The reason that Rhythm for Reading exists at all can be traced right back to a brief moment which was absolutely life changing. This is how it happened… I was working for the very first time with a group of nine year old children who had fallen so far behind their classmates over the years, that their class teacher feared for their future. I found them to be exactly as she had described, constantly misbehaving, very impulsive and unable to concentrate for longer than two seconds. The more important discovery however, was that my teaching techniques, which had until that point always been effective, had failed to engage these children.
Stepping into an inclusive mindset at that moment meant leaving the security of the ‘known’ behind. The first step for me was to acknowledge that I needed to know how to help these children. The second step was to pause for a moment and listen to the children, asking them about the things that they loved to do so that I could teach them more effectively. The third step was to find a way forward from that conversation.
It was obvious that football was hugely important to these children. They spoke about their footballing skills with a confidence that was so sincere, I felt that their commitment to movement could help me to teach them. At that time, the notion of learning through movement and rhythm was extremely unorthodox, but for these children, rhythmic exercises beginning with the feet proved to be extremely beneficial.They were soon better able to concentrate and their behaviour in class became calm and industrious.
Now, some twenty years later, neuroscientists have established the correlation between rhythmic awareness and reading and have shown the importance of movement for learning and memory. Those early steps in particular have been researched, evaluated and formalised into the own online teaching programme Rhythm for Reading.
An inclusive and equitable approach often demands courage and faith, but above all it specifies that teachers put learning first and take the necessary steps to teach children in the way that they can learn. The effects of inclusive teaching and learning have wide ranging benefits. Not only does an inclusive approach transform educational outcomes for all children, but it also reinforces the caring ethos of the school community, as well as deepening knowledge, expanding expertise and empowering teaching.
Through the analysis of data, our educational system has successfully identified inequalities and the influence of these on the future lives of disadvantaged children; but what is urgently needed now is a bold strategic vision with which to implement appropriate approaches that will support individual children, build cohesion within schools and strengthen the communities that they serve.