Implementing Lancaster’s Hierarchy of Reading


Since its conception and feature on this blog (here) I’ve had a number of schools enquiring about how they might implement such a model in a school.

It’s been heartening to see that the model has not only produced a decent conversation around reading but also what its potential might be in a school setting in raising achievement around reading.

I’ve ‘tarted’ up a little the original sketch but the content remains exactly the same. What’s even more exciting is that it works both as a model for the individual but also for larger groups and whole schools.

The message I’ve been talking to the schools about is how they need to make sure all the stages are constantly active. This is important as it requires you to be aware of what you are doing and offering the students in your school at all times. It’s also important as at any one time you may have students at any stage on the hierarchy so need to keep this in mind.

One thing the schools have been keen on is using the model as a whole school approach to reading improvement as well as a classroom based approach.

Through these conversations I’ve been thinking about the key points of each stage and how these may actually look in a whole school or class setting. It’s interesting that I’ve been speaking to both primary and secondary schools but actually the more I’ve been thinking about it the principles really remain the same.

I thought it best to look at each of the stages and think about what it might look like both in a whole school and a class model.

Stage 1 Attitude

A student’s attitude towards reading books is the most important stage. It doesn’t matter how competent at reading an individual is, if they don’t want to do it they won’t. Although many judge the non-cognitive side to learning unimportant it’s probably just as if not more important than the cognitive side of things.
In this first stage of the hierarchy we’re thinking about the young person’s thoughts towards reading, hoping to engage positivity around it and sometimes this comes largely from a reader’s past or a perception on their own ability. If they have perceived themselves to have been a failure in the past then they will more likely have a negative view of reading. If they’ve also had bad experiences in primary school, maybe through phonics, then again this will impact.

Whole School

-Do you judge students by their attitudes to reading?
-Is reading seen positively throughout the school?
-Are staff role models for reading?
-Do you personalise reading to engage different types of readers?
-Is only traditional reading (books) seen or do you promote all types of reading?
-Do you have a focus on reading for pleasure?
-Do you engage parents and the wider community in reading, i.e. is reading seen outside of the school too?

-Is reading welcomed, celebrated in your classroom?
-Are opportunities taken to talk about pleasure reading?
-Are fiction books used to engage and deepen understanding in the topic?

-Do your students see you as a reader?

Stage 2 Opportunity

Opportunity is about providing students with rich literacy and reading opportunities in and outside of the classroom. If students don’t perceive that they have the opportunity to read then there is very little chance that they will engage in it. Participation and engagement is key in this stage and so is the relentless drive to make sure opportunities always exist for students in as many different guises as possible. Awareness is integral to this stage too so you need to be thinking about and how you are providing these opportunities.

Whole School

-Do you provide students with literacy rich reading opportunities outside of the curriculum?

-Is your library an engaging place with a knowledgeable person in charge running lots of reader development events?

-Do you only provide extracurricular reading activities for the stronger readers?

-Is reading seen across the school or just in certain places?


-Do you provide opportunities within the curriculum to discuss/use reading?

-Are links made to further learning through reading?

-Do you provide students with information on the types of reading that help them?


Stage 3

This stage focusses on the actual application of reading and supporting students to be able to actually go about the process. It is about making sure students feel they are capable and improving their self-efficacy around reading. This is the stage of mastery and motivation with both just as important as each other especially if you are to keep the reading flow going with students.

Whole School

-Do you test students for their reading abilities and use this as an initial guide?

-Do you have an understanding of the specific weakness around reading of your students?

-How do you teach you weakest readers to read?

-Do you share information about reading weakness with teachers and staff to guide their teaching practice?

-Do you give teachers strategies to work with weak readers and differentiate appropriately?

-Do you organise training for all staff to improve pedagogy around reading?



-Are you aware of your weakest readers?

-Do you know what support they need to help them improve?

-Do you adapt your teaching to make sure support is given?

-Is your seating plan conducive to allow weaker readers to flourish?

-How you break down the language of your subject to aid students?


Stage 4 Culture

Although this may seem a really strange one to have in here it is an extremely important area that is nearly always overlooked. A reading culture goes beyond just paying lip service to reading and saying that you involve some parents and local schools. A real culture is deeply ingrained in the whole society. Reading isn’t seen as special it’s just seen as a natural thing and needs to come from all different directions. For this reason an in classroom instruction is hard to define. If anything it is the accumulation of all the stages before that creates this ethos within the classroom.

It is worth thinking if everyone, especially those not directly linked to the school viewed reading as positive then the knock-effect to your parents and students becomes massive. This stage is probably the hardest to achieve as it relies heavily on the social responsibility of everyone. However, just because it’s difficult it shouldn’t mean that it’s not important.


Whole School

-How is reading seen outside of school?

-Who do you engage to promote/engage young people into reading?

-Is reading a priority in your society, if not why not?

-Are parents, staff, society figures seen as reading role models?

-Who takes responsibility for reading in your school?


So these are the stages we’ve been talking about and the ways in which the schools are going to approach them to achieve a whole school and classroom based success around reading. It’s also worth highlighting that all of this and the success of the model means that it has to be fully integrated into the school. This is especially important with a classroom based element that relies on improving teacher pedagogy. The point is that all these things are about improving our knowledge of and the learning/progress of all students. Reading is fundamental to this process but the buy in from staff is that it’s also about helping them to get all students, regardless of ability to learn to their potential with fewer barriers preventing them in all their subjects.

If you’d like more information about the model and how you might go about setting this up in your school then please do not hesitate in contacting me.


1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Lancaster’s Reading Continuum | readingeducator

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