St John Bosco Catholic Primary School

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Phonics & Reading

Reading Vision Statement

At St John Bosco Catholic Primary School, we believe that ‘reading is the gateway skill that makes all other learning possible’ (Barack Obama: 2005) and as such, is fundamental to our children’s success across the whole of the curriculum and in their lives beyond their time in our school.

We strive to ensure that our children are taught to read with fluency, accuracy, confidence and enthusiasm both in discreet reading opportunities and across the wider curriculum. Ultimately, we aspire to develop in our children a love of reading which will last them a lifetime.

Cressida Cowell (Children’s Laureate 2020-21) reinforces the importance of reading as a school priority: “Study after study has shown how reading for pleasure is vital for academic success, mental health and even later economic success. By sparking growing imaginations, stimulating critical thinking and helping to develop empathy, reading gives children the very skills they need to succeed at school, at work and in life”. 

At our school we are passionate about giving our children the very best life chances we can, therefore we are relentless at making reading a school priority. It consistently forms a part of the school development plan which ensures that all elements are monitored, their effectiveness evaluated, actions reviewed and necessary professional development provided.

The teaching of reading at our school, is based on the five essential components needed to develop fluent, confident readers:

  • Phonemic awareness - the ability to hear, identify, move or change sounds (phonemes), in spoken words.
  • Phonics – recognising the link between sounds (phonemes) and letters (graphemes) to decode words.
  • Fluency – the ability to read accurately, quickly and with expression.
  • Vocabulary – knowing the meaning of words to help in order to understand what they are reading.
  • Comprehension – understanding and interpreting what they have read.


Reading Implementation

Reading is a school priority within our School Development Plan. School leaders and governors recognise that reading is a skill that gives children access to the rest of the curriculum and to life-long learning. We ensure training and monitoring of reading is in place and it is regularly reviewed.


Phonics from the start

We use the systematic synthetic phonics programme (Bug Club Phonics) in the Early Years and KS1 to deliver our daily phonics and support our children’s reading and spelling.  Our daily phonics sessions follow a very structured format and the children are also taught to read and spell words from the National Curriculum and are tested on these. The structured sessions include handwriting and revision of a previous sounds/spelling patterns, learning to read new words, including those words in dictated sentences and developing memory skills to aid retention of new words. Phonics application and progress is tracked throughout the school and smaller teaching groups and fluid groupings allow for children to make accelerated progress.


Programme and Progress

At St John Bosco, we use the Bug Club Phonics programme to get children off to a flying start with Reading. Bug Club Phonics is a phonic based approach to teaching reading. It involves children learning to read sounds and how to blend them together to read words through a successful reading programme that enables every child to become a confident and fluent reader. It aims to teach all children to read at a pace that they are comfortable with.

Guided Reading (Key Stage 1 ) - Upon completion of their taught phonics session, the children will then take part in a grouped guided reading session which incorporates sounds and tricky words linked to the phonics session and relevant phase. To support this, the adult, prior to the read, will conduct a memory retrieval practice activity using flash cards of sounds and tricky words. The children will then be taken on a ’walk through’ of the book so as to familiarise themselves with the content before then reading the book as a group, where each individual is able to read specific pages.  The children read with an adult between 2-4 times (depending upon the needs of the child/group) during the week and each book is read multiple times so as to ensure:

  • Familiarity and Decoding skills,
  • Fluency and Comprehension,
  • The Development of Prosody and Expression (modelled by the lead adult). 

Guided Reading (Key Stage 2) - Guided reading is not only delivered in Key Stage 1, but also in Key Stage 2 as a key teaching strategy, particularly to support groups of children who could be at risk of not achieving age related expectations in reading.  Teachers and Teaching Assistants will work with each guided reading group every week, or guided reading will take place as part of a whole class activity.  The sessions are well planned and enable teachers to focus on the development of different elements of the ‘Five essential components to reading’.  Groupings remain flexible based on the ongoing assessment of pupils progress and are constantly adapted to the needs of the children within the group.

