Skip to main content

An evaluation of a digital reading intervention for beginning readers


Georgia Niolaki, Janet Vousden, Laura Taylor, Luisa Tarczynski-Bowles

Project objectives

  • To evaluate the effectiveness of the Nessy online intervention tool for emergent readers and spellers
  • To identify whether the online intervention tool will indeed support and improve the poorest readers’ scores in reading and spelling and at the same time be as effective for children without literacy difficulties
  • To find out whether the programme will support and identify adequately the needs of each individual child participating in the intervention
  • To evaluate whether the use of an interactive digital resource with colourful and stimulating activities using a reward system will increase motivation to read    


Impact statement

Most children in the UK develop appropriate skills that enable them to become proficient readers and writers.  However, some children experience difficulties during the process of learning to read and lag behind their peers.  There are many reasons why this might be the case, for example, many children that struggle to learn to read have poor awareness of the sounds that make up words, they may be slow in retrieving words, or may experience memory difficulties (Snowling, 2000). Children with difficulties in any of the skills that reading depends on will struggle to read to the same level of efficiency or speed as their peers. Intervention programmes, for children falling behind their peers, that focus on a more intensive delivery of the materials already covered (e.g. more phonics) to improve reading ability do not always work (Torgesen, 2002). This may be because the nature of the difficulty is not sufficiently identified and/or targeted.

Nessy is an online reading intervention tool for poor readers that enables teachers to track progress in a number of key skills for reading so that they can effectively identify specific difficulties in individual children. Within the tool there are a number of levelled activities linked to the key reading skills to improve performance. The tool allows teachers to monitor progress across the range of activities undertaken by pupils to enable them to ensure that pupils with specific areas of difficulty are progressing appropriately. It is this aspect of Nessy that distinguishes it as an intervention from more ‘broadbrush’ approaches.

To date, Nessy has been used in a small number of schools in KS1 and KS2 in the South West of the UK. Preliminary findings are promising, indicating an increase in reading ability for those pupils that use Nessy. However, to date there has been no formal evaluation of Nessy using recognised evaluation protocols (Carbol, 2015).  We, therefore, carry out a formal evaluation of Nessy to see if it is an effective intervention for supporting beginning readers, and particularly for those readers who fail to keep up with their peers.

 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2023