Reading is fundamental to education. Proficiency in reading, writing and spoken language is vital for pupils’ success. Through these, they develop communication skills for education and for working with others: in school, in training and at work. Pupils who find it difficult to learn to read are likely to struggle across the curriculum, since English is both a subject in its own right and the medium for teaching. This is why the government is committed to continuing to raise standards of literacy for all.
(DfE Reading Framework 2023)
At Otterbourne Church of England Primary School, we strive to foster a love for reading for all children from the very beginning. The first thing that the children (and visitors to the school) see when entering the building is a bright, spacious library, with well stocked shelves and a variety of books to suit all tastes.
Throughout their time with us, children are actively encouraged to read: often, regularly and with increasingly more challenging texts – at home and at school. Independent (quiet) reading for pleasure, paired reading, adult-led reading with individual children, in small groups or with whole classes, books, magazines, texts or websites…for us, the priority is get children confident, get them engaged and then get them excited about reading.
The start of the reading journey is the teaching of phonics and giving children the experience of early reading. Getting to know the format of a book: the cover, title, contents, main pages and supporting images, and simply how to turn the pages are part of that, and the word reading starts with phonics.
From the very start of Year R, the children and parents are introduced to our school phonics scheme, Bug Club. Bug Club follows a consistent approach for each taught sound. The children explore the sound through: a clear introduction, a visual search of the sound in words, reading the sound in different words, spelling words that contain the sound, writing and a follow-up activity.
The children work through the phases of Bug Club in Year R and Year One. Daily phonics teaching is the key to success when it comes to supporting our children to read. In Year R and Year 1 phonics is the first main lesson of every day. In addition, the sounds and tricky words learnt in Bug Club lessons are consolidated through well-developed enhanced and continuous provision opportunities, and adults identify when there is an incidental learning opportunity through the children’s play-based learning.
At the end of Year 1, children will sit through a phonics screen, which is a statutory test to assess their knowledge and understanding of phonics. Children who don’t meet the benchmark (pass rate) are included in Bug Club lessons to help re-build their understanding and consolidate through regular practice. Children who achieve the benchmark but are unable to identify every single sound receive intervention support specifically focused on those ‘missing’ sounds.
As they develop a greater understanding for phonic awareness and become more confident in blending sounds together to make words and sentence, children are supported with a Bug Cub reading book that is matched to their level of understanding. These books are explored in class three times a week, with time given to also develop early comprehension skills. Each week, this matched book is sent home for the child to share and to further develop the fluency with the sounds that they are familiar with.
When children are confident early readers, they start to work on age-specific spellings and further reading comprehension skills. These are developed through daily guided reading tasks, targeted group activities and home-learning. Where children would benefit from additional reading time, extra sessions are planned in with an adult.
Reading at Home
Reading is a life skill and in order for children to meet their full potential, opportunities for reading need to be identified at home as well as at school. Regular, short reading sessions will always be more effective that long, infrequent sessions as the children build their skills. To support this, we include reading, along with spellings and times tables, as the primary foundation skills of home-learning.
Children from Year 1 onwards have an individual Reading and Homework Log Book (Year R have personal journals) and children are expected to read at home at least 5 times each week, either independently or with an adult. Comments about reading can be shared, and rewards are given for children following these expectations.