The Importance of Reading

Reading is a skill that most of us take for granted, yet is one that is essential for being able to get on in life. As a child grows up, being able to read well not only enables them to discover new facts and to learn at school, but also opens them up to a world of new ideas, stories and opportunities. As such, all our staff are committed to ensuring that all children become independent and fluent readers during their time at our school. We want our children to enjoy books as much as we do!

At Warden Hill we are passionate about books and this love of reading is shared with all pupils. As you walk around the school, you are instantly struck by engaging reading displays and inviting book corners. Our newly modelled libraries and our significant investment in new and exciting books demonstrates our commitment to reading and developing a culture of reading for pleasure. We have also invested in a new ‘staff library’ in an effort to introduce the adults in our school to new literature, both adult and children’s books, and to model the good reading behaviours we wish to instil in our pupils.

We are all involved in our pupils’ reading

Our Headteacher really does lead by example and all children are aware of her love of reading, which she regularly discusses in assemblies and backs up with an office full of books! In the autumn term, Mrs Flooks also ran a lunchtime book club where the children were engrossed in ‘The Stormkeeper’s Island’ – the fact that this was regularly attended by over 80% of the Year 5 pupils shows its ongoing popularity.

Our children’s love of reading is fostered through access to a wide range of stories, poems and non-fiction books and carefully selected whole class readers. Books are used in all areas of the curriculum to help teach specific topics, as well as broadening children’s social, moral, spiritual and cultural awareness. An example of this is The Tunnel by Anthony Browne, which is primarily used as an English focus, but also helps to teach about moral dilemmas.

The joy of reading

We work hard to ensure this joy of reading extends beyond the classroom and support, promote and value the contributions that parents and carers make to their child’s reading at home. We run termly reading challenges in each year group to not only encourage our pupils to read a wide range of literature, but also to share and discuss these books at home.

We enjoy taking our children to the Cheltenham Literature Festival each year and organise visiting authors to talk to our pupils and further ignite their interest in books. A highlight of our year is World Book Day, which we celebrate in some style! Last year, the juniors used the book ‘Brightstorm’ as a stimulus and the children arrived to school to find a themed hall display and all teachers dressed up as characters from the book. In the infants, the day focussed on the book, ‘sssh we have a plan’ and corridors and staff looked equally amazing and inspiring. The looks on the children’s faces and the quality of the resulting work made all the effort worthwhile.

In the spring term we hold our annual ‘take one book week’. Each year group spends the whole week on a wide range of activities linked to their book including art, drama, D.T., writing, history and geography. As an example from last year, year 4 used the book Friend or Foe to teach about World War II and wrote diary entries, painted blitz pictures, made ration books and looked at the cultural differences of the characters. A particular highlight of this week was a trip on a real steam train where the children were immersed in the life of an evacuee. Their learning was then shared with the wider community in the form of a year group assembly.

Reading begins from day one

Our teaching of reading begins from the very first day a child begins at our school; as a welcome gift, all our Reception children receive a book from us to welcome them to our school and begin their reading experience. 

Our structured approach to reading is carefully designed to ensure the best results for our children. It all begins with a focus on phonics and in Reception, children learn a sound a day, through adult directed activities. The scheme of work that we use to teach phonics across EYFS and KS1 is Letters and Sounds. This learning is reinforced through enhancement tasks, songs and fun, practical activities related to the corresponding letter formation. Children begin their ‘book-reading journey’ with non-worded books which develop their questioning and prediction skills. As their segmenting and blending progresses, they are constantly assessed and given activities to suit their current abilities. These include picture/word match lacing cards, CVC word books, caption/picture matching cards and the early reading books from our extensive school scheme.

Children could not make the progress they do without support from home and we work closely with parents to ensure they understand how to pronounce the phonics correctly and have strategies to develop their child’s reading skills. Story packs are also sent home each week, which contain a popular picture book with ideas and activities to complete linked to the book. Parents are also introduced to the ‘Talk for Writing’ vocabulary and actions to help with story-telling at home. ‘Teach your monster to read’ is a popular reading APP which children have access to both in school and at home.

Progression of reading through the school

As the children move through the infants, phonics remains a high priority and is taught between 3 and 5 days a week. Daily guided reading sessions focus on higher order reading skills and the development of vocabulary. Children work through the colour banded reading scheme and read frequently with an adult in school. Reading diaries encourage the children to record their reading and respond to set questions, where appropriate.

As their reading progresses, we work on developing a pupil’s vocabulary and comprehension skills through structured through whole class guided reading sessions. Activities are carefully planned to ensure that reading stamina also develops as children progress through the school.

In addition to this our class reads ensure that all our pupils are exposed to high quality challenging texts. Our English team have chosen these texts wisely as we know the importance of providing texts that are crucial in continuing to enhance comprehension skills. This allows for an immersion in more sophisticated vocabulary and therefore helps them to build their own vocabulary that will be wider, challenging and more specific.

To ensure the best outcome for all our pupils, assessment is used continuously to identify any child who is in danger of falling behind. Targeted interventions are used to help these children ‘catch up’ and their progress is carefully monitored by class teachers and school leaders.