Redcliffs School - Learning to Read using MSL

Redcliffs School students learning to read using their new MSL books.

It's an exciting day for Ryleigh, today she gets to take home one of Redcliffs School’s new reading books for the first time. As a first year student, Ryleigh is lucky to be learning to read using MSL – or multisensory structured language – which teaches a child to read using phonetics.

After a very successful pilot programme, Redcliffs School is rolling out MSL to all students, and the Sumner Ferrymead Foundation is delighted to be able to support the initiative through a grant.

With NZ literacy rates at an all-time low, Redcliffs School principal Rose McInerney knew they had to do something to support their children. Internationally, MSL – or multisensory structured language – is recognised as the "science behind people learning to read”. Given its proven success, the school decided to pilot the approach with individuals, in small groups and in classrooms.

The pilot was so successful it has now been rolled out to all pupils. Whilst the MSL approach is considered essential for more than 50% of children (including those with dyslexia), even the 40% who find learning to read relatively easy benefit by the approach too.

"Today 40% of adults don’t have functional literacy (e.g. can’t read a label on a medicine bottle) so to be able to address this is immensely rewarding” said MSL teacher Lillian Dowd. "Children who have struggled to read for a number of years quickly make up lost ground when they are introduced to learning the MSL way. It doesn’t get much better than this!"

And it doesn’t get much better for the Sumner Ferrymead Foundation either. "Barry Geddes, our treasurer, suggested the Foundation recognise Redcliffs School finally moving into its new premises, so we asked them what they needed most” said former Chair, John Taylor. "We were appalled to discover New Zealand’s position in literacy had dropped so significantly in the international rankings, so it made total sense to support this project because without literacy you are going to struggle in all aspects of life. Plus, it’s great to see one of our local primary schools taking a leadership role in addressing this problem – that’s what helps make the Sumner Ferrymead community such a great place to live".

"If a child memorises 10 words, the child can only read 10 words. But if a child learns 10 sounds, the child will be able to read 350 three sound words, 4320 four sound words and 21650 five sound words" - Martin Kozloff, 2002


* Ladder of Reading, shows the percentages of students for whom a structured literacy approach is necessary.

* Article from RNZ about the functional literacy rate in NZ