Reading is a complex combination of skills that become more and more sophisticated as we develop them.  In the early stages, learning to read often focuses on the ability to ‘decode’ – this means being able to read the words and, therefore, whole sentences. The two main ways children learn to decode is 1) memorising  - recognising what words look like and how to pronounce them; and 2) synthetic phonics – identifying the sounds that letters and combinations of letters create and blending them together to pronounce the word.

Phonics

Most of a child’s ability to decode and become a fluent reader will be taught at school through the use of a phonics teaching programme.  At Hamford, we use Letters and Sounds (DfE).  Your child will pass through six phases as they build up their knowledge of which letters and combination of letters (graphemes) produce which sounds (phonemes) and how they blend together to make whole words.  Coupled with their development of how to read these words, they will also learn how to segment (break up) the sounds within words to help them spell them correctly.  The complexities of the English language means that there are many words that have to be learnt through sight and phonological awareness will not help – these are known as ‘tricky words’.  Many of the most frequently used words in our everyday language and reading consist of these words – these are known as High Frequency Words (HFW).  Throughout the Early Years and Key Stage 1 it is paramount that children develop these decoding skills, so that they move from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ as they progress through school and life.  As a result, children have daily sessions to develop their decoding skills whilst in Reception and Key Stage 1.  If children are still finding it difficult to decode they will receive further phonics teaching in Key Stage 2.

To help at home, your child’s teacher may send particular letters, graphemes or word lists home so you can see which ones they are focusing on or finding difficult. Furthermore, when reading with your child, encourage them to use their phonics to work out unfamiliar words.  There are many websites and apps that support the learning of phonics – please click here to find out more. 


Comprehension

As well as the ability to decode, it is important for a child to develop their comprehension (understanding) of what they are reading.  This can be both when reading themselves or being read to by someone else.  There are many different elements that make up the comprehension of a text, so a variety of skills need to be taught, including:

1)    Recalling of information, events and ideas from the text

2)    Deducing, inferring or interpreting texts i.e. working out themes or ideas that are not actually in the text by using the clues

3)    Identifying the structure and organisations of texts

4)    Explaining how an author uses language for specific affects

5)    Identifying a writers purpose and viewpoint

6)    Relating texts to their social, cultural and historical context

Guided Reading sessions are carried out daily to help develop children’s comprehension.  At least once a week, children will work in a small group with their teacher to develop the skills listed above.

When you read with your child at home, it is helpful to question them about what they are reading.  Here are some question starters you could use, as well as the suggestions in the reading records:

§  What’s happening here?

§  What’s happened so far?

§  What do you think will happen next?

§  What makes you think that?

§  What words make you think that? Why?

§  How do you feel about………? Why?

§  Can you explain why………….?

§  What do you think the character is thinking?  If it were you what would you be thinking?

§  Which is your favourite part? Why? Which bit of the text shows this?

Finally, we expect children to read at least three times at home during the week to help develop their fluency – the books the school provides should help.  Please support them with this by either reading with them, listening to them or reading to them.  However, it is just as good and often better if you support and encourage your child to choose their own books to read or have read to them.  It is so important that children understand that one of the major reasons we read is for enjoyment!  Therefore, please support your child by exploring and sharing books by the quality authors listed below.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are new authors being published daily, but they are certainly worth a look for engagement and inspiration (they will also help develop your child’s imagination and ideas for writing – win win!).