The Wells’ approach to reading is based on the philosophy and beliefs summed up in the quotes below.
‘To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.’
‘Reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible.’
‘A person who does not read has no advantage over the one who cannot read.’
‘I want Wells’ pupils to feel the same sense of awe and wonder that I felt as a child listening to my Year 5 teacher reading Anne Holm’s ‘I Am David’. It was one of the most impressionable experiences of my education – I was gripped and couldn’t wait for the next chapter. Interestingly, I cannot remember the teacher but the pain and joy of the story - and the humanitarian lessons learned from it - have stayed with me for nearly half a century.’
Jill Henderson – Wells’ Headteacher
At Wells Primary School, we believe passionately that reading opens the doors to all areas of learning. As primary educators, our core purpose is to prepare children for secondary school. An integral part of that purpose is to equip children with the necessary reading ability to access the full curriculum. We are committed, therefore, to developing children’s decoding and comprehension skills from a very early age. More importantly, we strive to engender a love of reading in all our pupils. Children are taught that reading opens new worlds for them, that it has a direct benefit in all areas of their learning as well as in their development as responsible, kind, educated citizens.
Reading, therefore, lies at the heart of the Wells’ curriculum. At Wells, there is an expectation that teachers are passionate about reading and that reading is a priority. Core texts studied throughout the school have been carefully and thoughtfully selected to ensure children have access to a varied range of high-quality texts. The head teacher and English coordinator - both passionate readers of children’s literature - monitor selected texts and make recommendations.
A pro-active school approach to developing children’s reading is recognised as essential in today’s world where most children spend little leisure time reading. We work hard to promote and celebrate reading wherever possible. Reading events such as Book Weeks and our annual Book Character Day are much- loved, well- established traditions. But it is the daily diet of activities and constant drive to promote reading and enhance pupils’ vocabulary that empowers children as learners.
The Early Years’ Experience
We have a high pupil to staff ratio in Early Years to ensure that all pupils get off to a good start, especially in reading. Children in our Nursery and Reception classes have constant exposure to books and texts. A book-based approach to learning is adopted throughout the settings. When you enter the classes, it is evident which book or books the children are enjoying. Children have at least one story read to them every day and phonics sessions form part of the daily diet. Drama is used to act out stories; puppets are used to bring stories alive.
Phonics is taught using Read Write, Inc. In Reception, children are taught in a range of carefully organised groups, depending on pupils’ stage of reading ability. The groups are flexible, with children moving between them as and when appropriate. Interventions for pupils with additional needs start in Reception to help to close gaps in learning.
Partnership working between home and school is particularly helpful when developing emerging readers. Parents and carers are informed about the phonics focus and other learning in a weekly letter. Children take home phonics books to consolidate their decoding ability, as well as ‘real’ books to stimulate their passion for literature. We are aware that for a variety of reasons, some parents and carers are able to help their child with reading more than others. We try to ensure that all pupils receive adult support for reading. Reception and Key Stage 1 children who go to our Afterschool Club, for example, read regularly with an older pupil or play leader. Our Academic Mentor is also employed to work later three days a week to provide reading support for younger pupils who attend Afterschool Club.
All pupils have a Reading Record which logs comments by staff and parents/carers. Teachers and key workers also record relevant observations during reading sessions and class story times to inform the pupils’ ‘Learning Journey’.
The Key Stage 1 Experience (Years 1 and 2)
Our intention is that the vast majority of children will be ‘free readers’ by the time they leave Key Stage 1. We want them to have mastered their phonics and to be able to decode fluently so that the focus shifts smoothly to their engagement with and comprehension of text.
To ensure that pupils’ deciphering skills are developed without detracting from their enjoyment of books and reading, phonics is taught discretely. Children are grouped across the Year 1 and 2 Phase (three classes) so that children can secure, embed and enhance their skills according to their stage of development. Groups are flexible with children moving between them as and when appropriate. Read Write Inc. forms the basis of the phonics teaching. There is a focus on shared reading of sentences and longer texts within each phonics session, as well as a focus on the different phonemes and study of individual words.
Our expectation is that all pupils will secure the expected requirement for the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check, unless they have a specific learning difficulty.
The Book Project
Year 1 and 2 children enjoy English lessons based on the Redbridge Book Project approach to teaching reading and writing. Learning is centred around high quality texts such as The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield and The Tear Thief by Carol Ann Duffy. The books are carefully selected for their beauty: in their storytelling, their illustrations and the messages they convey. Well-crafted books such as these provide a wonderful stimulus for writing and inspire children to see themselves as writers.