Reciprocal Reading (Key Stage 2) - Reciprocal reading is mainly delivered in Key Stage 2 (though not exclusively) and is often aimed at more confident readers. It is a structured approach to teaching reading strategies (such as questioning, clarifying, summarising, predicting and vocabulary acquisition) which we use to improve children’s reading comprehension. Again, teachers and teaching assistants will work with a group every week dependant on their needs (i.e. whether they are partaking in a guided reading session or reciprocal reading session) in to to support children’s understanding of written texts.

Better Reading (Key Stage 1 & 2 ) - Our Better Reading program is delivered in both Key Stage 1 & 2 and is used to support children who have fallen behind in their reading. This program is delivered on a 1 to 1 basis and is designed to enable the child to develop confidence and fluency through reading and re-reading books that match the grapheme-phoneme correspondences they know, both in school and at home.


Books match sounds

During the phonics/reading session, the children read phonic books that are closely matched to their increasing knowledge of phonics and ‘tricky’ words and, as children re-read the stories, their fluency increases. Along with a thought-provoking introduction, prompts for thinking out loud and discussion, children are helped to read with a storyteller’s voice.

Bug Club Phonics decodable readers have been written to match the order in which grapheme-phoneme correspondences are introduced in class, giving children the opportunity to practise their blending skills and to consolidate their knowledge. Each reader is available in print and as an eBook and is allocated to the children in these ways. The eBooks are invaluable in helping pupils to practise reading at home as they include a phoneme pronunciation guide to aid pupils’ blending skills.

This approach is mirrored in Key Stage 2 where children are allocated home reading books matched to their stage of development. A selection of banded eBooks are allocated using the Bug Club reading scheme and the children are also given a hard copy of a book to read at home from our Big Cat reading scheme which is again banded in relation to the individuals stage of development.


Catch up quickly

Children’s progress is regularly monitored through half-termly assessments. The children are given individual reading targets, which are then shared with the parents. Children are grouped into phonics groups depending on their ‘stage and not age’ to allow them to work at their level. Children who are not making expected progress are identified and intervention/sessions are put in place to ensure they make improved progress. Children who are identified as being in the lowest 20% for reading are heard read every day in school to help improve confidence, accuracy and fluency.


Early Reading Experts

All staff, including teachers and support staff working in KS2, have received phonics related training and the teaching of reading is regularly monitored by our school’s English Coordinators. All staff within our school understand the concepts and importance of having a consistent approach to phonics and reading and within KS2, the staff have developed an effective system for the teaching of spelling and guided/reciprocal reading to build on the skills that have been learned within KS1.


Love of Reading

At St John Bosco we are passionate about helping children to love reading, not just while they are with us, but for the rest of their lives.  We ensure that classes have a range of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books in their classrooms for children to access, which are regularly rotated and replenished; access to ’The News Shed’ children’s newspapers also provide an alternative to a traditional book.

We have recently heavily invested in converting our outside classroom into a bespoke school library where all of our children can enjoy a stimulating environment and the magic of reading a quality fiction book. Our children loan a reading-for-pleasure book from the library to share at home and we also have books for parents to enjoy too.

Our reading ambassadors make book recommendations to their peers as do teachers to children and peer-to -peer recommendations are made within the class. Opportunities are given for quiet, independent reading during the school day to enable children to engage with their chosen book as well as time to share books and read with an adult.

We have developed our own ‘reading spine’ – a selection of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – so that children at St John Bosco experience a broad range of high quality books and texts as class readers, as book studies in whole class reading and as independent reading books, thereby helping them develop their love of reading during their time with us.

To develop a love for reading at home, book recommendations for parents are made via our class pages and parents are signposted to websites such as Books for Topics and Lovereading4kids to help them select reading material for their children. There is an expectation that children read at home regularly and this is recorded in the reading diaries.

The celebration of World Book Day, World Read Aloud Day and other opportunities to recognise the importance and pleasure of books are planned for, as we are aware of the enjoyment that focusing on books and reading give to our children.