Developing reading and creative writing skills among 'children at risk'
This thesis discusses an action research of exploring and developing reading and
creative writing skills of children at risk of failing at school and dropping out of the
education system and whose problems are ascribed to family difficulties. The context
for this is the Moadonit, an Israeli after school program that aims to act as a bridge
between the child, the school and the family.
The research stems from my work as counselor of Moadoniot leaders and their work
with the children. It investigates how I can help Moadoniot leaders to develop a
successful program of literary activities for the children. The thesis focuses both on the
continuing series of workshoOps, whereby I interact with the leaders as a group and on
their work with the children within their Moadonit. A series of mini case studies tells
the story of ten of the leaders. As an action researcher I continuously developed my
practice with the leaders in the workshop setting, while working with the children of
their Moadoniot and bringing their data into the workshop. A Book of Activities of
reading and creative writing for children at risk in the Moadoniot has resulted from this
workshop. This book is distributed in the greater Tel Aviv district to be used by all
leaders. A narrative approach is used to explore the collaborative work, which is in line
with the content matter itself, namely creating personal narratives.
I use the image of a funnel hourglass to describe the processes of the action research
where the workshops, personal texts of each leader, observations, then the interviews,
journals and the writing of the Book of Activities are fed into the frame. These then
interact rather like a kaleidoscope, whereby the inner order is changing and emerges as
a different pattern of understandings, themes, theories and practices. I have found that
painting this assists me to see and understand the process and outcomes more clearly.
The problematic nature of the children's lives means that they have experienced both
emotional and academic problems, which tend to reinforce each other. Working with
these children also presents the leaders with both intellectual and emotional challenges.
The research develops and refines a model of practice, which acknowledges both the
soft-emotional and hard-cognitive elements that support learning and growth. By
integrating the two elements, it develops a way of acting with the children, through the
leaders, meeting their needs by reflection in order to provide cognitive scaffolding and
At its best, a personal change through writing and reading activities has created the
leaders' personal growth, leading to improved professional performance and initiating
similar processes of change and growth of the Moadoniot children.
The thesis ends by identifying areas for further research and assessing the implications
of the research for policy.