The aims of our Reading curriculum are to ultimately send children out into the real world who not only can read but love to read. We want children to develop skills of empathy, compassion, curiosity and resilience by meeting characters and narratives that will help prepare them for life in modern Britain.
Early Years: Nursery and Reception
In EYFS, our job is to get the children bitten by the ‘reading bug!’. By sharing a wealth of rich texts which are both stimulating and engaging texts throughout the school day, our children move into KS1 having already experienced the magic of story and the familiarity, the comfort, the escapism that they can provide. Texts shared are both planned for and spontaneous, responding to the needs and interests of our littlest learners. The texts we select help to scaffold and support our children’s learning, providing a platform for further exploration within the areas, setting them on the way to developing their independence. We utilise the Power of Reading teaching strategies which promote the use of drama, art and music as a ‘hook into books’ and to explore key themes and issues that are presented. Reading areas are warm and cosy and always, always busy with children retelling old favourites or creating new worlds of their own through talk. Listening skills are pivotal to the reading curriculum at this early stage and through sounds walks, music sessions and other carefully-planned activities, children attune their hearing to picking up sounds. When they are ready, our Nursery children begin their decoding journey through highly-structured Read Write Inc phonics session in which they explore the single sounds needed for reading. As the children move into Reception, they continue phonics journey with a daily Read Write Inc session, consolidating single sounds first before moving onto digraphs, reading simple sentences once they have enough of the ‘reading code’ within their toolkit. They move onto reading books (starting at red level) and children take home books that are closely matched to their Phonics learning in class in order to consolidate their learning. An additional book (a ‘grapple’ book) will be provided to read at home too: this may feature sounds that they have not yet come across and so children may need a little support from a grown-up with this text. Children leave our EYFS setting with a growing bank of decoding skills and confidence to match, and (having experienced a wealth of literature) are keen to begin opening the many doors that their new reading skills have allowed.
Children continue with their daily phonics sessions within small, streamlined, homogenous groups designed to match closely to the needs of the children. These ReadWriteInc sessions are split into a Speed Sound lesson whereby new sounds are taught (and old ones revisited to promote long-term retention) and a further comprehension session in which books are utilised for the children to apply their learning. These reading sessions are designed to develop the children’s confidence and fluency (by read number 3 of their text, they are super-whizzy!) and to practise the skills of retrieval, inference, prediction and sequencing. Children are assessed half-termly to ensure that they progress at pace. When children have completed their phonic-learning (for most children this will be at the end of Year 1/ early into Year 2), they will take part in a whole-class guided reading session to further their comprehension skills. At this point, the children will progress onto the Accelerated Reader programme (see more on that later!), taking ‘real’ books from our school library at a level suitable for them, enabling them to apply their phonic skills and their understanding.
In addition to the daily phonics and comprehension activities within our RWI sessions, children continue to have exposure to high-quality, rich texts that are carefully selected to help children make connections across the curriculum and enrich their learning. English lessons are stimulated by the books on our spine (which is, of course, permanently under review since so many wonderful books are published each year!) and children explore the book’s language and content in great detail before using it as a springboard for writing activities. Art, drama and music are all utilised as a means of developing comprehension and a great deal of importance is placed upon talk as a tool for enhancing understanding.
Reading for Pleasure
Children are given opportunity within the school day to read independently, choosing books from well-loved reading areas stocked with a variety of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books. Staff share a class reader with the children every day- either a text selected by the children or one skilfully selected by the teachers, knowing the interests of the class.
Whole Class Reading
Children in KS2 will develop their reading skills in a whole-class 30 minute session at least four times weekly. The texts used are there to supplement the main text used within the English lessons and may take the form of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, song lyrics or short films. The aim is that the whole-class reading text, the English text and the topic-based learning all (wherever possible) sit neatly together in order to enrich the child’s learning and encourage the links, joins and connections that we know are so important for in-depth learning. Especially in LKS2, we know that fluency is essential for good comprehension and so our whole class reading sessions are designed with this at the heart. We use much of the good practice adopted within our Read Write Inc sessions to achieve this: regular re-reading of a text; revisiting key vocabulary; paired, echo and choral reading techniques. We also employ the drama strategies of Royal Shakespeare Company to develop the expressive qualities of our reading. Once our fluency is established and the challenging vocabulary explored and clarified, we then hone the children’s retrieval, inference, prediction, summarising and explanation skills through use of VIPERS. As within many other areas of our curriculum, talk and discussion is central to developing the children’s responses to reading, because we know the children need to be able to talk it before they can write it! Those children who are still on their decoding journey will receive 1:1 or small group phonic work to embed this outside of our WCR or English sessions, ensuring that they still have access and exposure to the high-quality literature on offer even if they can not yet access it independently.
