Literacy Network

The School of Education hosts a number of staff who research and teach on the topic of literacy and language development, and education. 

About us

The School of Education hosts the Literacy Research Network, which brings together staff from the School of Education and elsewhere in the University of Birmingham who research and teach on the topic of literacy and language development, and education. We welcome anyone with an interest in any aspect of literacy, broadly defined, and provide a forum to share ideas, research findings and discuss implications. Members interests include psychological research examining the cognitive skills and processes that are used during reading and writing, attitudes and motivational factors that influence literacy engagement, pedagogical research to establish best practice in teaching, learning and assessment, linguistic research exploring the role of text, and socio-cultural research on the role of literacy in educational contexts and beyond.


People from the School of Education and elsewhere are welcome to join the network; please contact

A teacher assiting a young girl with her reading in the classroomTeaching

Members of the literacy research network supervise postgraduate researchers working on a range of issues related to literacy and education. We are keen to hear from prospective students who wish to propose projects in this theme.

Our research on literacy also informs our teaching on the following programmes:


Follow the links to our individual staff profiles to see further detail of past and current research projects and recent publications. Below are just a few examples of ongoing and recent projects from our group: 

Understanding teacher confidence in supporting literacy

On this project we want to understand teacher confidence in approaches to support pupils with the range of literacy related skills that need to be secure for pupils to read, spell and write well. We want to hear from teachers in all phases of compulsory education to understand the approaches to literacy education they find helpful and where they would like more guidance. If you are currently a teacher in the UK, you can currently take part in an online survey to share your views. This project is a collaboration between Dr Helen Breadmore, Dr Nicola Smith, Dr Beth Marley, Dr Catherine Darnell and Dr Ya-Ling Hsiao, who you can contact to find out more. 

Enhancing Young Children’s Learning from Stories: The Influence of Anthropomorphism and Teacher Intervention on Moral Theme Comprehension and Behaviour.

This study aims to advance understanding and enhance practice through investigating the potential mediating influence of teacher pedagogy on any positive or negative influence observed by the presence of anthropomorphism in picture books. Given the prominence of, and emphasis placed on, picture books in early years foundation stage settings and primary schools, the findings will be of significant interest to teachers and academics aiming to enhance children’s learning. This project is funded by the British Academy’s BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants Programme. To find out more about this research, including opportunities for children in Reception and Year 1 to participate in ongoing research, please get in touch with Dr Paul Watts or Dr Catherine Darnell. 

Peer Assisted Learning Strategies for Reading (PALS-UK)

Peer Assisted Learning Strategies UK (PALS-UK) is a whole-class, structured paired-reading intervention which aims to improve pupils’ reading comprehension, oral reading fluency and overall reading attainment. Pupils take it in turns to act as coach and reader, and take part in four activities: partner reading, re-tell, paragraph shrinking and prediction relay. The programme was originally developed by Prof Doug and Lynn Fuchs (Vanderbilt University). Dr Helen Breadmore collaborates with Dr Emma Vardy (Nottingham Trent University) and Prof Kristen McMaster (University of Minnesota) to develop this programme for the UK context and understand its impact. The most recent part of the project was a two-arm stratified cluster randomised controlled efficacy trial with Year 5 classes from 114 schools. That project was funded by an Education Endowment Foundation Accelerator Fund and independently evaluated by a team from Manchester Metropolitan University.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion through Children’s Literature in Higher Education  

This project explored how students’ subject knowledge and self-reflective practice can be supported by raising the profile of diverse literature. Responding to research which highlights representation within children’s literature (Crisp et al, 2016; CLPE, 2020; National Literacy Trust, 2020) we focused on developing independent critical thinkers and subject experts by expanding the selection of diverse children’s literature available to University of Birmingham students, including those training to be teachers. Preparing students for diversity and equity in society has been identified as crucial, particularly within teacher education (Cochran-Smith and Villegas, 2015; Hartsfield, 2021). This project was a collaboration between Kalsoom Akhtar, Beth Marley, Catherine O'Leary and Emily Wingfield.


We host seminars and lively discussion led by our members and invited speakers about once a month.

Contact to join our network and to find out about forthcoming events.