The big push in English is in reading.

It forms a big part of our school development plan and we are trying to raise the profile of reading at home and at school. The following letter was recently sent out updating parents on our reading initiative:

An update on reading initiatives

Dear Parents and Carers,

At the beginning of the year, I asked parents to complete a reading questionnaire. We asked you to suggest ways that the school could promote reading and received the following responses. I have made comments in bold where we stand on each point:

  • Make reading schemes more varied, include some non-fiction. Find a better KS1 reading scheme, Oxford Reading Tree outdated!
    Yes, we agree that it is probably time for Biff and Chip to hang up their Magic Key. I met with two publishing salespeople and the school decided on the Collins Big Cat Reading Scheme. The reasons for choosing the scheme were numerous. It has a nice balance with fiction and non-fiction, it introduces the phonic sounds in line with our phonic scheme, it is up-to-date and looks at contemporary topics. But really importantly, it is a scheme that goes from Foundation, through to Key Stage One and Key Stage Two. This means that we can now give our Year 3 and 4 readers the structure of a differentiated reading scheme. Also, the children in Years 5 and 6 that we feel will benefit, can also take part. Children will start coming home with the new books after Christmas – please see me if you have any questions.
  • Re-stock library, visiting authors more frequently.
    We have so far spent around £900 on brand new, contemporary books, by top authors and the children seem very excited by the restock. The children love visiting authors and we will look to continue to bring in authors.
  • Discourage my child from using the computer/watching TV/playing on his iPad.
    We can ask, but this is a difficult one for us. Perhaps at home there can be a point where all electricals are turned off and everyone gets a book out for half an hour? (I’ve tried this at home!) Alternatively, turn the subtitles on when you watch TV! I did this with my kids too, and they can’t help but read while they are watching TV (I call this stealth reading! – it’s great for vocabulary building too ).
  • Go to the school library more often.
    We agree this is a good point and we will try to use the library more effectively, now that the books are so good. But if you feel that your child in not changing their library book as often as you’d like, I am happy for you to help him or her change their book after school. If you need any help with this, please come and find me.
  • Organise book swaps.
    A fantastic idea! We have tried this before and we did try it again during Children in Need. But it will be something that we will try to timetable in regularly.
  • Make reading to parents part of homework.
    It is an expectation that children will read at home. We have set the children the challenge of reading at home four times a week to enter the book draw. For the younger ones, you will need to hear them read, as well as read to them. But with older children, I would say it is just as important to also set the expectation that they will go off and read independently as we are trying to teach lifelong reading habits.
  • Keep going with the book draw, it seems popular.
    Thank you! We have bought some new books and I have given KS2 an additional vocabulary building challenge. I have asked them to write any really interesting words that they come across or any words that they don’t understand, on the back of their book marks, and I will give a free book to the child that has their book mark drawn out, if it has four such words. I would say that we probably only have around half of the children entering the books draw, so we would appreciate any help you can give at home supporting the scheme!
  • Special book themes, a book week.
    I have come across a month by month list of reading initiatives that we will be undertaking through the year. The children will be writing to Santa this week, for example, asking him to buy a book for the class, recommending their favourite book.
  • Invite parents/grandparents into the classroom to share a favourite book.
    Yes, please. That would be great. If anyone out there would like to come into the classroom to share a favourite book, please let us know. The really brave might consider reading to the school in assembly! How about parents that have a love of reading and fancy running a book group? Please let us know if this is something that interests you.
  • Introduce some graphic novels into the library.
    Yes, we now have some graphic novels in the library.
  • School subscribe to magazines, such as National Geographical, RSPB, Woodland Trust.
    Another good idea, we will be looking to do this in the new year, as well as bringing in newspapers and comics.
  • Introduce a story time across the school, not just in KS1.
    Listening to stories is an important element of the Reading Curriculum and all classes should have a class novel.

We asked parents if they would like some help reading with their children and a number of you said that you would. This training could go in two directions:

  • Decoding – This would be phonics training, which is the way that we introduce sounds and blend them together.
  • Comprehension – This would be training on asking questions about the text, gauging the child’s understanding of what they read, as well as their enjoyment.

We will be looking to organise some phonic training in the new-year, and will let you know nearer the time when this will be. The new reading scheme has a section at the back that will give you ideas to explore with the child, so that you can help them to develop their understanding of the text. We will look to roll out the scheme in the new-year, and then canvas parents to see if they still think that further training is necessary.

Finally, if I may, I’d like to share with you some research that I have come across. According to the National Literacy Trust, an independent charity that is dedicated to improving literacy levels in the UK, the following statements are true: (from Parental Engagement – The Oxford Reading Trust)

  • Children of parents who take an active interest in their education make greater progress than other children.
  • In the primary years, family influences have a more powerful effect on children’s attainment and progress than school factors. A 29% effect of parents, at age 7, compared to effect of school 5%!
  • Gains in pupil achievement stemming from parental engagement initiatives tend to be permanent.
  • In schools with matched intakes, those with strong parental engagement tend to do best – they have higher attainment and fewer problems with behaviour.

Our children achieve well and a big part of this we can relate to parental support. Helping your child with homework, providing an expectation that reading will be done at home, modelling a love of reading, indeed learning and showing support for what we do at school is a powerful stimulus and will give our children early advantages that will create a foundation of lifelong learning.

We appreciate your responses to our questionnaire and advise that we will keep you informed of what we are doing in school on our reading initiatives.

Have a fantastic Christmas!

Aaron Battersby
English Subject Leader