We are Real Action and we transform lives through literacy.

You are visiting: Real Action » Butterfly Transformations

Butterfly Transformations

We have been running our original Queen’s Park Butterfly school every Saturday in term-time since 1999, and it has helped many hundreds of children over the past 16 years. Families have long told us how their children, after initially coming to our classes many months behind in their reading, have achieved success with Butterfly.

High Achievers

We hear that some of these same pupils are greeted at their secondary schools with the label ‘gifted and talented’ and are later selected for visits to top universities – which they are predicted to reach. Indeed, some of our Butterfly graduates have already won places on undergraduate courses.

Unsung Successes

But it is not only the most academically gifted that we are proud of: sometimes breaking a negative educational or behavioral pattern can be an even greater achievement.  Here are a few of our Butterfly children’s stories.

Here are some of our recent Butterfly stories (case studies)

Note: The children shown in these pictures are not the children depicted in the text. Names have been changed to protect the children’s identity.

Hussan's Story
Hussan's Story - “Can you read the first line for me?” “No, I don’t know”.
Click on the image to read more.

More stories below

When Jason joined us he was ten years old and he could barely read. He had also been excluded from two primary schools for violence. He was now in a third, where he was not allowed into a normal classroom, but taught in isolation.

At first his behaviour with us was disruptive and boisterous, but not ill-natured. He was a massive bear of a boy with a tendency to hit out when provoked, often mischievously, by smaller children. A small child would give him a surreptitious slap. He’d land a thump – and instantly get into trouble for hitting a smaller child. We told him how to break the pattern – by ignoring provocation. As he experienced the gratification of learning to read, and with the structure provided by our ordered classrooms, his behaviour improved.

Within a few weeks he had attained reading age 9. He acquired gravitas, self-control. In no time we heard him chiding other children for their disruptive overtures. They were interrupting his work, he’d tell them, and they should be quiet.

He has had a troubled background, but he’s a sweet boy. He quickly went up into our top class, with a reading age of 10, and our required qualification for this group: the ability to write proper sentences and paragraphs. He stayed with us for another couple of years, a keen participator in class. Unfortunately we couldn’t prevent his referral to a Special School for his secondary education.

Keisha is a true star. Our Butterfly teaching must have had something to do with it, because she has never been to school – except for one traumatic week at what she describes as ‘a very bad school’.

She came to us in July 2009 aged 4 ½ unable to read. We re-tested her at the request of our Class One teacher, Nadia, one Saturday in January 2010. She had a reading age of 6 ½ – and it transpired that this was her fifth birthday.  Up into Class Two she went, and then Class Three, and Class Four. In January 2011 we tested her again, with her sixth birthday due the next day. Her reading age was nearly 9. Still out of school – it’s a long story – her encounter with the Education Welfare Director apparently left him impressed. He told her mother, ‘She reads like a twelve-year-old’.

The greatest bar to children’s progress in reading is the practice of guessing – deciding that the word peculiar, for example, reminds them, after a brief glance, of the word ‘spectacular’, and failing to notice that the word they read as ‘hat’ is actually ‘hate’, as it has a ‘silent e’. Aged nearly 11 and nearly 12 respectively, cousins – and practised guessers – Jessa and Ella each came to us with a reading age of 8. They were shocked to be placed in our Class Four, for children whose reading is at this level. ‘Don’t guess’ quickly became their motto. Five weeks later they asked us to re-test them. They are bright girls and we weren’t surprised when Jessa scored reading age 12, and Ella scored reading age10. Ella is determined to catch up with her cousin in two or three weeks, and probably will.
For years, Sean, with his twin brother, Keith, made very slow progress. Although we are not quick to apply labels we noticed that he made habitual errors that are associated with dyslexia. The boys had joined us when they were five, and it wasn’t until he was nine that Sean’s reading age began to creep up towards his actual age. His brother, Keith, was clearly more sorely afflicted and only achieved reading age 9 when he was twelve, and then stalled. But by the time Sean was twelve, his had actually overtaken his actual age. He had a reading age of 14 – a triumph of persistence and sound, patient teaching.