Reading at Portway Infant School
At Portway Infant School, we are determined that every child will learn to read. We learn to read for finding out and for fun, and we want every child that comes to our school to become lifelong readers with all of the skills they need to read fluently and with understanding. Children at Portway are immersed in a book-rich environment, surrounded by staff who openly share their own love of reading with them. Story times are valued highly by all members of our school community as a time to enjoy and appreciate books by a wide range of authors and illustrators and to encourage the development of personal preferences.
Reading underpins our whole school curriculum as a core life skill and considerable investment is made in ensuring the range of books available reflects both the children’s learning and their own interests. Our rigorous approach to the teaching of reading ensures our children are equipped with the confidence and resilience they need, as well as the full range of skills that are used when reading. Considerable time is also dedicated to promoting reading, fostering a lifelong love of books that motivates children to read independently for both information and for pleasure. We learn to read for finding out and for fun!
Reading is not just for structured learning time, but an activity that we thread throughout each child’s day. We have a ‘book bus’ at lunchtimes where children can spend time reading with their friends, as well as a well-stocked and engaging library. The library is a special place for our children and we take every opportunity to encourage children to actively engage with what is on offer. Our librarian makes time to speak to all of the children when they visit, listening to their interests and sourcing books to reflect these. Each half-term the children also select a range of books from the library, including fiction & non-fiction and poetry books, for their classroom book corners, this is in addition to their author focus and topic themed books.
Each year we welcome The Travelling Book Fair to school. Parents make good use of this opportunity to buy books with their children and those children not taking new books home are given the special task of choosing new books for their teacher to buy for their class.
We regularly welcome authors and illustrators to school to speak to the children about their own books and to run workshops on both writing and illustrating.
What does a Portway reader look like?
We want every child at Portway to develop and use:
- Excellent phonic knowledge and skills that they can apply independently
- Fluency and accuracy in reading, not just during reading sessions but throughout the curriculum and for their own pleasure
- An extensive and rich vocabulary
- A strong motivation to read widely and often
- A range of comprehension skills so they can access all of the information a book can provide
We want our children to love books to the extent that they would typically choose cuddling up with a story over using technology or watching television. We often hear of our children reading stories to younger siblings (and even pets!), or retelling their favourite stories through role play; these are all signs of a well-motivated, blossoming reader.
We are determined to foster an innate desire to turn the page that will, in turn, develop our children’s ability to become lively and prolific writers across the wider curriculum.
How do we teach children to read?
We learn to read for finding out and for fun.
There are many skills that children need to develop in order to read fluently and confidently. These skills are all linked and are taught throughout the curriculum in addition to phonics sessions and reading lessons.
Children begin with a love of stories and shared books from early infancy.
Learning to read begins with print awareness, this is an understanding that print carries meaning, that books contain letters and words, and how a book ‘works’ with print being read from left to right, identifying the front and back covers and that pages are turned.
Children need to develop phonological and phonemic awareness, this is the ability to hear, recognise and manipulate the spoken parts of words — including rhymes, syllables, and phonemes (sounds).
Phonics and Decoding
At Portway we follow the Letters and Sounds programme. This is divided into five different phases and is taught in all year groups on a daily basis. As a minimum children receive between 20 – 30 minutes a day of direct phonics teaching.
In Year R children start the year with phase one of the programme, which focuses on developing sound awareness and readiness for learning letters and sounds. Each subsequent phase teaches individual and combined letter sounds. Children learn to decode by breaking up words into their smallest individual sounds, we call this segmenting. Children then learn to put those sounds together to read a word, this is called blending.
Attached you will find an overview of each phase and the year groups in which it will be taught. Children learn phonics at a rate that is right for them, with the aim that all children will have been taught the content of phases 1-5 by the end of Year 1.
We have also created a glossary of phonics terms that you may hear your child using when talking about phonics. This will help you to use these words at home when you are reading with your child, or sharing books at bedtime.
