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St James

Primary School

Where children shoot for the stars and shine

How do we teach reading?

Is reading important?


Here at St James, we firmly believe that teaching a child to read is one of the most important things we can teach your child to do. Throughout the primary school journey, we teach pupils all the basic skills needed to enable a child to read independently. 


We want your child to love reading – and to want to read for enjoyment. This is why we work hard to make sure children develop a love of books as well as simply learning to read. We start by teaching phonics in Nursery using the highly successful ‘Read Write Inc’ phonics programme. Children learn how to ‘read’ the sounds in words and how those sounds can be written down. This is essential for reading, but it also helps children learn to spell well.


Once children can blend sounds together to read words, they practise reading books that match the phonics and the ‘tricky words’ they know. They start to believe they can read and this does wonders for their confidence. Teachers read to the children every single day so the children get to know and love all sorts of stories, poetry and information texts. This helps to extend children’s vocabulary and comprehension, as well as supporting their writing.


Up until the end of Year 2, your child will work with children who are at the same reading level. This is so that the teaching can be focussed on their needs. Some older children will continue to access Read Write Inc groups if they need further consolidation and development of reading skills. We check children’s reading skills regularly so we that we can ensure they are in the right group. Children will move to a different group if they are making faster progress or may have one-to-one support if we think they need some extra help. In Key Stage 2 (years 3, 4, 5 and 6,) the children undertake a weekly reading session and have a wide selection of reading materials to choose from. They have access to educational magazines and First News - a children's newspaper. They enjoy projects linked to reading, with a whole school reward system used for encouragement. 


How do children learn to read?


Learning to read does not happen all at once. It involves a series of stages that lead, over time, to independent reading and to high levels of fluency. The best time for children to start learning to read is when they are very young. We therefore start teaching reading from Nursery through the ‘Read Write Inc.’ synthetic phonics scheme.


At St James Primary School, each child is expected to read at home at least four times a week whether that is to an adult (for developing readers) or independently (for fluent readers). Each child will also engage in focussed teaching of reading in a weekly whole-class reading lesson. Teachers also aim to listen to every child read every week. Teachers, teaching assistants and reading volunteers will aim to listen to struggling readers even more frequently.


How long will it take to learn to read well?


Every child is different and children will learn to read at different speeds. By the end of Year 2, most children will be able to read aloud books that are at the right level for their age. In Year 3 and beyond, we concentrate more on helping children to understand what they are reading, although this work begins very early on.


In the summer term of Year 1, the Government asks us to do a phonics check of all the children. We will let you know how your child has done. Children who do not pass the phonics check in Year 1 retake the assessment during Year 2 to ensure that they have made progress. If your child is a candidate for this, then we will let you know in advance and also feedback the findings.

What reading schemes are used to help children read?


In school we have made a significant investment in a variety of reading schemes to encourage your child to access a range of texts suited to their own personal interests while also extending their reading ability and confidence. In Nursery, we start to teach pupils to read using the Read Write Inc. programme. This scheme is taught in explicit daily lessons starting in Nursery and then moving into Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. If children need extra lessons in Key Stage 2, then teaching assistants will also provide additional interventions which will help to plug any gaps in their knowledge. 


Following this, we have a selection of 'banded' books from a range of reading schemes including Bug Club, Project X and Rapid Reading. These schemes provide hundreds of titles for children to take home and to read with their parents/carers. The books range from picture books with no text all the way to sophisticated texts aimed at confident, independent readers. Our 'free reader' selection includes a wide range of books from classics to current, contemporary novels for pupils to enjoy.


In every classroom, pupils also have access to high quality texts written from established and well respected authors, which have been grouped accordingly to extend the range of reading which our children are exposed to. Authors in these collections include Dick King Smith, Roald Dahl, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, David Walliams, Anthony Horowitz, Malorie Blackman and many more. Each classroom has a themed reading corner and these include author collections, recommended reads (from peers and the class teacher) and poetry collections.


How can I help my child to read?


Our staff talk about their own favourite stories and we encourage students to do the same. Pupils at St James should bring home at least two books. One has been chosen from the class library by your child. It is based on their own interests and they may require additional support reading this book. The second book will be selected from our banded reading programme, designed to match your child’s current reading ability. This book should still provide a level of challenge and your child may need a little support to read/understand some words. Reading with your child for ten minutes a day is better than an hour once a week. If your child is tired, leave the reading until the next day. Your role is to support the reading as little, or as much, as necessary, depending on the book.


How can I help with Read, Write Inc?


Within the first half term of your child starting Reception, you will be invited to a meeting so that we can explain how we teach reading and show you the resources we use. During the meeting, there are lots of suggestions on how you can help your child to read. Your support really does get your child off to a flying start and encourages them to make great progress!


You can help your child to sound out the letters in words and then to ‘blend’ the sounds together to make a whole word. Try not to refer to the letters by their names. Help your child to focus on the sounds. You can hear how to say the sounds correctly by searching on YouTube for ‘Read Write Inc. Phonemes Pronunciation Guide’.  These 'speed sounds' are used throughout school - even in upper Key Stage 2 -  and also link into spelling work, a good understanding of these sounds really does make a difference!


Sometimes your child might bring home a book that they already know well. Please don’t say, ‘This is too easy,’ as they may have chosen that because they enjoy it!  Instead, encourage your child to tell you the story out loud; ask them questions about things that happen or what they think about some of the characters in the story. These golden rules will help you:


  • Practise sounds from an early age
  • Teach sounds rather than the alphabet
  • Use Fred talk when reading words
  • Use Fred fingers when spelling out words
  • Make reading fun with the use of predicting and questioning
  • Read books of a higher level at home, together
  • Help to teach your child the 44 sounds
  • Feed your children new vocabulary.


Click the video below to learn how to say the RWI sounds...

RWI Sounds for Parents

What does VIPERS stand for?


VIPERS is an acronym used in school to describe the key aspects of Reading in the National Curriculum. The letters stand for:


V - Vocabulary

I - Inference

P - Prediction

E - Explain

R - Retrieve

S - Sequence or Summarise


Once a week, every teacher will teach a lesson based on one or more of the aspects of VIPERS. This ensures that we as a school are covering all the key elements of teaching reading comprehension. The leaflet below provides more details on how VIPERS activities support your child in Key Stages 1 and 2: 

Does it matter if my child misses a lesson or two?


It matters a lot if your child misses school. The way we teach children to read is very well organised, so even one missed lesson means that your child has not learnt something that they need to know to be a good reader. If your child does miss the occasional lesson though, please don't panic. Our teachers will recap sounds and identify children who need more support.

If you want further information about the curriculum content your child is covering please call the school office to arrange an appointment to see the subject leader.