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Garden Suburb Infant School

Reading & Phonics

We all recognise that learning to read is a crucial part of children’s skills development and one which will support all future learning.  Clearly the issue of how and when children learn to read is of great importance to parents/carers and can also be the source of a great deal of anxiety. 

Below is an outline of how we approach the teaching and learning of reading in Garden Suburb Infant School, together with the key skills needed for reading. We also set out some ideas about how parents/carers can support the process at home. 


Children learn to read by the gradual acquisition of a wide range of skills and strategies which they will use in a variety of combinations depending on the individual and the stage of development.

We use language rich texts to support the teaching of reading and these books are to be found in every class. These books are selected because they have interesting  stories, are well illustrated, have a good repetitive structure, and most importantly effectively support the development of key reading skills.


We teach phonics systematically, using the "Little Wandle Letters and Sounds" programme. Have a look at the sequence of phonic letters and sounds taught from Reception to Year One: Little Wandle Programme of study 

The Little Wandle website also has some great videos and information for parents to support children with the pronunciation of phonemes, formation of each letter sound as well as an understanding of how we teach phonics:                           Little Wandle Parents' Page

We aim to develop reading skills and a love of reading by:

· giving children access to a wide range of quality reading materials in  comfortable and secure environments.

· using books as the starting point of our planning putting books and reading at the heart of our curriculum.

· using games, songs and rhymes.

· developing memory and visual recall in a variety of ways.

· giving children many opportunities to listen to stories in English and in other  languages.

· encouraging active speaking and listening to develop children’s  vocabulary and  comprehension.

· planning a range of daily/weekly reading activities which focus on the development of different reading skills. 

· the systematic teaching of phonic skills progressing from Reception to Year 2.

· the systematic teaching of key/sight vocabulary.

· involving parents in the skills being worked on via the home/school reading record.

· using targeted questioning to develop the higher order reading skills of inference and deduction.

· giving children opportunities to read aloud to different  audiences.

Above all we aim to build children’s confidence and self belief in their abilities.

 WiDER Reading skills

What are the wider reading skills?

Reading is a very complex process!  In order to become fluent, confident readers   children need to:-

· have a positive attitude to stories and books.

· use and understand a range of spoken vocabulary

· be able to place pictures in a correct order, sequencing events.

· be able to memorise stories and retell them using the pictures

· hear and distinguish different sounds in the spoken word  before they can attach those sounds to graphemes (letters).

· understand that print or writing carries meaning and that it relates to the spoken word.

· identify writing/ print as being different from drawing or  patterns.

· recognise that in English books open on the right hand side and that reading  happens across the page from left to right, top to bottom.

· remember and recite familiar stories and rhymes. Nursery rhymes are very  important in the development of this skill.

· distinguish between the shapes and orientation of different letters. Some    letters can look very like each other, or even numbers.

· attach sounds to letters or groups of letters.

· recognise that groups of letters on a page form words.

· be able to use illustrations to help them when they cannot decode a word.

· have the ability to ‘remember’ certain words which are difficult to decode using phonic skills alone — key words/sight vocabulary.

 · be able to give meaning to unknown words by using context in which they are read and their knowledge of initial sounds.

 Frequently asked Questions

What happens if children find reading difficult?

Children learn to read at different rates and for a variety of reasons some children take longer than others to acquire the necessary reading skills.  We monitor all children’s progress very closely and if we feel a child is not making the progress we would expect we will discuss this with you. Following on from this s/he may receive extra help through regular small group work in addition to their usual classroom work.

Any additional support given is based upon the teacher’s professional judgement of what is appropriate for that child at that time. Naturally we will ensure that parents are involved and kept informed throughout.

What can parents/carers do to help children at home?

The most important thing you can do to help your child is not to over pressurise them.  Be realistic about what is achievable given their age and life experiences, recognising that lengthy periods in front of work books is generally unhelpful.   Children do not acquire skills in a consistent pattern but need time to consolidate and practise what a they have learned. A stressed child will not learn.

 Do's and Dont's

Here are some ‘do’s and don’ts to help:-


· Share books with your child every day, read to them - even if they are fluent readers. You do not have to read with them in English!

· Talk with your child which will extend and enrich their vocabulary. They are more likely to understand what they are reading if they have heard the words before and understand what they mean.

· Join a library to give them access to a really wide selection of books.

· Play simple word games like ‘I spy’ to develop an awareness of the sounds at the beginning or end of words,

· Make nonsense rhymes to develop their awareness of sounds at the ends of words - they don’t have to read them or write them just hear them!

· Read words in the environment - stop signs/ no parking etc.

· Allow your child the great comfort and pleasure of re reading familiar    simple books—this builds their confidence and nurtures a love of reading.

· Encourage your child to talk about what they are reading– why they have chosen the book, what they think will happen, what is their favourite part?

· encourage your child to read non fiction books too


· Cover pictures in their books and expect children to only use the text.   The illustrations are there for a reason and actively support reading       development.

· Teach your child the names of the alphabet and the sounds. Letter names are not helpful when forming words i.e. C (see) A (ay) T (tee) when joined together sounds like SE/AY/TEE and not cat!   

· Expect a tired child to read  - you read to them.

· Try to get your child to read ‘harder’ books too quickly. This can demoralise and demotivate them.

· Insist on word perfect reading every time and correct your child every time they make a ‘mistake’. If your child reads the word ‘house’ instead of ‘home’ it means that they are using appropriate strategies (context and the initial sound) and it is not helpful to stop and correct them. Too many interruptions disrupts fluency and undermines confidence.

 Definition of terms

The following explains the meaning of some of the terms used in the context of children learning to read.

Sequencing the ability to place images in an order which makes logical sense —telling a story without words.

Phonemes are the smallest units of sounds in words — what you can hear

Graphemes are the written symbol, the letter or group of letters which represent the sounds in spoken language.

Phonological awareness is an understanding that spoken words are made up of small units of sound and that these small units can be combined to form words (c/a/t). Children need to be able to hear and say these sounds in speech before they can attach them to written words.

Consonants are the following single phonemes: b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, w, x, y, z

Vowels are the following single phonemes and are found in every word in English:  a, e, i, o, u.  Sometimes ‘y ’ is considered a vowel.

Blends/diagraphs are combinations of consonants to make a sound i.e. fl, bl, sl, cl, pl, bl, gr, tr, br, cr, dr, pr, fr, wh, str, sw, sp, sc, sn, sm, sk

Vowel diagraphs are grapheme combinations in which the two vowels together make a single sound i.e. ai, ae, ou, ei

Blending/ synthesising means being able to join together sounds to make a word. Children need to be able to do this orally before they can do it with graphemes (letters)

Segmenting a word means being able to separate out the sounds within the word.

Decoding is the mechanical process of just using sound/letters to tackle words. Words can be ‘read’ in this way without a child understanding what they mean.

Inference is being able to take information from the text which is not actually written but which can be worked out by thinking about a character’s behaviour or events in the story.

phonics websites