‘I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn't be daunting, they should be funny, exciting, and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.’ Roald Dahl
"More than at any other time, when I hold a beloved book in my hand my limitations fall from me, my spirit is free," Helen Keller
"When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young," Maya Angelou
"Wherever I am, if I've got that book with me, I've got a place I can go and be happy." JK Rowling
What is Reading?
Reading is making meaning from print. It requires that we:
- Identify words in print (word recognition)
- Construct an understanding from them (comprehension)
- Coordinate identifying words and making meaning so that reading is automatic and accurate (fluency)
Reading in its fullest sense involves weaving together word recognition and comprehension in a fluent manner. These three processes are complex, and each is important.
Reading has been described as the product of decoding and comprehension, a model first proposed by Gough and Tunmer in 1986, who called it the Simple View of Reading.
The reading framework, DfE, July 2021
Why do we study Reading?
Reading matters! The ability to read fluently matters emotionally, culturally and educationally to the individual and a literate society has positive economic impacts – so, reading matters to everyone (DfE, July 2021).
Reading is important in its own right. The ability to read fluently opens a world of imagination and entertainment as children discover characters, worlds and adventures from both within and beyond their experience. The ability to communicate using language is a powerful skill possessed by humans; reading develops children’s vocabulary and language development.
Equally important, is the unlocking of the full curriculum enabled by the ability to read. Reading is essential to enable progress through the curriculum and for developing independence in learning. The ability to read encourages children to discover knowledge, think critically, evaluate materials and investigate ideas – all of which contribute to learning across the curriculum.
The National Curriculum states:
The programmes of study for reading at key stages 1 and 2 consist of 2 dimensions:
- word reading
- comprehension (both listening and reading)
It is essential that teaching focuses on developing pupils’ competence in both dimensions; different kinds of teaching are needed for each.
Skilled word reading involves both the speedy working out of the pronunciation of unfamiliar printed words (decoding) and the speedy recognition of familiar printed words. Underpinning both is the understanding that the letters on the page represent the sounds in spoken words. This is why phonics should be emphasised in the early teaching of reading to beginners (ie unskilled readers) when they start school.
Good comprehension draws from linguistic knowledge (in particular of vocabulary and grammar) and on knowledge of the world. Comprehension skills develop through pupils’ experience of high-quality discussion with the teacher, as well as from reading and discussing a range of stories, poems and non-fiction. All pupils must be encouraged to read widely across both fiction and non-fiction to develop their knowledge of themselves and the world they live in, to establish an appreciation and love of reading, and to gain knowledge across the curriculum. Reading widely and often increases pupils’ vocabulary because they encounter words they would rarely hear or use in everyday speech. Reading also feeds pupils’ imagination and opens up a treasure house of wonder and joy for curious young minds.
It is essential that, by the end of their primary education, all pupils are able to read fluently, and with confidence, in any subject in their forthcoming secondary education
NB: The Opossum Reading Curriculum programme should be read in conjunction with the Opossum Writing Curriculum as there is significant overlap between these two domains.
Through their study of the Opossum Reading curriculum, we intend that pupils will:
1.Become fluent readers and writers by securing phonics (reading and spelling)
Pupils are taught reading through Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised, which is a systematic and synthetic phonics programme. Phonics teaching begins in the Early Years, which ensures children build on their growing knowledge of the alphabetic code, mastering phonics to read and spell as they move through school.
2. Become fluent readers by developing comprehension of the material they read.
Reading is a crucial life skill. Strong comprehension means that pupils read confidently for meaning and purpose, and regularly enjoy reading for pleasure. We intend that pupils will develop their understanding of what they have read by exploring and discussing meaning, building on their prior knowledge and by drawing literal and inferential information from the text.
3. Acquire vocabulary and use it accurately
A strong vocabulary improves all areas of communication; vocabulary growth is linked directly to pupils’ learning and progress, as it allows access to new information. Vocabulary is key to reading comprehension – which is the ultimate goal of reading. We intend that pupils expand their vocabulary as they encounter new words through wide reading and discussion.
4. Read widely
We intend that pupils will have the opportunity to experience and explore wide-ranging genres and authors as they progress through the school. Through direct study they will learn the purpose, structure and features of differing text types which will increase the accessibility of different styles of writing for learners.
5. Read for pleasure
We aim to inspire pupils to read for pleasure so that reading becomes a leisure activity of choice. We intend to instil enthusiasm for reading and an understanding of the power of books to unlock the imagination and emotion which can be created by engagement with books. We intend that pupils will explore the writing of a range of authors and will return again to beloved stories and authors. Pupils will experience a range of books (fiction and non-fiction) through regular class story times – these are carefully selected to reflect the children of our local community as well as to open windows into other worlds and cultures.
Through their study of Reading, Opossum values are realised.
Being respectful - demonstrating respect for others’ ideas and viewpoints, particularly in their response to texts, characters and themes.
Being aspirational – an expectation that all pupils can, and will, become fluent and confident readers
Being caring – showing care for books by handling and storing them appropriately.
Having integrity – through a carefully designed reading programme, which takes the ‘right approach at the right time’, pupils will make good progress towards fluency.
Being creative – engaging with story plots and characters to inspire pupils’ own creative writing.
Being community minded – exploring shared texts, enabling all pupils to contribute their response and engage in discussion with peers.
Scope and sequence
The Opossum Reading curriculum fulfils the requirements of the National curriculum.
In the nursery, a balance of child-led and adult-led experiences are provided for all children that meet the curriculum expectations for ‘Communication and language’ and ‘Literacy’.
Pupils who are at the early stage of reading acquisition (Reception and Year 1) follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programme. This includes daily, direct phonics lessons, with additional ‘keep up’ sessions for those who require further support.
Daily phonics lessons are also scheduled for pupils in Years 2 and 3 who are not yet fluent readers or who did not pass the Phonics Screening Check.
‘Catch up’ lessons, to address specific reading/writing gaps are scheduled for the pupils in Years 3-6 who require them. These are typically 10 minute sessions, 3 times per week.
Early readers participate in reading practice sessions 3 times per week. These are taught by trained adults to small groups of pupils. Texts are selected from the ‘Big Cat Collins for Little Wandle’ scheme, which are matched to the pupils’ secure phonics knowledge. Each session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the pupils’ working memory.
Reading practice sessions are designed to focus on three key reading skills:
- Prosody (reading with understanding and expression)
- Comprehension (understanding the text)
Pupils have further opportunities to practice their decodable book at home using the allocated e-library copy.
Reading for pleasure is encouraged through story times in class, text study and selecting class library books to take home to read. Families are also encouraged to join and use their local libraries. Special events, such as Reading Breakfasts are scheduled to encourage family reading and the enjoyment of sharing a story.
When pupils have become fluent readers, the emphasis shifts from fidelity to a fully decodable book scheme to exploring texts and language in wide ranging genres and reading with independence. Comprehension remans a focus to ensure that pupils understand the books they are reading and vocabulary development continues to be a high priority. Once fluent, pupils are able to select books of particular interest to them, in addition to the texts studied as a class. The Accelerated Reader framework assists pupils and teachers to identify texts appropriate for the individual pupil’s stage of development, preventing undue demand on working memory and maintaining interest and engagement.
Spelling and grammatical knowledge sessions are scheduled weekly to ensure pupils are secure in their understanding.
References for further information
Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised https://www.littlewandlelettersandsounds.org.uk/
The reading framework, Teaching the foundations of literacy, DfE July, 2021