At St. John’s we are committed to creating skilled, confident readers who are eager to access the curriculum. The benefits of being a frequent and enthusiastic reader are well documented. The more you read and enjoy reading, the better and more confident you become at reading and the more you want to do it.
Reading at St. John’s consists of several components, the main ones being:
Phonics is one of the primary building blocks of reading as it helps children to be secure in the skills of word recognition and decoding.
We use Letter and Sounds to teach phonics daily in Reception and Year 1, supplemented by resources from Jolly Phonics and Read, Write Inc. In the Early Year songs and actions are taught to help children learn their sounds. During Year 1 children continue to continuously practice and revisit all sounds as well as learning new ones.
They learn to respond speedily to matching the correct sound to grapheme. Very quickly, children begin to blend the sounds together to read simple words. As their phonic knowledge grows, children start to use a range of strategies to decode unfamiliar words. Alongside the teaching of phonics, children are taught to read by sight the common high frequency words.
Support for phonics is continued for children who need it during Year 2.
A useful website for phonics games is Phonics Play.
We use a wide range of different books to help children learning to read. It is important that children have access to lots of different kinds of books so that they develop a real love of reading and literature These include familiar picture books which children can browse through for pleasure as well as books which are banded into different colours. Children take these books home to read and progress through them before they move onto free choice books from the library.
As children make progress and are reading sentences fluently, they begin to use punctuation in the text to help them read with expression and intonation. This in turn helps the reader understand the meaning more fully. By then, children are using a range of strategies to decode unfamiliar words and begin to self-correct when they stumble over a tricky word. As children develop in their reading, the emphasis changes from learning to read to reading to learn, where the balance of word recognition and language comprehension changes. Language comprehension will be developing alongside the growing skills of word recognition.
Children love stories and becoming very familiar with key stories, fairy stories and traditional tales is a valuable part of learning to read. Retelling these familiar stories really helps children’s confidence. They learn predictive skills and are able to discuss the characters and main events of the story. The repetitive phrases in these books allow the children to join in and learn the book off by heart. At school, we read and re-read these books as well as a wide range of rhymes, poetry, stories and non-fiction. Children learn to talk with confidence about the characters in a story, or the main events, for example. As children develop, they begin to express their own preferences and opinions showing a deeper understanding of narrative. They begin to ’read between the lines’ to answer questions, showing empathy for characters and are able to refer to specific parts of a text.
One of the most important ways parents can help their children is in encouraging their reading and helping them to develop a love of books. The support of parents is so important in making time to listen to children read every day. Reading aloud to children, both at school and at home, is critically important in developing language and thinking skills. Above all, enjoyment of books fosters imagination and a wider understanding of the world. Even when children become older, even if they are not reading aloud to an adult any more, it is important to keep engaging them in talking about books and loving reading.
“There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all” Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
Reading is the key that unlocks the curriculum and so if children are given the opportunity to relate reading for pleasure to all areas of the curriculum, it will help them to understand the relevance of subjects to the real world.
Guided reading takes place every day at St. John’s. Guided reading gives the teacher and teaching assistant a chance to work closely with small groups of pupils who should be at a similar stage in their reading. Texts are carefully chosen and may be selected to support a topic or assessment focus and to enable challenging and in-depth discussion. Often it is the talk and discussion about what they have read which is just as important as the actual reading of the book as this encourages children to ‘read between the lines’ and unpick more about what the author is telling us in the story.