The Importance of Reading
Reading is the key to unlocking the rest of the academic curriculum. Once you have learned to read you can read to learn. Pupils who struggle to read struggle in all subjects, and the wonders of a knowledge-rich curriculum passes them by unread. Fluency of reading is also a key indicator for future success in further education, higher education and employment.
Children do not just ‘become’ readers, however, and reading engagement is not possible if children struggle with the basic mechanics of reading. Fluency and enjoyment are the result of careful teaching and frequent practice. Ensuring children become fluent and engaged readers at the very earliest stages also helps avoid the vicious circle of reading difficulty and demotivation that makes later intervention more challenging.
The National Curriculum, published by the Department for Education in 2013, requires schools to teach reading using systematic phonics and the implementation of the Phonics Screening Check ensures that all children are on track. All schools now use systematic phonics to teach reading daily. The programme of phonics that we have chosen for Ryton Federation is Sounds Write. Sounds Write is a highly structured, synthetic approach to phonics and is acknowledged by the DfE as meeting all of its criteria for an effective phonics teaching programme. Although we start teaching phonics in Nursery (listening to and producing sounds, orally blending and segmenting), the Sounds Write programme begins properly in Reception and is then implemented consistently in all Key Stage 1 year groups, continuing into Key Stage 2.
Skilled word reading involves speedy decoding and automatic recognition of words. From the first week of Reception, children will start to learn letter-sound correspondences. Children are taught how to break up words, or decode them, into individual sounds, and then blend all the way through the word to read. At the start of the programme, simple, one sound/one spelling, one-syllable, CVC words only are introduced. As the programme progresses, the complexity of one-syllable words is increased to four-, five- and six-sound words. Then digraphs (sh, ch, th), trigraphs (igh) and four letter sounds (ough) are introduced. The children are taught that all words are made up of sounds (phonemes) and that these sounds are spelled (or represented) with letters (graphemes). As the Sounds Write programme continues into Key Stage, children learn that the same sound can be spelled in more than one way (eg the ‘ay’ sound in rain, day, break, name) and that a spelling can represent more than one sound (eg the ‘ea’ spelling as in great, head, beak).
Of course, as a school, we also recognise the importance of talk, and of building a love of stories and reading. It’s not enough just to be able to read the words on the page, we need to ensure that children understand and can make sense of what they are reading. We want them to develop pleasure and interest in reading. We develop these skills and attitudes through high-quality discussion around books and through reading a range of stories, poems and non-fiction texts. We read quality texts to the children daily. Every class visits our library once a week so that each child can choose a book to take home.
As well as a library book, children will be given a decodable reader, taken from the Dandelion series of books that match the Sounds Write programme. This book will be at their phonic level and they should read this themselves, preferably more than once to develop fluency and expression. Children in Key Stage 1 will also be given a Big Cat or Oxford Reading Tree book that will be beyond their phonic level but which can be read to them at home and will hopefully generate some discussion - perhaps about characters, shared experiences, unfamiliar words or to check understanding.
At Ryton Infants we prioritise reading and make it our goal to ensure that every child in our school becomes a fluent reader. We have created a school environment where every child is not only able to read proficiently, but also develops a genuine love of reading.