It is very important that children learn to use ‘pure sounds’ in phonics, as otherwise it can be difficult to sound out and read a word. This simply means that the child should make the sound as short as possible – you can find a video on YouTube which shows you how to make pure sounds by clicking here.
There are lots of examples of phonics lessons, delivered by our teachers, on Google Classroom that you can use to support your child at home.
Fully Decodable Books
For children to learn to read quickly and fluently, it is very important that the books they are asked to read independently are matched to the phonics knowledge that they have developed. Using these books, called ‘fully decodable books’, also encourages children to establish the habit of using phonics as the route to decoding unknown words, avoiding unreliable guessing strategies. For this reason, at Portway, we use a range of books from the Collins Big Cat series that exactly match the Letters and Sounds programme.
These books are linked to what each child is learning in phonics, so they already have all the skills they need to read independently. The purpose of these fully decodable books is to encourage the children to apply their phonics skills. For this reason these books are not intended for discussion or asking and answering questions. Once your child has read this book aloud to you, they have finished the task – you can use their colour banded books, as well as library books and other favourites to develop their comprehension skills and their love for stories.
Colour Banded Books
In addition to practising their independent reading with fully decodable books, it is vital that children experience a wide range of other quality children’s books that are either read to or with them. Therefore, children at Portway also have the opportunity to take home a colour banded book which are graded by difficulty of reading level, known as book bands. Each book band has its own colour. Within each book band, there will be a wide range of non-fiction and fiction books. Some books will challenge and extend reading skills, vocabulary and word recognition, and others will consolidate skills they have already developed. Please encourage your child to re-read their book if they would like to, as there is strong evidence that reading familiar texts will develop a child’s fluency and confidence.
Sharing books together is the best way to develop a child’s comprehension skills, and for these books we would recommend that you make time to discuss the story, make predictions about what might happen next, and start to identify parts of the story that your child did or did not like and why. Unlike fully decodable books, which are specifically to practise decoding using phonics independently, these books should be shared and you should support your child with words they find more difficult.
Children are encouraged to change their reading books whenever they are finished with a book. Sometimes this might be every day, and at other times children may want to hold on to a book for a little longer particularly if it is a favourite. When you and your child feel ready for a different book we would encourage you to write a note in your child’s reading diary. Sometimes children collect a book that they like the look of but subsequently do not enjoy (much like we do as adults!) – we would then encourage your child to swap without feeling the need to finish the book first. A discerning reader is often a sign of a child who is taking their first steps into becoming a lifelong reader!
High Frequency and Common Exception Words
High frequency words are simply words that occur most frequently in a book. They are often words that have little meaning on their own but contribute greatly to the meaning of a sentence. Some high frequency words can be sounded out using basic phonics rules, such as ‘it’. However, many high frequency words cannot be sounded out, such as ‘the’, and these words need to be recognised by sight. These words are called ‘common exception words’ and you can find a copy of each year group’s most common words below to support your child at home. Learning to read these words quickly by sight will support your child’s fluency when reading, which will free up more time to discuss the book and build comprehension skills.
We cover these common exception words throughout the year as part of spelling practice and through application in reading and writing lessons.
What do our children say about reading?
Pupil voice is important to us at Portway, and we regularly make time to listen to what the children have to say about the exciting reading journey that they are on. This helps us to evaluate what we are providing for them and ensure that we are matching their interests. These are some of the things our children have had to say about reading:
“I love reading with my teacher, she helps with tricky words and picks really fun stories”
“I like choosing a book from the book bus at lunchtime and sitting with my friends on the cushions”
“When I go to the library Mrs Doney always makes sure there are books in there about things I love, she found me a cricket book, I’m good at cricket”
“When we were learning about Julia Donaldson I loved reading ‘Room on the Broom’ and it was so fun coming up with our own version!”
“I get excited when I change my book to show mummy so we can read it before bed together. Our favourite was one about making cakes and we actually made them the next day!”
“I chose a really good book about insects for our book corner, the spider picture really scares Miss Boulton, it’s funny!”
…we learn to read for finding out and for fun.
Click on your child's year group to find relevant guidance that will help you to support your child's learning at home.