Reading at Ellel St John’s

We love books and reading at Ellel St John’s! We aim to make sure our children are immersed in books from the time they join us in Reception to when they leave at the end of Year 6. Children have access to a wide range of good quality reading materials in their own classroom reading corners, through our reading schemes, in the stimulating range of books we use for our ‘Guided Reading’ sessions and also in our well stocked school library.

As well as developing in our children a love of books and knowledge of genres and authors we also provide them with clear building blocks to develop the skills they need to become fluent readers. From starting in Reception, children are taught Phonics following the progression in ‘Red Rose Letters and Sounds’, a systematic, synthetic approach to learning how to read. They move through the phonic phases until they are confident and enthusiastic readers.

We use a range of reading schemes linked to the Phonic Phases. These books are all colour coded for easy recognition and graded in order of difficulty. We encourage parents to become involved by reading to, listening to or just talking about books with their children. Reading diaries are used to record books read and also as a means of communication between parents and teacher to help support the reading process. A variety of events are held throughout the year to inform and educate parents on their role and how they can best help their children. The school also makes use of Reading Volunteers to listen to children read across the school.


We use a wide range of reading schemes to ensure breadth and depth in the early stages of reading. Children should be able to read the books sent home to an adult with relative ease and should be able to discuss the content of the book and make predictions. Books with more challenge are used within Guided Reading session in school to teach new skills and to make sure that children are making progress. We believe it is important that children have a rich diet of texts so we ensure that our reading schemes are supplemented by a selection of other reading material. All classes have a weekly trip to the school library where they are shown how to select their own books using the Junior Library system and encouraged to read a wide selection of books. In class children us reference books and dictionaries, both as hard copies and online, throughout the curriculum. In addition to this stories, non-fiction and poetry are read to the children.

Reading in the EYFS

At Ellel St. John’s Primary School we believe it’s never too early to read with a child. Sharing books, stories and rhymes is a daily part of learning to read, this not only promotes a love of reading but also an awareness of how information can be retrieved from text. Learning how to read is magical, for both children and their parents. We respect and support early reading skills with a fun and interactive approach which kindles a lifelong love of books and the joy that reading can bring.

Letters and Sounds – Early Phonics

We believe it is important that children build up an awareness of reading and those basic reading skills as soon as possible. We recap Phase One Phonics which is covered in Preschool. This phase provides children with lots of speaking and listening activities which are essential to early reading development. The aim of phase one is for children to become attuned to the sounds around them as they engage in lots of rhyme and rhythmic activities. This is something we explore to ensure these basic skills are embedded before the children move on to Phase Two. Parents can help their children at home by singing lots of nursery rhymes and sharing stories together every day.

In Reception Class the children move on to Phase Two, Three and Four following the ‘Letters and Sounds’ progression. We teach the children the sounds of the letters of the alphabet using the ‘Jolly Phonics’ actions. Each sound is taught using a picture, an action and a song to help the child to remember it. Some sounds are written with just one letter, but others are written with two letters, such as ‘ee’ and ‘ai’. When we teach the children the sounds, we say the sounds as they are in words. The sounds are not introduced in alphabetical order. The first sounds introduced are s, a, t, p, i and n. This is because they make more three letter words than any other set of six letters, and once the children know these they can start learning to blend the sounds together in order to read words.

Please click on the attachment to find a list of the sounds in the order that they will be taught and the corresponding actions- Jolly Phonics Actions

You can also read the Ellel St. John’s guide to phonics here – Phonics Booklet

An active, fun approach is taken to teaching within each phase. During these phases the children are not only introduced to the sounds but they also learn how to blend and segment letter sounds as they make the first steps of reading and writing. Children are first introduced to books without words. These are shared both in class as well as at home with parents. Books without words allow the children to develop their speaking skills as well as their imagination. Once children begin to blend and segment words and are working confidently within Phase 2 phonics, Phase 2 appropriate books are sent home. These books are carefully selected to ensure that children are able to practise identifying and blending the sounds they have already learnt. Children will not be sent home with books that include sounds they have not yet learnt in school. As each child progresses through the phonic phases and become more confident with a wider variety of sounds, they will receive books of suitable challenge, again including only familiar sounds.

In Year One the children recap the previously taught phonics sounds before moving on to Phase 5 phonics. Spelling homework is linked to the phonics teaching and, for any children who are not achieving the year group expectations, we will ensure there are intervention / booster groups and phonics support packs are sent home.  Year 2 build on Phase 6 phonics and, for children who did not pass the phonic screening check in Year 1, extra provision is provided.

Reading at Home and in School

To be ready to start reading, children need to have a variety of skills in place. These early reading skills include matching, rhyming, awareness of phonics and the skills associated with language development such as listening, attention, alliteration and sound discrimination. At Ellel St. John’s Primary School we feel it is just as important that we help to develop these skills in school as it is for you to help develop them at home.  A focus is placed on developing listening and attention skills as well as early speaking skills through a selection of fun and inviting activities.

Children in Reception Class visit the library each week in order to choose a library book to take home and share with their families. These books range in difficulty and are sent home in order to be shared with family and not necessarily for the children to access independently.

As mentioned above, children in Reception Class will be sent home with books that are suitable for their reading level. These will be changed twice a week, as appropriate. We recommend that parents and children read daily in order to continue to practise the relevant reading skills in order for our children to become confident and fluid readers.

In Key Stage One we continue to develop a love of reading and build upon our strong reading foundation developed in EYFS. Children have access to daily story time, they visit the library on a weekly basis, and are taught at the instructional level through guided reading at least once a week. Reading books are changed as and when a child has finished their book, staff regularly check a child’s understanding through questioning as well as listening to them read regularly. We have inviting reading areas with home reading books available at their level. The children and adults have lots of opportunities to share books.

Our Reading Areas

Children enjoy cuddling up, looking at books and listening to stories. We ensure that we create an inviting book area that provides children with opportunities to experience different kinds of print.

It is important that children experience an environment that is rich with texts so therefore we have:

  • a range of reading materials throughout our setting, including outside
  • magazines in our role play area and cookery books in our home corner
  • home-made instruction books in our construction area
  • home-made books celebrating our experiences in our reading area
  • meaningful labels with words and pictures displayed throughout your setting
  • props from familiar stories in your role play area so children can act out their favourite stories
  • a range of visual cues and props that can support children to understand words.

Rhymes and rhyme times

Did you know that if children know eight nursery rhymes by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight? Rhyming helps children to break words down and to hear the sounds that make up words in preparation for reading and writing. At Ellel St. John’s we really do love singing songs and have a rhyme time with children every day.

We also try to make up our own songs and rhymes. We use rhymes with actions and props to support multi-sensory learning. We also draw children’s attention to alliteration and rhyming words.

Support for parents at home