy a challenge. We are delighted that this trial has provided us with more evidence and has shown that providing opportunities for this kind of work in the English curriculum is essential to allow all pupils to thrive.”

CLPE’s director Louise Shepherd says, "This project grew out of a passion here at CLPE for ensuring every child has access to the best possible literacy teaching and a passion for picture books and their importance to all children’s developing literacy.  We are delighted that the research evidence shows what teachers have been telling us for many years; Picture Books, creativity and drawing are key factors in ensuring all children develop the literacy skills they need to become lifelong readers and writers. We are grateful for the support throughout its 6 year lifespan from many people and organisations in education, the arts and literary world and by hundreds of teachers and thousands of pupils."

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