• Katie Moylan

Theoretical Rationale Behind Catch Up Literacy

The Catch Up Literacy intervention is a non-profit charity organization. It utilizes the top-down approach (Harrison, 2004, p59) to literacy, as it focuses on reading for meaning rather than phonics, and so should be used for children who already have the basics of reading and literacy. It was created for KS2 children, but the charity has now launched a secondary Catch-Up Literacy intervention too, using similar methods, although this research paper will focus on evaluating the intervention for primary children.

The Catch-up intervention programme uses the initial assessment to provide a list of suitable texts for the individual learner, and then the teacher can select one which the school already has, from this list. This helps to ensure the correct levels are chosen so the child will not be demotivated in their reading, supporting the teacher with the ‘first priority’ of reading intervention of ‘the choice of texts’ (Harrison, 2004, p103). Motivation is key for inspiring children to read, and most children with a below age expected level of reading are likely to lack motivation. Harrison highlighted this point; ‘the first rule for most children… is this: reading must be fun.’ (Harrison,2004, p105). Catch-Up Literacy directly provides appropriate resources to enable the teacher to overcome the challenge of providing appropriate and motivating texts for the student.

The first stage of the individual support of the intervention is prepared reading, employing the ‘top down approach’ (Harrison, 2004, p59). This is where the child and the teacher look at the cover, and the pictures to gain an idea and context of what the book will be about. Through this preparation stage, the child first accesses the relevant cognitive schema, which research shows enables people to recall far more about the text than if they had not initially accessed the relevant cognitive schema for the text (ibid, p66). This is inherent to preparing the child for success in the reading task, and paves the way for a successful intervention.

Resources are provided for the teacher to use during the individual session. A record form is used to ensure that key areas of reading are addressed, with focus on miscues. Goodman (1969) first coined the term ‘miscue analysis’ (cited in DfES, 2015, p1), and said that ‘The pattern of miscues can suggest a reader’s strengths as well as their weaknesses.’ (ibid, p1). Through recognising the pattern of miscues, the teacher can see exactly which phonological areas the child needs specific support with, thus making the intervention more effective. ‘Goodman was anxious to get away from the notion that every departure from the words of the text is necessarily bad.’ (ibid, p1), and so a record of miscues allows the teacher to praise the child for their effort and understanding of the words which they have miscued, and should therefore provide opportunity for encouragement and motivation in the intervention process.

Through recording and analyzing miscues, the teacher can also develop a better method of assessing how the child uses context to deconstruct the meaning of individual words. Stanovich says that, ‘70-95% of initial errors are contextually appropriate’, (Stanovich, 1986, p368), as the reader subconsciously predicts what the unknown word could be based on the context. The use of context for comprehension is vital, throughout the reading process and even for mature and proficient readers. For this reason, using context is a skill which should be taught explicitly, and the recognition and celebration of miscues can help to encourage the use of context to interpret the meaning of an unknown word. Celebrating miscues can encourage the child to overcome the fear of making mistakes when reading, and this can therefore be taught as a strategy to understand new words within context and lead to further independence and self confidence in their reading.

Catch-Up Literacy also provides resources to include and support parents in the reading process. Henderson and Mapp highlighted the importance of involving families in learning; ‘Programmes and interventions that engage families in supporting their children's learning at home are linked to higher student achievement.’ (Henderson and Mapp, 2002:25, cited in The University of Nottingham, 2018). Catch-Up Literacy provides a structured method to engage families in their children’s reading, as they provide a ‘parents link book’, which enables the parents and teacher to monitor the child’s progress together, as well as a CD and video to give training to the parents on how best to support and engage their children effectively in reading at home. These resources will be invaluable in enabling the school and the parents to work together, and therefore increase the students’ chance of progress and achievement.

An obvious limitation to the programme is the lack of phonics. The programme is recommended from KS2 onwards, by which age it is presumed that children have a firm grasp of phonics. However, this may not necessarily be true of children who require an intervention programme. Successful programmes, ‘cover elements of reading accuracy, phonics, reading comprehension and fluency in a single programme.’ (Carroll, Bradley, Crawford, Hannant, Johnson and Thompson, 2017, p32) and so although the other elements are explicity addressed, the programme does not provide phonic support. When using this programme, the teacher or teaching assistant may need to explicitly address gaps in the child’s phonic awareness in order to access the programme reading materials, thus deviating from the programme itself, and therefore rendering it ineffective for all children at this age or stage of their reading education.

Even though there are some limitations, Catch-Up Literacy has secure and varied theoretical grounding, and provides a structure to reading intervention which is often lacking in other programmes. It addresses the student’s individual needs, as well as supporting the teacher and the families, creating a well-rounded community of structured support, which will inevitably help the child to overcome barriers to reading. One programme can not ever be conclusive for all individual children, and so it must be used with professional judgement for which individuals it would be most effective for, and possibly used alongside specific phonics training. However, the strengths on the whole make it a cost effective and structured basis for a school’s literacy intervention.


Brooks, G. (2002) What works for Children with Literacy Difficulties? The effectiveness of intervention schemes. DfES Research Report [online]. Available at: https://www.catchup.org/resources/714/rr380.pdf [Accessed 23 October 2018]

Carroll J., Bradley L., Crawford H., Hannant P., Johnson H. and Thompson A. (2017) SEN support: A rapid evidence assessment Research report [online] Coventry University: DfE Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/628630/DfE_SEN_Support_REA_Report.pdf [Accessed on 2nd December 2018]

DfES (2015) Miscue Analysis [Online] Available at: https://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/content/etf1257 [Accessed on 2nd December 2018]

Harrison, C. (2004) Understanding Reading Development [online]. London: SAGE Publications, Available at: http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/nottingham.detail.action?docID=334606 [accessed on 21st October 2018].

Stanovich, K., (1986) The Matthew Effect Accessed at The University of Nottingham (2018) M1U55 Literacy: Theoretical Understanding of Literacy Difficulties/Dyslexia Module Communication and Literacy (XX4W34 UK) [online]. Available at: https://moodle.nottingham.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=74292 [Accessed 26 September 2018].

The University of Nottingham (2018) M1U510 Activity 1 Meeting the Needs of The Child Module Communication and Literacy (XX4W34 UK)

[online]. Available at: https://moodle.nottingham.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=74292 [Accessed 25 October 2018].

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