SPOKES (Supporting Parents on Kids’ Education) is a project that aims to give parents the skills they need to help their children learn to read. It is being delivered by Plymouth Information, Advice and Support for SEND. Parents attend 12 weekly sessions where educational psychologists and parent support workers show them simple teaching strategies to use when reading with their child. The two main strategies taught are ‘Pause Prompt Praise’ and the 'whole language' approach to reading.
In the 'Pause Prompt Praise' approach parents are shown how to respond when their child does not recognise a word. Instead of intervening immediately, which can encourage dependence, parents are taught to wait for five seconds to allow the child time to grapple with the problem. If the child does not produce the right answer, parents first offer a prompt before revealing the correct answer. Parents are also taught how to give effective feedback by praising a specific reading behaviour, rather than just celebrating the outcome (e.g., 'I like how you sounded the word out' as opposed to 'well done!').
The whole language approach encourages parents to discuss books with their child, instead of just putting them away when finished. Parents are shown how to relate a story to everyday experience and encourage children to make guesses about what might happen next. This could improve comprehension by helping children to actively seek meaning and draw inferences from what they read.
The intervention is delivered by educational psychologists and parent support workers.
The Education Endowment Foundation recently ran a project investigating the effectiveness of SPOKES, which did not show it to be effective.
The study indicated that SPOKES has an impact on wider literacy measures, which is only seen in the medium to longer term, as the intervention works with parents rather than directly with children. For this reason the EEF will repeat the KS1 test for all the children in the trial. The results of the evaluation should be available shortly.