iCanRead – Case Study – Raising Boys’ Achievement

Dagenham, East London

— The Challenge —

The school data showed that girls out-performed boys, in all year groups, in all subjects, and this divide is intrinsically linked with the school’s overall performance. If boys were to equal or overtake the progress and attainment girls made in reading, the school data would exceed all national targets and in Ofsted terms grade the school as outstanding.

As a result, for the past two years the thrust of the school development plan has been to address the issue of boys’ underachievement, particularly in reading. This has been achieved through a number of new strategies, schemes and initiatives, one of which was the introduction of iCanRead to target groups of boys.

The success of this has been two-fold; firstly the school’s overall performance has improved and resulted in the school moving up an Ofsted grade and being recognised in the report, “School leaders identified that White British pupils, especially boys, were achieving less well than others. They developed strategies to address this…As a result…boys are catching up with their peers rapidly.” – Ofsted Sept 2014. iCanRead was not solely responsible for this, however it was a significant factor in raising standards in reading.

Secondly, iCanRead and the use of new technology and mobile devices significantly impacted on the boys overall attitude towards reading. Boys were much more willing to read due to the technology and competition element of iCanRead, but also over time progress increased as a result of the boys reading more. 

How did iCR tackle this?

  • Engaging – As per the National Literacy Trust’s report, children really engage with new technology, and particularly boys. This coupled with the sticker rewards focused them during guided reading sessions and also motivated them to read at home. The use of mobile tablets and phones also allowed for increased convenience. All these factors together contributed to the success of the app and the success of the children.
  • Boy friendly design


The unique, alien-themed design particularly appealed to boys; the style of aliens, their names and planets all resonated with the boys and encouraged their use of the app. The consistent use of these aliens throughout the app also increased the power of the messages as the boys responded to these characters.

— The Outcomes —

Before the introduction of iCanRead, a small target group of boys were selected from year groups Reception to Year 4. 6 boys, reluctant readers, in each class were surveyed over a month and recorded by the teacher, the number of times the boys read at home each week and also any comments parents made.

On average, only 1 boy in each class read at home with parents and there were no comments from parents in the paper reading records. Some parents were asked about this and the overwhelming response that it was too difficult to get the boys to sit down and read with them. A number of reasons were given for this “he’s more interested in his computer or iPad”, or “he doesn’t want to read with me, he says it’s boring”.

A selection of data shots from the iCanRead admin console –

These screen shots highlight the same group of boys, who previously were reluctant readers. The amount the boys were reading varies considerably. But this was never the aim, the aim was to get the boys interested in reading, reading more, and reading more with their parents. This data clearly shows that success. Parents reported a real change in the boys’ attitudes and a real willingness and desire from the boys to read, achieve and even enjoy their books. They were also much more interested in sharing these successes with their parents. Teachers also noticed this change during guided reading sessions and began to slowly introduce iPads and iCanRead in to their daily guided reading sessions to support comprehension via the ‘Questions’ section on the app.


Parent testimony –

I thinks its a great idea, as some children are from one parent families so as a free resource, iCanRead gives the boys an amazing opportunity Mrs Wildman, Mum

Teacher Testimony

Children found it really motivating, particularly the boys in my class, when they use the iCanRead app in school they are really, really competitive and want to ave a gold medalso its been really good for my boys Mr. Stear, Assistant Head

Child Testimony –

I think that using iCanRead has made me a quick learner Frankie, Year 5

Brilliant! I think all kids should use it – James, Year 3