Children also benefit from story sessions with their teacher. During these sessions, the emphasis is on the enjoyment of sharing a story, and of course with that comes the exposure to vocabulary that is so essential to pupils’ comprehension of texts.
In subjects such as history and geography, pupils learn the importance of reading in order to access information. Each class has access to quality non-fiction texts from The Redbridge Library Service. Books are changed on a termly basis and are related to pupils’ learning in history, geography and science for that term. Subscribing to the service ensures that children have access to the most recent publications. In weekly IT lessons, children begin to develop their understanding of how to access and read information on-line.
The Lower Key Stage 2 Experience (Years 3 and 4)
The school recognises how crucial it is to maintain children’s motivation to read and to develop their ‘reading mileage’ in Years 3 and 4. It is often a time when parents and carers begin to read less frequently with their children because they have become more independent and confident in their ability. As free readers however, many pupils require guidance in selecting appropriate texts. Whilst some may argue, ‘it doesn’t matter what children read as long as they are reading,’ they do need to know what is available to them, to be introduced to different authors, to have a helping hand in choosing the huge variety of texts they may enjoy, and to be challenged in their reading. Children may get ‘stuck’ on a particular author because they feel comfortable in that world; it is the responsibility of teachers to guide children to the doors of other experiences.
For this reason, teachers at Wells are expected to read children’s literature. Before the summer holiday, teachers select a book to read, and are expected to give feedback at the first Inset meeting. Teachers throughout the school select a book for each pupil, with a handwritten sticky note, which is given to them when they arrive back after the summer. Pupils have expressed how this personalised approach gives them greater motivation to read because the book has been especially chosen for them. It encourages discussion between pupils and book recommendations for each other.
The Book Project
A book-based approach to teaching English is adopted too in Years 3 and 4. Classic texts such as The Iron Man by Ted Hughes and Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox are studied alongside more modern texts such as The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.
Children participate in class reading sessions with their teacher in lower Key Stage 2. Here, the focus is on developing pupils’ comprehension of texts. This presents an ideal opportunity for pupils to develop confidence in expressing their ideas and to debate differences of opinion with their peers.
The Year 3 and 4 Children’s Book Award
We are now in our third year of a school initiative called the Wells Year 3 and 4 Book Award based on the approach used for the Redbridge Children’s Book Award (see Upper Key Stage 2 Experience). The Reading Co-ordinator carefully selects 10 recently published texts for pupils in Years 3 and 4 to read. Multiple copies of the books are purchased and children are encouraged and expected to read as many as possible. They then vote for their favourite. Excitement for reading is created by the project and we are confident that the children are reading good quality texts at this crucial stage in their reading development.
The Upper Key Stage 2 Experience (Years 5 and 6)
The same book-based approach to teaching English is adopted in Years 5 and 6. Children study texts such as Wonder by R J Palacio, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Moon Bear by Gill Lewis and Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian. In Year 5 and 6 too, whole-class reading comprehension sessions have replaced the more traditional group Guided Reading. The focus here is on developing pupils’ higher order reading skills and their ability to read between the lines, to recognise authorial intentions and the characteristics of their writing.
Traditionally, many Wells’ pupils read to a high standard by the time they leave primary school. However, there are some children who require greater motivation to read than others, especially with the growing attraction of social media and other on-line experiences. With this in mind, we work hard to provide incentives to promote a love of reading.
Wells participates in the Redbridge Children’s Book Award. Each year, the local library service shortlists a range of titles for older primary and secondary pupils. The school purchases the books and pupils nominate their favourite entry. Pupils are then invited to the award ceremony where the successful authors are presented with their awards. The scheme generates interest in books.
Other incentives include our movie nights; pupils are encouraged to read specific genres or texts selected by the teacher and are rewarded by a celebratory film evening with their friends. We also hold regular book fairs.
Equality of Access and Overcoming Barriers
Wells is committed to ensuring that all pupils develop their reading ability and have access to stories and literature despite any barriers to learning. All teachers are expected to read class texts with their pupils every day during fruit break or before the end of the day.
Interventions are put in place for pupils who are working below the level of the majority of their peers. The teacher, phase leader and SENDco work together to plan the interventions depending on the needs of individuals or groups of pupils. Some pupils receive one-to-one additional reading support on a regular basis. Some pupils receive additional, intensive phonics support. Some pupils receive additional independent or group reading sessions. Pupils arriving with little or no English in Years 5 and 6 are offered early morning language sessions to help develop their skills.
Our aspiration is for every child to be a reader