Reading and Phonics

At Whitefield we believe that learning to read is one of the most important things your child will learn at our school. Reading opens up all their other learning so we put as much energy as we possibly can into making sure that every single child learns to read as quickly as possible.

Our slogan is

“Whitefield Reader Life Achiever”.

We want your child to love to read and so want to read for themselves. We work hard to promote reading for pleasure by sharing stories, having class and family library times, developing author visits and exciting reading events. We link closely with the Open University Reading for Pleasure initiative and we have two wonderful Patrons of Reading – Pippa Pixley and Levi Tafari.


The foundations of early reading are laid in Nursery where the focus is initially on developing careful and accurate listening and having fun with sounds, words and sentences. The children learn good reading behaviour by imitating our teachers’ excellent models. Our children are encouraged to ‘read’ words and captions around our text rich learning environment and to compose their own. Our young children soon learn to share our love for reading.

This is the start of the Letters and Sounds programme which we use to systematically teach reading and phonics in our early years classes and through KS1.

Phonics is a way of teaching children to read quickly and skilfully. They are taught how to:

  • recognise the sounds (phonemes) that each individual letter makes;
  • identify the sounds (phonemes) that different combinations of letters make – such as ‘sh’ or ‘oo’; and
  • blend these sounds together from left to right to make a word. Children can then use this knowledge to ‘de-code’ new words that they hear or see. This is the first important step in learning to read

All the children are regularly assessed and taught according to their current level of phonic knowledge and skill. These groups are fluid and children will move groups throughout the year. Sessions take place daily and are taught by highly trained staff.  We use Storytime Phonics as a tool alongside the Letters and Sounds approach to support our EAL learners and those with language delay, and to develop a love of reading.

Further details of Letters and Sounds can be found here (add link)

The order your child will learn the sounds is here – letters and sounds order:

In addition the school uses PM Benchmark to assess children’s reading strategies to ensure they receive the right intervention to support their learning to read. The school uses a wide range of books as part of a sequenced reading scheme to support the children with developing fluency as they progress into Key Stage 2.

We also use Letters and Sounds as the basis of a tailored programme for children in Key Stage 2 who have gaps in their phonic knowledge.

Home reading

Reception and Year 1 children will take fully decodable reading books home to further practise the skills learnt at school. These books are matched to each child’s phonics ability and are chosen by their teachers to ensure that children are reading books of an appropriate level.

In addition each child visits the school library every week to select a book of their choice to share at home. This book will probably not be fully decodable for your child so the expectation is not for the child to read this book themselves. We believe strongly that children will develop a love of reading through experiencing success when reading at home and having quality story time with a wide range of books.

The best way to help your child achieve well in reading, and indeed across the curriculum, is to listen to them read and to share and discuss a variety of reading materials as often as you can. Throughout school, high quality books and other reading resources in the classrooms, along with special events such as author visits, help to inspire and motivate children to read. Each week we celebrate our Reader Leaders in each year group in assembly (should we have eyfs reader leaders – can do in class?) Parents are encouraged to hear their child read every day, or as often as possible and return their reading bag and log to school.

Throughout school we use a variety of reading scheme texts and non–scheme books to ensure children learn and apply a range of reading strategies. We endeavour to purchase/provide books/texts that engage boys and girls and their interests.

Our book organisation system is based on Book Bands and Reading Recovery levels up to Lime level. This  includes a coloured band & number which correspond to reading levels. Each level has carefully chosen words, phrases, phonics, and comprehension . At Key Stage 2 books are organised into year groups with an appropriate range of challenge and content.

You are welcome at the Reading Café each week to share books and talk to our reading lead Mrs Cotton for ideas and support.

At the end of Year 1, all our children take a national test in phonics. We support our children to do well in this. By Year 2 outcomes for all our children in reading are consistently above the national average in all benchmarks.

When children join our school after the start of reception, their phonic knowledge and reading behaviours are assessed by teachers and they are supported in line with that assessment. If we need to fill any gaps in their phonic knowledge staff will work on a tailored programme with them. If they are new to English the teaching of phonics will happen in parallel with the acquisition of spoken English and vocabulary.

Through out the whole school reading is taught daily. Children are taught to read in guided reading sessions with teachers and support staff. Children are taught in groups or individually and have access to a wide range of interventions, including Reading Recovery. Children are also able to apply learned skills in a variety of activities.

Reciprocal Reading is used from Year 2 to Year 6. In these sessions children are taught how to develop higher order reading skills using the following techniques:

  • Predicting
  • Questioning
  • Clarifying
  • Summarising

Children read in as many situations as possible, not just in reading lessons. Reading takes place in all lessons, using books and electronic devices.