Aston Literacy Project

Aston Literacy Project

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

In the first phase of our project, 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-funded grant (2011 - 2016) conducted by Dr Laura Shapiro (Principal Investigator), Dr Caroline WittonProfessor Joel Talcott, Professor Adrian Burgess and Dr Anna Cunningham (Research Fellow 2011 - 2015) and Amy Fox (Research Coordinator in 2016).

In the second phase of our project (from Summer 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 have a grant from Aston University to work with our sample in Summer 2017 and are currently seeking external funding to continue to follow up our sample as they progress into secondary school. This phase of our research is 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.


We held workshops in January 2017 for participating teachers. We gained some really 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 key findings were published in Cognition (2015). You can read our paper by clicking here.  This paper is written for a specialist academic audience. For updates targeted at practitioners and parents, please click on the summaries below.

For a summary of our initial outcomes in January 2016 click here

See Newsletter for Autumn 2011 (beginning of Reception).

See Newsletter for Spring 2012 (middle of Year 2).

See Newsletter for Summer 2012 (end of Reception). 

See Newsletter for Summer 2013 (end of Year 1).


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 tested once in the Spring of Year 2

Aims of the research:

  • To develop our understanding of the different types of auditory and phonological skills displayed by primary school children
  • To investigate how these skills impact upon literacy development
  • To identify the pattern of difficulties shown by children who struggle with reading.

Progress of the research:

We have conducted five large data collection phases across 16 schools in the Birmingham area. We have followed up the longitudinal sample during Summer 2016, now that they are in Year 4. We are currently working with the same children in Year 5 during Summer 2017 and aim to continue to work with the same children as they progress into secondary school. Thank you to all the children, teachers and research assistants who have been involved in our research. 

This research will help lead to more effective early identification of children who are at risk of developing reading difficulties, and inform successful interventions. Your participation will make an important contribution.

picture 2016