We believe that reading can open doors for our pupils, improving their language and vocabulary skills and stimulating their imaginations. Cognitive scientists argue that one of the strongest drivers of reading ability is prior knowledge, which is why we prioritise reading a range of texts across the curriculum. There is general agreement in the world of education that the ultimate goal of reading is to gain meaning and understanding. Therefore, we use the Reading Gems to teach a broad range of comprehension skills.
When teaching early reading, our first priority is the teaching of systematic phonics to ensure that children can decode texts. Children practise these word-reading skills by reading decodable texts so that they experience success and build fluency when using phonemic strategies and will know all the phonemes in these texts before they read them. The children develop their word-reading skills by meeting the phonemes in new contexts, developing efficiency in blending and reading words in a meaningful sentence.
Alongside this, through Guided Reading and our use of the Reading Gems, we teach the skills of comprehension needed to be competent readers, readers who can gain meaning and understanding from the texts they read. Using banded books and the Reading Gems, the children learn how to use a range of strategic activities to problem-solve on continuous texts. The colour bands and our Reading Spine provide a gradient of challenge which is constructed around the developing complexity of content and language structure, book structure, use of the alphabetic code, the format and the role of illustrations.
Guided Reading lessons provide opportunities for children to write about reading. Guided Reading lessons take place at least twice a week, and answers to Reading Gem questions are written by children at least once a week. These written answers can be seen in children’s books and show progression over the course of each year. When planning reading, teachers ensure that all relevant Reading Gems are covered regularly and in a sensible order over the course of each term. When planning reading, teachers ensure that a range of question types are used within each Reading Gem over the course of each term and each year.
We also know that reading for pleasure contributes to educational success; at Silver Springs, we are dedicated to developing this life-long love of reading. Every class reads at least one novel or story collection with their teacher over the course of every term. There are multiple daily opportunities to expand children’s vocabulary through reading. As our Reading Spine attests, a range of sophisticated and inspiring texts are used to broaden children’s horizons and enrich learning across the curriculum. Our Reading Spine draws on recommended texts from across all genres and includes suggestions for further reading both in and out of the classroom. Furthermore, all children in every year group take home age- and ability-appropriate books to read with their families every week.
Through the teaching of systematic phonics, Guided Reading, and continuous engagement with Reading Gem questions, children will become fluent readers by the end of Key Stage One. This way, children can focus on developing their comprehension as they move through the school. Attainment in reading is measured, and reported, using statutory assessments at the end of Key Stage One and Two. However, the impact of our reading curriculum goes beyond the results of assessments. By the time children leave Silver Springs, they will be competent readers who have a thirst for reading, can actively participate in discussions about books and make book recommendations to their peers.
Because we know that success in reading and writing is underpinned by a diet of high-quality texts, we encourage all children to immerse themselves in a variety of genres with rich, wide vocabulary, across the curriculum, providing time and space for children to explore texts in greater depth.
Evidence from Cognitive Science tells us that one of the strongest drivers of reading ability is background knowledge. It provides vocabulary, allows us to bridge gaps which writers leave, increases room in working memory and supports inference. Which means that when we are teaching the broader curriculum, we are also teaching reading.
At Silver Springs, we want all our children to enjoy stories with family at home. However, we recognise that children come to us with a very wide range of starting points and that many parents lack confidence in helping their children with reading at home. We address this through a range of parental engagement and enrichment initiatives supplemented by support materials.