Reading for pleasure
At St Margaret’s, we want to children to develop a real love of reading and become lifelong readers. Teachers across the school regularly read to children from class books – allowing them to enjoy the magical power of a great story. In addition, there are regular slots built into the school week where children can lose themselves in a book and make recommendations to classmates. Each class also has designated time in the school library, where staff are on hand to help pupils choose their next title or suggest a new author. We have invested in a wide range of quality fiction, poetry and information texts as well as subscribing to top children’s magazines, such as National Geographic Kids and The Week Junior an. Every March, we celebrate World Book Day in style and we also invite authors into school to inspire the next generation of writers – children’s poet James Carter even opened our revamped school library!
We start the process of beginning to read by teaching phonics in Reception class following the Sounds-Write phonics scheme, which is based on four clear concepts:
- letters are symbols that represent sounds
- sounds can be spelt using 1,2, 3, 4 letters; for example, f as in fox, oa as in coat, air as in hair and eigh as in eight
- the same sound can be spelt in different ways; for example, the o sound in bone, coat, toe window, shoulder
- the same spelling can represent different sounds; for example ‘ea’ in bread, eat, great.
To help parents and carers support their children, we run phonics workshops at the beginning of each school year and we have also created a video guide to phonics. If you say the sounds precisely, and encourage your child to the do the same, it really helps.
The Sounds-Write programme is supplemented by lots of one-to-one reading throughout Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 until children have a secure grasp of phonics and are able to read independently. We use a range of reading schemes, including Jelly & Bean, Dandelion, Songbirds and Oxford Reading Tree.
Being able to decode and pronounce the words on the page is only a small part of the reading journey – children then need to be able to understand and explain what they have read.
In KS1, children work on developing the following five skills:
In Year 1, this is usually done verbally, with teachers asking children appropriate questions during one-to-one reading sessions. In the course of Year 2, a discrete reading comprehension lesson is gradually introduced, where the children are explicitly taught the five skills and get the opportunity to practise them independently.
In KS2, there are eight key skills that need to be mastered:
These are explicitly taught in discrete whole-class comprehension lessons; this learning is then consolidated during whole class reading sessions, where children explore vocabulary, read and discuss a wide range of texts and answer questions.
Our top tips on raising readers
Whether your child has just started at St Margaret’s or is preparing for secondary school, a lifelong love of reading is the best gift we can give them. Here are our 10 top tips to support children on their reading journey, whatever their age.
1. Make reading routine
Little and often is the key. Help your child choose a regular time when they can read and a comfortable spot where they won’t be distracted.
2. Read to your child – at any age
Once children can read independently, it can be tempting to just let them get on with it but research shows that being read aloud to has benefits way beyond the early years.
- For new readers, a strict diet of phonics books will quickly turn unappetising so spark their imagination and introduce them to dazzling new worlds by reading them a range of illustrated books and beginners’ chapter books.
- Developing readers are often keen to read more sophisticated books but may struggle to do so independently. But they will love mum or dad reading modern page-turners such as ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ or classics like ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – and it’s a great way of broadening their vocabulary and stoking a love of reading.
- Reading alongside independent readers can be a great bonding experience. You can share the new worlds they’re discovering and by talking about what they’re reading, you are giving your children practise at predicting, summarising and a whole host of other skills.
3. Remember variety is the spice of life
‘Books’ comes in all shapes and sizes – graphic novels, magazines, comics, leaflets, recipes, poems, joke books, adverts, encyclopaedias all make great reading material. Feel free to make recommendations but respect your child’s preferences.
4. Visit your library
A great – and free – way to encourage your child to take ownership over what they read and give them the opportunity to explore new authors or genres. Manor House Library is a great local resource, which runs storytelling workshops and organises reading challenges to inspire young readers.
5. Use technology wisely.
Screen time can be a problem for families. However, technology can help your child's reading development at any stage of their reading journey.
- For new readers, programmes like CBeebies’ Alphablocks can help with phonics There are also a range of reading apps, including PocketPhonics and Pirate Phonics, that children enjoy. Apps are constantly evolving and being developed; use the customer ratings as a guide and always opt for the free or 'lite' version before buying.
- E-books and animated stories can be a great way for developing readers to explore new genres and learn new words. Some even come with a quick quiz at the end to see what they have understood.
- Audio books can allow independent readers to broaden their vocabulary and challenge them to summarise what they have heard.
6. Praise, praise and praise again.
Children thrive on encouragement – praise their efforts rather than their achievements.
7. Ask questions
Engaging with what your child is reading makes them feel valued. Ask questions about what they have read, what they think might happen next, which characters they like most, how the book could have ended differently.
8. Embrace unfamiliar words
In every book, there are bound to be some words a child doesn’t know. Be patient – give them time to work out the pronunciation of the word; if they remain stuck, encourage them to say the individual sounds and blend them together. If they don’t know the meaning of a word, first encourage them to use the information around the word to try to figure it out. Talk about words – their meanings, words that mean the same, words that mean the opposite.
9. Set reading goals
The home/school reading journals are an easy way to help your child set reading goals – with certificates for every 25 nights of reading. Pupils are celebrated in school assemblies when they clock up 100 nights and at the end of the year we have a non-uniform day for all pupils who have reached 200 nights. We suggest rewarding reading with a trip to the book shop.
10. Be seen reading
Seeing a parent, carer or teacher enjoying a book can be a powerful motivator. If you want your child to be excited about reading, you need to be too.