Professor Kate Nation - finalist, ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize 2020

Date 22 October 2020

World-leading researchers in the science of reading – Professor Kate Nation, with collaborators Professor Kathy Rastle and Professor Anne Castles – have been shortlisted as finalists for this year's prestigious ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize.

The ESRC Celebrating Impact Prize, now in its eighth year, is an annual opportunity to recognise and celebrate the success of ESRC-funded researchers in achieving and enabling outstanding economic or societal impact from excellent research. Entrants' applications were reviewed by a panel of academics, engagement and knowledge exchange experts, and research users. Shortlisted applicants were invited to an interview, along with non-academic supporters who helped describe the impact of the work. All finalists have been invited to a virtual awards ceremony on 12 November 2020 when the winners will be announced.

Kate Nation at her laptop.jpgLearning to read transforms lives. The team's paper, 'Ending the Reading Wars: Reading Acquisition from Novice to Expert', aims to close the wide gap between the state of research knowledge about learning to read and the state of public understanding in order to inform educational policy and practice. It presents a comprehensive review of the science of learning to read, spanning children’s earliest alphabetic skills through to the fluent word recognition and skilled text comprehension characteristic of expert readers. The article explains why phonics instruction is so central to learning in a writing system such as English, moving beyond phonics to review research on what else children need to learn to become expert readers and considering how this might be translated into effective classroom practice.

Reflecting on the 'Reading Wars' paper, Professor Nation said:

'Reviewing such a vast literature was a challenge but we are delighted that we succeeded in our aim to distil and communicate key information without losing sight of complexity and detail.  Anne, Kathy and I have learned a huge amount by engaging with colleagues in the education sector and by all working together, we have developed and shared a knowledge base about how children learn to read. This is supporting teacher education and professional development in the UK and beyond, all with the ultimate aim of making sure that every child learns to read effectively and comprehensively.'

ESRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Jennifer Rubin, said:

'This is an excellent opportunity for the UK’s world-leading economists and social scientists to be recognised for how their work improves lives for a wide range of people both in the UK and in other countries, from how children are taught to read, to innovative tools helping insure Ugandan farmers, or how victims of gender-based violence can experience justice. Their impacts are impressive and far-reaching and I’m proud that the Economic and Social Research Council has funded this work, and that it can be fully recognised through our prestigious Celebrating Impact Prize.'

The finalists are: 

  • Team application: Ending the Reading Wars (Professor Kathy Rastle, Royal Holloway University of London; Professor Kate Nation, University of Oxford; Professor Anne Castles, Macquarie University), Bringing the Science of Reading to Reading Instruction in Classrooms around the World
  • Team application: ESRC Centre for Population Change (Professor Jane Falkingham, Professor Maria Evandrou, Professor Ann Berrington, Professor Jakub Bijak, Professor Corrado Giulietti, Professor Peter W F Smith, Professor Athina Vlachantoni, Professor Jackline Wahba, Teresa McGowan, Becki Dey), Improving data: Strengthening the evidence base for policy
  • Professor Emla Fitzsimons and Dr Praveetha Patalay of UCL, Adolescent mental health: improving young people's lives using evidence from national cohort data
  • Professor Marianne Hester of the University of Bristol, Justice, inequality and gender-based violence
  • Professor Yvonne Jewkes of the University of Bath, Humanity, Hope, Rehabilitation: Changing thinking about women offenders through prison design
  • Professor Richard Layard of the London School of Economic, Public policies for employment, skills, wellbeing and mental health
  • Dr Anna Remington of UCL Institute of Education, Enhancing the employment of autistic individuals
  • Professor Alice Sullivan of UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Reading for pleasure boosts cognitive development: research findings that underpin educational practice and literacy campaigns
  • Professor Arjan Verschoor and Professor Ben D’Exelle of the University of East Anglia, Insuring previously uninsurable poor farmers in Uganda

All finalists will have a film professionally made about their work and its impact, and winners are awarded £10,000 to spend on further knowledge exchange, public engagement or other communications activities.

Find out more

ESRC announcement

 'Ceasefire in the reading wars', Times Educational Supplement, Kate Nation, Kathleen Rastle and Anne Castles