Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible
Learn to read, read to learn...
Reading is at the heart of everything we do at Alumwell Junior School. Not only does teaching children core reading skills help them to access all other learning, but building, embracing and encouraging a genuine love of reading helps children discover endless worlds, go on incredible adventures and meet hundreds of fascinating characters. Not only this but it allows children to broaden their vocabulary, and increase their general knowledge about a huge range of subjects. Because of its importance, reading happens throughout the school day in many different ways. Below, these ‘branches’ of reading at Alumwell Junior School are explained further.
Phonics helps to teach children the relationship between sounds and their spellings. Early readers are faced with many unfamiliar words, even if they have good knowledge of the spoken language. For this reason, it is vital that we continue to teach children how to link letters to their sounds (phonemes) so that they can apply this knowledge when reading. Continuing on from earlier provision in KS1, we provide a daily phonics session where children work in small groups, focussing on particular sounds. The flexibility of these groups means that children move through the program as soon as they are ready to advance to the next stage. We cannot expect children to engage with and develop a love of books if they have not mastered the basic mechanics of reading. For this reason, we understand the importance of phonics as a foundation for development in all other aspects of reading.
Fluency in reading is something we continue to develop beyond childhood. It is more than just simply being a successful decoder: it is about reading with accuracy, reading with automaticity and reading with good prosody. Developing all of these elements helps children to make sense of what is on the page in front of them at the very point of reading. This then allows them to understand the deeper meaning behind the texts they read. The link between effective fluent reading and comprehension is extremely strong and we therefore ensure it is something we incorporate into our teaching of reading at Alumwell through repeated oral reading.
We want our children to be equipped with a vast range of vocabulary so that they can accurately communicate their thoughts and effectively express their own ideas. Through exposing our pupils to a range of high quality texts, we know that a child’s vocabulary will naturally grow during their time at school. However, we also understand the importance of direct instruction to ensure new words are explicitly taught and understood. In every year, teachers carefully select vocabulary to teach to their children in order to support their ability to access the wider curriculum and build their knowledge of the world. In addition to this, vocabulary is regularly discussed during whole class reading sessions within the context of a particular text. A robust vocabulary ensures development in several areas of communication: speaking, listening, reading and writing and for this reason, it is such an important aspect of the reading curriculum at Alumwell Junior School.
Reading For Pleasure
Every class in school has a dedicated area for their own class library. On these shelves are a wide range of books both in terms of subject and level. We want children to be able to change their reading books regularly and be able to find something to read within their own classrooms which captures their interests. We really encourage our pupils to take control of the books they have access to. We are ALWAYS open for suggestions and requests from our children: if there is a particular author or series of books which interests them, we will always do our best to make sure this becomes a part of their class library.
Throughout the week, children will have dedicated time to reading a class novel or exploring a picture book or non-fiction book. This is time for the children to get lost in a story and to just ENJOY!
Whole Class Guided Reading and Comprehension
Once children are confident decoders, they are encouraged to read for meaning. During whole class sessions led by their teacher, children will explore a wide range of texts including fiction, non-fiction and poetry together. Each session will focus on a range of the content domains set out in the National Curriculum. (See below) These sessions are a brilliant opportunity for children to discuss their thoughts about a range of texts, to suggest predictions based on what they have read, to unpick the meaning of unfamiliar words and to explore the impact of authors’ choices. We believe these discussions are richest when they involve all voices in the classroom and for this reason, these sessions run with the whole class together.
Content Domain References
2a give / explain the meaning of words in context
2b retrieve and record information / identify key details from fiction and non-fiction
2c summarise main ideas from more than one paragraph
2d make inferences from the text / explain and justify inferences with evidence from the text
2e predict what might happen from details stated and implied
2f identify / explain how information / narrative content is related and contributes to meaning as a whole
2g Identify / explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases
2h make comparisons within the text
We lose ourselves in books, we find ourselves there too.
Mirrors and Windows
With such a diverse group of children at Alumwell Junior School, we believe that the books read and accessed here should be both mirrors and windows. It is important for children to read ‘Mirror books’- books in which they find characters that reflect themselves and cultures that reflect their own. This allows children to see that they are valued. As well as this, we want children to read ‘Window books’- books in which they find characters and cultures which are unfamiliar to them. In accessing books of both kinds, we are ensuring that our children are learning about others and developing understanding and empathy as well as building on their understanding of their own identity. We want all children at Alumwell Junior School to recognise themselves in books they access here as well as having the chance to explore the experiences of others who are different to them. This is something we are continuing to develop in school as our collection of books with a variety of characters, settings and storylines flourishes.
That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.
Reading at Home
You can help to establish a love of reading at home too. Whether you are reading books yourself and setting a great example, hearing your child read their book in the evening or sharing a story from home with them, this time with you will help them to enjoy reading.
To learn to read is to light a fire.