Reading is defined as the complex cognitive process of decoding symbols to derive meaning. Reading is a means for language acquisitions, communications and sharing information and ideas. Reading is a complex interaction between text and reader, shaped by the reader’s prior knowledge, experiences, attitudes and the language community – which is both culturally and socially situated.
Why reading is integral to the wider curriculum in schools
Research has shown that:
At Breadsall Hill Top Primary School, we believe that language acquisition sits at the heart of our reading curriculum which in turn enables the children in our care to gain the powerful knowledge that they need to become fluent readers, who have a clear understanding of what they read. Alongside this, we also teach the skills of being a reader and aim to instil in our children a life-long love of reading.
So how do we achieve this aim?
Fluency and Comprehension
The first step for children on their journey to becoming fluent readers is to provide them with the tools they will need to a be able to recognise and decode the symbols needed to be a reader. This process begins in EYFS and KS1, where children are taught word recognition skills such as phonological awareness (syllables, phonemes, etc), decoding skills (alphabetic principle, spelling-sound correspondences) and sight recognition of familiar words. This is taught through the Read Write Inc phonics system (for more information, see the Phonics curriculum link).
As their ability to use their word recognition skills continues, we then begin to weave in the skills of language comprehension. This is the ability to understand what is being read in terms of the genre of the text, language structures, vocabulary, verbal reasoning and background knowledge. This is done through the introduction of discrete reading lessons usually in the Spring Term of Year 2. These lessons usually but not exclusively, link to the VIPERS skills which provide opportunities for children to look at each skills in depth, have that skill modelled by the teacher and then to practise it independently. Each skill is revisited on a number of occasions throughout children’s time in KS2 so that their word recognition skills and language comprehension skills become inextricably linked.
The many strands that are woven into skilled reading
Lemov (2016) states in ‘Reading Reconsidered’ that:
“In reading, the more you know, the more you learn…it means that when you know a little bit about a topic going in, the text adds more knowledge and detail to your framework - easily and naturally deepening your understanding and building connections to existing knowledge…When you know very little about a topic, it’s easy to be confused or overwhelmed by new information.”
At BHTP, it is our intention to ensure that children are exposed to high quality texts (consisting of visual texts, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and videos) that provide an appropriate level of challenge to the children as readers, while both enriching and enhancing the children’s background knowledge and understanding of the topic being taught. As children continue to acquire knowledge, they are encouraged to adapt it and apply it to other areas of the curriculum including topic and writing where children are provided with the opportunity to share the knowledge they have gained with an authentic audience (for more information, see the Writing curriculum link).
“Language opens doors. It unlocks the world of reading and the imagination, the excitement of writing, the capacity to explore new subjects and releases our potential to learn and grow as an individual.”
Being in a word-poor context at a young age can have far-reaching negative consequences for our children. A restricted vocabulary as a young child goes on to correlate with other factors in later life such as employment, pay and even health and wellbeing as an adult. Research has shown that by teaching children 300 – 400 more words a year we can foster an annual growth of around 3000 to 4000 words. From EYFS to leaving school, we can therefore help children develop an essential word board of 50,000 words.
At BHTP, we carefully select the vocabulary that we want children to acquire using Isabel Beck’s three-tier hierarchy for words we should teach in the classroom. This vocabulary is reinforced throughout our wider curriculum, with a progressive build-up of key vocabulary across year groups.
Subject specific / Learnt through topic
e.g. atom, molecule, metamorphic, sedimentary, continent.
Important academic words that appear across the school curriculum, not typically in everyday talk.
e.g. hilarious, endure, despise, arrange, compare, contrast
Everyday common words that are learnt through conversation.
e.g. come, see, happy, table
Children then explore the meaning of the word through tasks such as:
By repeatedly exposing children to the words taught and encouraging their use in real-life situations and in other areas of the curriculum strengthens children’s ability to remember and use the word long-term.
Reading for pleasure
We believe that reading should be a fundamental part of childhood and a skill which should be developed to support lifelong learning and to encourage children to become lifelong readers. We are committed in our drive to encourage our children to read for pleasure. This begins in the early years with the development of a ‘love for books’ and continues throughout the school. Research shows a positive link between reading frequency, enjoyment and educational attainment. Reading for pleasure also has positive emotional and social benefits, improves text comprehension and grammar skills and increases general knowledge. We have several initiatives in school to encourage reading for pleasure: