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An Interview with… Joanna Jeffery, MA(Ed), Cert Ed, Dip (Dys), AMBDA

This KLU interview is a little different than the previous ones you’ll have seen on our site, with us talking to a person from outside of KLU – and what a person!

We are truly grateful, flattered and overwhelmed that we’ve had an opportunity to talk to none other than Joanna Jeffery, the Director of Read Successfully Ltd. and the brilliant mind behind the incredible trugs card games!

Both trugs and Joanna are truly remarkable, and we honestly can’t thank Joanna enough for taking the time to talk to us about herself and all things trugs in our latest Q&A.


Q: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Joanna: Joanna is a qualified teacher with 35 years’ experience. During her career she had various posts within Primary and Secondary Schools, either whole-class teaching or as a Head of Dept. and specialist one-to-one teacher. She has been a course co-ordinator for four-day dyslexia courses, has delivered training within schools, colleges of Further Education and Universities. She has an MA in Education, two Diplomas, one in Primary/Secondary development and one in dyslexia. Up until August 2011 she was the Principal of Dyslexia Access, a tuition and assessment centre in Devon and an Associate Member of the British Dyslexia Association and a full member of Dyslexia Action and PATOSS.

Joanna became a phonics specialist and an advocator of systematic synthetic phonics through her desire to discover the best way to teach children to read. She quickly realised that children and students want to enjoy the process of learning to read. So she combined the professional side of learning to decode print with the fun side of playing card games and as a result created trugs – teach reading using games.

Joanna is now the Director of Read Successfully Ltd, having created trugs and now RS Literacy (Raising Standards across the curriculum) for Secondary schools with every teacher a teacher of literacy. trugs was an approved resource by the DfE for the Key Stage 1 and 2 systematic synthetic phonics match-funding scheme. Joanna was awarded an MBE in the 2012.

Q: How did you get to know Kids Like Us? I hear there’s a long story there!

Joanna: Ah well, there was a boy I used to teach called ……. Kirby. I got to know a friend of his mother quite well and we met up a few years ago. She put me in touch with Catherine Kirby (CEO of Kids Like Us!) because my husband and I were going to Australia. So we decided to add Melbourne to our ‘must visit’ list. My husband went to the cricket whilst I joined Catherine and the others and did a trugs workshop …that was the beginning!

Q: What inspired you to create trugs?

Joanna: In 1975 I was teaching in a school in Bristol and there was a boy in my class who couldn’t read called Jason Morris. He was aged 7 ¾. I tried to teach him but I failed. I realised that if I was a teacher then what I should be able to do is teach – so I decided there and then to help all children everywhere to learn to read. But I had to go on courses to find out how our brain learns to read. I also needed to know what inspires children and what makes them tick. So …after many years I created trugs

Q: What kind of successes have you seen from people using trugs?

Joanna: There are many testimonials on the website (which you can read here) – here’s an example:

“The trugs boxes are ideal for struggling readers but also brilliant for Reception as well as gifted and talented – this is why I believe TRUGs is an excellent resource to use across the Primary age range. I would totally endorse TRUGs as a remarkable learning resource – there is nothing else quite like it.”

There is research done by teachers showing how much reading progress is made when using trugs:

Research 1: As my research project shows, TRUGs clearly work to engage pupils (of all reading abilities) in reading. The reason I think TRUGs is so successful is the game element – all children love the competitiveness. They are suitable not only for emerging or struggling readers, but also for those children who are gifted readers, in that they are an excellent tool in developing vocabulary.

I also advocate the use of TRUGs in classrooms when guided reading is taking place; this is a daily activity and invariably a teacher will have 4 to 5 groups to cater for. With only one TA it is only possible to have two adult guided groups, therefore, you need to have valuable reading activities and TRUGs fit s this requirement. I have often come across teachers using ‘holding’ activities which are of low learning value as it can be sometimes difficult to find activities that the children can do independently.

We have also developed some TRUGs leaders in the school, where gifted/more able readers, can still play the game with developing readers, as they have the knowledge that the other children are reading the word correctly. This works wonders – the more able children love the responsibility of ‘leading’ the group while the less able still have a chance to ‘beat’ or win a game against a more able reader – genius!

Research 2: Results indicated that reading accuracy improved in the experimental group. The mean entry score for the experimental group was 81/300 and the mean exit score was 146/300, showing an average improvement of 65.

The resource is now used systematically throughout the school as a reading intervention and continues to have a positive impact.

Research 3: Reading is a key priority for the school, and a proportion of our Pupil Premium funding has been allocated to raise standards in this area. The school has adopted the Read, Write Inc (Ruth Miskin, 2006) approach to teaching phonics which has had huge impact on standards, however on hearing about the trugs resource, we were keen to trial this multi sensory approach to phonics teaching.

The experimental group was given three twenty minute ‘trug’ sessions per week for 18 weeks, in addition to their daily fifteen minute Read, Write Inc (Ruth Miskin, 2006) sessions. The other group acted as a control group, and only took part in daily fifteen minute Read, Write Inc (Ruth Miskin, 2006) sessions.

The pupils very quickly became engaged by the resource, and looked forward to their next session. Many of the parents bought the resource to use at home, because they recognized the impact that trugs had had on their child’s reading. The games also strengthen the children’s ability to recall facts, and improved their social and communication skills.

Importantly, the pupil tracking resources ensured that the school could carefully measure and track pupil progress in a manageable and time efficient manner.

Q: What do you wish more people knew about dyslexia?

Joanna: That we don’t make a fuss about it to the children but point out how smart they are – ok, if they aren’t great at spelling then that’s just one thing – in all other respects they are great and just like anyone else – except that because they have to work out how to achieve things through their school days they end up being able to think outside the box and achieve far greater things as adults. Very sweeping statements, but in my teaching AND personal experience I find this to be the case over and over again.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Joanna: Oh now let me see… Melbourne!!!!!!!

Q: If you were a fictional character, which character do you think you’d be – and why?

Joanna: No idea!

Q: What was your favourite book when you were at school?

Joanna: I didn’t read – I hated it – hence my desire to help all children everywhere – I don’t want them experiencing what I did.

Q: Finally, what are you looking forward to/hoping for in 2017?

Joanna: Health and happiness and I have it in abundance at the moment. I adore life and am the luckiest person in the world.