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Reading & Phonics

Learning to Read

Reading is probably the most important skill that a child will learn in primary school.  It opens up a whole new world of learning and imagination.

At St Mary's, children are taught to read using a range of different approaches. This includes Phonics Skills for decoding, using Picture and Context clues and learning High Frequency Word recognition.


We use a range of reading schemes which are matched to the needs of the reader. These include phonetic story books and books with a more story-based approach.

Phonetic books are used to give children early success using their phonic skills. The majority of words in these books can be decoded by sounding out the letters in each word and blending the sounds together. We use a range of schemes, mostly from "Oxford Reading Tree". When children can read phonetic books well they will move them onto a story approach (sometimes alternating between reading a phonetic book with a story approach book).


Story approach books have been designed for children to read using a range of different skills. Children will be reading using a whole story approach and will be using pictures and context clues to make sense of the text. Children will need to be able to read for meaning to fully access these books. Story approach books have far less words that can be decoded phonetically and children will be asked to recognise much harder words from early books (words such as ‘Kipper’, ‘children’, ‘barbecue’) in the context of the story. These books require a whole different range of skills. Children need to know that some words can be sounded out, some words are ‘remembering words’ and some words can be guessed in the context of the sentence or by using picture clues.


Please note that children should not be purely kept on phonetic books once they start to read independently. They will think they can read everything but they will only have experienced one set of skills. They need a range of skills to read effectively at a higher level.


Helping your child at home:

Please read with your child regularly at home.


What to do if a child gets stuck on a word

  • Encourage the child to find clues in the pictures as to the meanings of words.
  • Suggest that he reads to the end of the sentence if a word is unclear - this might help with the meaning of the word.
  • Ask the child “What would make sense there?” and encourage guessing.
  • If the child gets really stuck on a word, you could give him the first sounds to help him. Break the word down into smaller parts (syllables) if that helps.
  • Read the word for him if that helps the flow.
  • If the child guesses a word, and it’s nearly right, and fits the sense, let him go on with the story.


  • Read along with the child if he is nervous
  • Re-read familiar books to increase the child’s confidence
  • Praise the child for getting a word right
  • Aim to make the reading experience fun, cosy and time together you enjoy.


Guidelines for sharing a book with a younger child

  1. Ask child the title of the book.
  2. Can child tell you something about the story – before they begin to read?
  3. Ask child to point to each word as they follow the text.
  4. Encourage child to work out words for themselves – or even just the beginning sound.
  5. Encourage child to use picture clues with their reading.
  6. If they finish the book they are reading – play the game “Find the Word” ask them to find random words in book, eg she, went etc. or go through word cards by making it into a game (ask class teacher for ideas).
  7. If a child reads a book easily, ask them to tell the story in their own words or to think of a different ending.
  8. For children with longer texts – read part of the book and ask child to tell the rest of the story in their own words.
  9. Write a constructive comment in reading diary – eg X was able to recognise words at random today, X was able to recognise initial sounds.
  10. Some children may only be looking at picture books – so encourage them to talk about what is happening in the pictures.
  11. If sharing a familiar story e.g. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, encourage children to join in repeated phrases.

Guidelines for sharing a book with older children

  1. Discuss about the book and ask the title.
  2. Can the child tell you the author or find the name of the author?
  3. If the child is well into the story can they tell you about the main character(s)?
  4. Can they tell you what has happened so far in the story?
  5. Can they predict what might happen next?
  6. After reading can they answer questions on what has been read?
  7. Do they understand the message in the story?
  8. Encourage child to work out new words – breaking down into phonemes (sounds).
  9. Have a dictionary at hand and encourage child to write down and look up maybe two new words as this will help extend vocabulary.
  10. If they finish book they are reading, ask if they enjoyed it/which bit they most enjoyed.  Ask them what was their favourite section?  Why?  If they did not enjoy it – encourage them to say why?



What is Song of Sounds?

  • Multi-sensory with kinaesthetic, auditory and visual activities that reinforce skills through a variety of learning styles making it ideal for pupils with English as a second language
  • Song is integral to the programme to help children remember every phoneme, a highly active approach with whole-body actions and lots of games to aid learning
  • Carefully differentiated, contains support and challenge tips to cater for every child in the classroom
  • Bring phonics to life with a fresh, lively, hands-on approach to teaching phonics with engaging, interactive activities that reinforce learning
  • Created and developed in the classroom by teachers, Liz Webster and Sue Reed, whose school saw a 90% success rate in the 2015 screening check.

What is Song of Sounds and what does it include?

Sue Reed, co-author of Song of Sounds, discusses how the new hands-on kinaesthetic phonics programme meets the learning needs of your whole class -- and puts the fun back into phonics. To find out more visit:

Song of Sounds

Teach your little one letter sounds and blends with this short video!