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English - Reading


“Reading is the gateway for children that makes all other learning possible.”

Barack Obama

At St Nicolas we believe that reading is the master skill that establishes, enables and enriches further learning opportunities throughout the school.  Developing a confidence and fluency in reading is every child's birth right, opening up a world of information, books and reading for pleasure.  We are all readers at St Nicolas and all staff aspire to share this gift with our pupils.  From their first to their last day at St Nicolas, our young readers are encouraged to love and appreciate books and go off into life equipped with the skills to explore the world through reading.

Our aims are to enable children to:

  • Read accurately, fluently and with enjoyment
  • Gain access to a wide variety of fiction, poetry, plays and non-fiction
  • Be able to use reading skills to access information and support with their learning
  • Enrich their vocabulary through regular access to new and varied written language
  • Love reading for pleasure, and be passionate about books

What you will see

  • Children showing their love and enjoyment of reading, whether reading independently, sharing books with other children or adults, or recommending reads to other people.
  • A reading-rich environment, where books and reading are celebrated in every classroom, corridor and learning space. 
  • A beautifully organised library, dedicated to sharing and promoting beautiful books and reading adventures. 
  • Children being taught to read through our phonics programme, Rocket Phonics, which has its resources and practises embedded from Reception to Year 6. 
  • Staff who know each child as a ‘reader’, selecting appropriate materials that drive reading skills forward.
  • Children enthusiastically sharing a book as a class, having rich discussions about their reading and sharing their excitement and enjoyment. 
  • Children across the school taking books home to share at home. 
  • High quality, age appropriate texts promoted to pupils via our termly topic learning mats.

What you will hear

  • Children confidently talking about their love of reading with others, and making recommendations to their peers. 
  • All adults in school sharing their own love of reading with children.
  • Teachers reading to their class daily from a class book. 
  • Children confident to read with adults and other children. 

How we teach reading


Phonics means the sounds that letters, and groups of letters, make.  We teach phonics in our school using a teaching programme called Rocket Phonics'. The very first stage of phonics teaching begins in Foundation Stage, with children learning and joining in with songs, nursery rhymes and word games.

Children also begin short, daily, phonics sessions in reception classes.  These continue in Year 1 and Year 2, with children being taught the sounds in the English language and the letters that represent them - and how we blend sounds together when reading words.

From Year 3, phonics sessions are continued to be used to support learners who find reading challenging and require additional support.  Materials that support the use of phonics when reading can also be found in all year groups for pupils who require them.

Guided reading

Guided reading means when a class shares a book collaboratively with a teacher, focusing on the content, language and authorial techniques.  From the summer term in Year 1, classes have a guided reading session each day in school, exploring, reacting and processing a high quality text.  These sessions are generally delivered as a whole class although sometimes a more targeted group approach is used. Each session aims to provide children with the opportunities to dive deeper into reading comprehension through the analysis of vocabulary, inferring from the text, making predictions, explaining their responses, retrieving information, summarising and finally just sharing in the appreciation of a really good book. Sometimes these responses will be verbal, other times they will be written. 

Free reading

Free reading is when children are given an opportunity to choose a book that appeals to them from the many high quality reading resources we have in school. We encourage all the children to have a book they have chosen themselves that they want to read. This is especially important to develop a love for books and reading and could be a fiction or non-fiction text. Children could select their free reader from either the school library, class bookshelves, year-group ‘reading for pleasure libraries’ or from home.  Staff will provide encouragement and advice as to which books might be a good read, but this is ultimately left with the child’s personal choice.

Target reading

Alongside the whole class read and a text selected by the child themselves, all pupils from Reception to Year 6 are allocated a book based upon their reading capabilities. It is important that we ensure all children have access to reading materials pitched to both the word reading and comprehension level of each individual child. 

In Reception and Years 1 and 2, a phonetically decodable book is allocated to each child based upon their reading capabilities from our reading scheme.  Books are changed weekly and go home to support reading at home but must be accessible at any point during the school day to read in school.  Target reading books within the Rocket Phonics scheme are pitched to the point of teaching.  These additional texts are predominately used within school but are also available on online for Reception and Year 1.  Teaching staff aim to hear each child read at least once a week.

From Years 3 to 6, targeted readers may have been changed weekly, but with longer texts, additional time may be allocated for the children to read through them.  These books can be taken to read at home although they should be accessible to the child at any point during the school day to read with an adult.  By the Upper Years, as pupils become more independent in their reading habits and can access a wider scope of texts, some more able readers’ selected free read may also be their targeted read. 

Additional Support

We recognise that reading enables learning throughout the curriculum, so opportunities to develop fluency, word recognition and phonics skills are paramount to a rounded education.  Throughout the school year, teachers identify those who require additional reading support and provide them with daily one to one reading with an adult in school, specifically targeted to address any barriers to learning identified through diagnostic assessments.