Aston Literacy Project

Aston Literacy Project

This website is a resource designed for teachers, parents and pupils involved in the Aston Literacy Project, and others interested in our research findings. We update it regularly so please visit often to keep informed.

In the first phase of our research (Skills for Reading), we investigated the relationship between auditory skills, phonology, and reading in children at the beginning and intermediate stages of literacy development. This research was funded by an ESRC grant (2011 - 2016) and conducted by Dr Laura Shapiro (Principal Investigator), Dr Caroline WittonProfessor Joel Talcott, Professor Adrian Burgess, Dr Anna Cunningham (Research Fellow 2011 - 2015) and Amy Fox (Research Coordinator in 2016). For a summary of key outcomes from this phase, click here.

In the second phase of our research (2017-), we are investigating the relationship between reading and vocabulary. Specifically, whether the amount of reading that children and adolescents do is important for vocabulary growth. We look forward to working with these secondary schools, once our participants progress into secondary schools from autumn 2018. This phase of our research (Reading and Vocabulary, RAV) is funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant (2018 - 2020) and conducted by Dr. Laura Shapiro, Dr. Jessie Ricketts and Professor Adrian Burgess.

We also have a PhD student linked to the Aston Literacy Project, Natalie Walsh (2016 - 2019). Natalie is investigating types of reading difficulties and the different approaches used with struggling readers. Natalie is currently interviewing teachers to find out about the range of approaches used in our participating schools. We will then feedback this information to provide a synthesis of current practice. Natalie's PhD is funded by an Aston University Life and Health Sciences studentship.


We presented a summary of our project and gained valuable feedback from teachers at the Aston Brooke Staff Inset day in October, 2017. You can download a copy of the presentation here.

We held workshops in January 2017 for participating teachers. We gained valuable feedback from teachers which has informed the next phase of our project. Click here for a summary of the findings we discussed, feedback from teachers and next steps.

Our initial findings were published in Cognition (2015). You can read our paper by clicking here.  This paper is written for a specialist academic audience. For a summary of our outcomes, written for teachers and parents: click here


The project involves two large groups of children from 16 schools in the Birmingham area.

  • Sample 1: Longitudinal sample of ~800 children assessed from the beginning of school
  • Sample 2: Comparison sample of ~600 Year 2 children assessed in Spring of Year 2

Progress of the research:

We have conducted six large data collection phases across 16 schools in the Birmingham area. The next step will be to work with the same children in Year 6 during Summer 2018 and to continue to work with the same children as they progress into secondary school.

Thank you to all the pupils, teachers and research assistants who have contributed to our research.

Thank you to the ESRC for funding the first phase of our research (Skills for Reading; 2011 - 2016).

Thank you to the Nuffield Foundation for funding the current phase of our research (Reading and Vocabulary; 2018 - 2020).

The Reading and Vocabulary project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

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