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Reading and Phonics

At St. Bernadette's, we are wholly committed to providing a high-quality, ambitious approach to the teaching of reading. Our reading strategy involves a rigorous and systematic approach to the teaching of the technical skills of reading whilst also engendering a love of reading for pleasure. Our aim is that every child becomes a confident, resilient reader who is able to decode and understand a wide range of texts across the curriculum from the earliest point. In order to achieve this aim, we have a rigorous and systematic approach to the teaching of reading across all key stages. 

Phonics: A strong and consistent approach to the teaching of phonics is a vital requirement to starting a child on their reading journey. At St. Bernadette's, we follow a Systematic Synthetic Phonics programme: Essential Letters and Sounds - one of DfE's approved schemes. ELS is designed to teach children how to read through the act of decoding and blending - teaching children how to make links between the sounds of our language (phonemes) and the written representation of these sounds (graphemes), or the spellings of the sounds contained within the English language. Our pupils in Early Years and KS1 have a dedicated phonics lesson every day. Where pupils in LKS2 are identified as needing further support with phonics, they continue to access a daily phonics lesson. If you would like further information on ELS you can visit ELS Parent Presentation

Reading lessons:  In addition to daily phonics lessons, pupils in KS1 access two reading lessons per week. The pupils are immersed in a wide range of literature that focus on developing our pupils’ love of reading. They are given the opportunity to meet new characters and escape to new worlds, whilst simultaneously developing their vocabulary and comprehension skills. As children move into KS2, reading lessons provide opportunities to expose children to a wide range of short stories (including fiction and non-fiction) extracts, poems and articles. During these lessons, children are supported to develop their confidence in clarifying unknown vocabulary, inferring and deducing ideas beyond the text and in linking ideas and themes within and across texts. 

English lessons: Sequences of learning in English are carefully planned to immerse pupils in a wide range of genres and texts with a focus on developing their reading ability and skills. Progression is ensured as objectives are taken from the National Curriculum programmes of study. In these lessons, children are provided with opportunities to apply the skills they have learnt in their discreet reading lessons. 

1:1 Reading: Pupils have opportunities to read their reading books with a member of staff in a 1:1 setting. This provides the teacher with the opportunities to closely assess the skills children are developing and applying and to ensure children are reading books at an appropriate level. When pupils are considered to be falling behind, class teachers read with those pupils up to 3 times per week. In KS2, where pupils are identified as reading below the expected standard, class teachers/support staff read with those pupils 1:1 every week. 

Reading for Pleasure: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” ― Dr. Seuss

We want our children to be confident, able, fluent readers, but we also want to take them on adventures to new worlds, meet an array of characters and escape when there is no place else to go! At St. Bernadette’s, we support children to identify books they enjoy through daily reading for pleasure in every class. During these sessions, we use our carefully chosen reading spine to introduce a range of different genres, as well as hosting a wealth of protagonists and themes. Our reading 'themes' are broken into the Seven Stories of the world:

  • Overcoming the Monster
  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth


We have seven libraries reflecting each of these themes and children are encouraged to access these over break times and lunchtimes. 

Staff at St. Bernadette's lead and produce a termly BBCET Reading for Pleasure Spine for all primary schools across our Trust. The spine is a stunning collection of books selected carefully for their superb stories, exquisite illustrations and their ability to bind our school communities together with common experiences. 


Parental engagement:  We recognise the vital role parents play in every child's reading journey. However, we also know that the traditional 'reading meetings' we previously held in school had limited impact on parents' ability to best support their children. For parents in Reception, we offer a parental engagement intervention planned to develop their understanding of how young children learn to read. The programme runs for 1 term and involves a range of theory-based sessions for parents and classroom observations of phonics lessons and reading lessons. 

Wider opportunities: Our reading offer goes beyond the taught curriculum. We are constantly exploiting opportunities to promote reading to develop a love of reading through our beautifully planned and stocked Seven libraries which can be found around school, our 'Bernie's Bookworms' club and facebook page, exciting newspaper and magazine subscriptionsChatterbooks after school club and whole school 'For the Love of Reading' days.

Home reading: Pupils in Reception and Y1 take home a phonics book that has been carefully chosen based on the range of phonemes children have shown a competency in segmenting and blending. This ensures children can read these books at home competently, leading to a more successful and enjoyable experience for all. Once children have demonstrated a sound ability in phonics, they are also provided with a second book each week - again, closely matched to their phonics competency. Children then continue to take books home each week from a range of reading schemes including: Oxford Reading Tree, Project X books, Oxford Owls and PM books. 

Children are encouraged to read regularly at home through the use of reading records and incentives. We have a whole school reading challenge which motivates children to read due to a range of incentives and provides us with the opportunity to celebrate success in reading as well as promote a culture of book sharing and recommendations - from both staff and pupils. We use a social media page 'Bernie's Bookworms' to share recommendations with parents and children as well as to promote a love of reading.