We love reading
Reading is probably the most important skill that children learn whilst at primary school. If you can read fluently and understand what you read, then you can participate and continue to learn throughout adult life.
In just a few years at Thythorn, we see pupils progress from the most basic phonics - concentrating on learning the single sounds which make up words - to reading aloud fluently, with wonderful expression. From there, children develop the ability to summarise a whole text, to interrogate, to infer from just a few words and to gain real pleasure from reading increasingly challenging books.
Our first aim is a love of books. Even before babies can speak, they love listening to rhymes and stories read aloud to them. We do ask pupils to read to an adult at home, but it's even more important for adults to read to, or share books with children of all ages. Then you can talk about the pictures, predict what might happen next, say whether you like the characters or not, and gain an appreciation of different authors.
What books do you have in school?
We buy new books every year to update our stock, and we have a subscription to Leicestershire Libraries which allows us to borrow hundreds of books and change them each term.
Our school library contains good quality non-fiction, poetry and traditional stories. Pupils from year 2 onwards are encouraged to borrow and sign out one book at a time. They can choose any book that interests them, whatever their reading level.
Each class area contains book banded reading books for pupils to take home. In Foundation and Key Stage one, the colour bands step up quickly, so a pupil might progress up several bands within a year whilst they learn to read aloud. As children become increasingly fluent, the book band levels become broader. These children can read the words on the page, but may need support in order to understand less common words or to follow the meaning of the text.
Many classes also have a reading display or box of 'sharing' books that all children are free to choose from. This may include familiar books that an adult has read to the class, funny picture books, 'easy read' stories or more challenging books to share with an adult.
How do you teach reading?
In Foundation Stage and Year 1, reading skills are taught through phonics and by learning common 'tricky words'. Pupils blend the phonemes or sounds to make words. Many of the reading books contain only phonically regular words, so children can decode them.
As pupils progress up the school, we use 'Reciprocal Reading' as a way of encouraging them to reflect on the meaning of texts, answer questions and enjoy books more because their understanding of words and phrases improves.
In lots of different lessons across the curriculum, children practise their reading skills and are helped to understand and learn new approaches to reading whenever possible. This might include learning to read specialist science vocabulary in a year 5 science lesson, or using phonics to read a simple topic worksheet in year 1.
What about hearing children read?
One of the best ways to become a good reader is to read aloud with an adult every day for 15 minutes.
There isn't enough time in the day for all pupils to do this in school as well as other subjects, so we have to rely on parents to encourage reading at home.
In Foundation Stage, children do sometimes read 1-1 in order to build their confidence and speaking skills. In other year groups, we hear children read aloud when we need to check that they have appropriate books, or to help them to become more fluent when reading aloud. Sometimes a child will be targeted for a reading 'boost' and they will do a lot of reading 1-1 for a few weeks in order to try and overcome particular difficulties. Please don't worry if your children don't seem to read to an adult; they willl be doing whole class reading skills, guided or reciprocal reading in a group, comprehension tasks or vocabulary work.
How do you know which books are right for each child?
The best books for a child are ones that the child wants to read! Each child will have preferences - the style of certain picture books, a sports or animal theme, funny stories, a famous author or a book linked to a TV programme. We nurture children's preferences whilst guiding them towards accessible texts.
However, sometimes children prefer to stick with something very easy or familiar and need to be encouraged to try something new. Other children get the idea that reading is a kind of a race and that they only want 'hard books'. When pupils read in school, we want them to be able to manage to read at least 90% of the words correctly, otherwise they cannot access it.
We carry out a range of assessments to match pupils to the right reading level. This includes standardised tests, an assessment of reading speed and accuracy as well as asking questions about texts to see whether children have understood.
Children in lower key stage 2 are often able to read aloud nicely, but without an understanding of the text. It is really important for them to develop this understanding and not just go on reading increasingly complex books.
What if reading at home is a problem?
Please communicate with the class teacher as soon as you notice anything. It can be difficult to be relaxed and enjoy a reading session if your child refuses, cries or just seems to find it too hard. We'd always recommend going back to the adult reading to the child, which takes the pressure off. If you can get into a habit of reading at the same time every day, that often becomes easier. Class teachers may also recommend trying some easier or different books that may interest your child. Learning to read takes many years; parents often get frustrated or anxious about lack of progress, and children can then pick up on these emotions.
Children are often tired, grumpy, hungry and just want a break after school. If you can find a slot that works for your child and get into a habit of reading at the same time every day, that often becomes easier. Try to help the reading move along quite quickly so that you can both enjoy it. This might include telling the child any hard words, re-reading the sentence to get the meaning of it and building confidence by re-reading the same book several times over the week. If you don't ask too many questions, find something interesting in the book to chat about and give lots of praise, your child may also become more relaxed about reading with you.
And don't forget, children can read to all members of the family, including babies and animals!