Engaging parents in their children's early literacy development has been shown to improve children's outcomes and help to narrow the gap between disadvantaged and other children.
Making it REAL (Raising Early Achievement in Literacy) is an award-winning programme that works with practitioners to support children’s early literacy and development.
The programme helps practitioners to build parents’ knowledge and confidence so that they can help their children with reading and writing and create a positive early home learning environment.
What is the REAL approach?
Making it REAL draws evidence from the original REAL project delivered by Professors Cathy Nutbrown and Peter Hannon at the University of Sheffield.
REAL uses a framework called ‘ORIM’ (Opportunities, Recognition, Interaction and Model), which is based on the idea that there are four main ways in which parents can help their children’s literacy development.
Teachers and practitioners share ORIM with families through a series of home visits and literacy events. They work together to support children’s early literacy development.
How Making it REAL has developed
Making it REAL was originally funded by the Big Lottery and developed in collaboration with the University of Sheffield with schools and children’s centres in Oldham and Sheffield.
From 2013 - 2016, the programme was funded by the Department for Education to support local authorities and a range of maintained schools, children’s centres, private and independent early years settings and childminder groups across England.
We worked in partnership with eight local authority areas – Blackpool, Haringey, Luton, Oldham, Peterborough, Sandwell, Sheffield and South Tyneside – to support and establish the REAL approach locally.
Our evaluation of Making it REAL 2013–15 shows the positive impact on children’s outcomes.
Helping children with additional needs
The Year Two evaluation found that REAL supports the early identification of children’s additional needs and increases the number of families who are referred to specialist services for further help.
71% of practitioners said that the intervention had at least 'some impact' on connecting children and families to other services and 68% said it had helped them identify additional needs in one or more of the target children.
Practitioners also said that the intervention had 'some' impact (37%) or 'a great' impact (18%) on the earlier identification of additional needs in siblings.
Increased contact with families, especially through home visits, made practitioners aware of other agencies involved with the family, such as social services or speech and language support, and provided an opportunity to discuss wider needs and get agreement to make referrals.
There was also evidence of issues being looked at for the first time, including the need for speech and language therapy or of family-wide issues such as domestic violence and housing need.
From 2016-2018 the Sutton Trust supported a small- scale feasibility study in Oldham with promising results. More recently NCB has worked with Oldham 2017-2019 to deliver a REAL project throughout the nursery and reception years. Read more about this and its impact, A REAL success for Oldham’s children.
Making it REAL in your area
We offer training courses and consultancy packages to new areas that would like to be a part of Making it REAL.
For further information on Making it REAL, please contact [email protected]