Vocabulary development is absolutely pivotal to a child’s reading success and forms a major part of the reading curriculum we offer. In addition to exploring the rich language offered in our chosen texts, children in KS2 are taught a short, discrete vocabulary sessions. These sessions are designed to explore etymology (where words come from) and morphology (how words are connected) by explicitly teaching the children the most commonly encountered root words within the English Language. It also teaches them the meanings of a vast bank of high-utility language that the children will encounter in their reading material, no doubt, throughout their lives. Retrieval is embedded into this programme (two days are new words/ ideas; two days are retrieval of previously taught ones) to ensure maximum retention.
‘Book hooks’ continue to be fundamental to our English curriculum, with book-based learning underpinning our journey. Children will use the diverse books on the spine to stimulate further reading activities, producing incredible written outcomes because of the deep and explorative path taken to embed their understanding of amazing vocabulary, complex characters and issues and ‘otherworldly’ stories. Power of Reading displays showcase the work produced by the children, and act almost like a book review for those children walking past! They create a buzz and excitement and- perhaps most importantly- a prompt for book talk.
Children in KS2 will spend time every day absorbed in a good book- not to study, not to analyse, but just to listen, enjoy and absorb. Even our biggest children love nothing more than the quiet 15 minutes class reading time allows when they can just relax and enjoy the story being shared. Children have ownership of the class novels they read- they usually select them together, debating which texts they would prefer to read and why. Sometimes, a teacher may select a novel FOR the children since they know the class’ reading habits, what makes them tick, and what will have them gripped until the end. It is usually the only time of day when our buzzing classrooms are still and only a pindrop can be heard! Magical!
Home reading-Reading Plus
In Year 5 and 6, the children are also given the opportunity to further develop all of the skills they have been learning at school with the use of Reading Plus. This programme is designed to develop reading speed, to enable children to read with stamina. Children have access to this daily in school but are also encouraged to use it to supplement their reading at home.
Home reading-Accelerated Reader
All children in KS2 who are able to read independently have access to our school library which contains an array of ‘real reads’ from various authors across all levels. Books are given a level by the AR programme based on their length and their complexity. In order to work out which ‘band’ (or ZPD) your child is on, they complete an online test. This is low-stakes, non-threatening testing which asks the children to read a variety of passages and answer questions about what they have read. Once this test is complete, the programme will give the teacher a ‘reading range’ for your child, from which a ZPD figure will be given. Children will select a book from the library, read it and then, once they are confident, they will quiz on their reading book. If they score over 85%, they have passed the quiz and may select another book at the same level. Once your child has read several books at the same level and has quizzed successfully on each of them, they will be moved up a level. A new STAR test is completed each half term in order to see how far your child has progressed, and this, alongside whole-class reading data and PIXL assessments completed termly, informs our next steps within the classroom for your child.
Home reading- how to support your child
Reading unlocks many doors for our children. Not only is a child’s reading ability linked to academic success across the curriculum, but an indicator of later prospects. There is also strong research to show that a child’s enjoyment of reading has a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing. It is vitally important that we work together to get your child to read and foster a love of books. Please find some hints and tips below for you to support your child at home.
Please also check out our brand new Reading Newsletter which will be produced each term to showcase lovely new reading material that your child may enjoy!
Whole school enjoyment
Throughout the school year, we enjoy many opportunities to come together as a community with a book or theme to unite us all. From World Book Day, where we have all dressed up as a word, to our Off By Heart poetry competition where children learnt verse from memory to perform. From the whole school study of Shakespeare and the amazing exhibition that followed, to a whole school study of picture book Flotsam which encouraged us to take better care of the world around us. We even managed a whole school fairy tale project during lockdown! In usual times, we develop Reading Buddy systems where the older children read to and with the younger children to provide incredible reading role models. Whenever it is possible, we love to allow the children the opportunity to talk to real authors and, although Covid put a stop to any in-school visits, we have loved using Zoom to meet some of the authors whose work we really admire. The buzz this creates in school is electrifying! We also have recently appointed Reading Ambassadors who ‘wave the flag’ for reading across the school. We can’t wait to do more collaborative work when restrictions are lifted properly!