To read or not to read?
Our children at The Elms love reading. We have a wonderful reading culture, a well-resourced library and popular reading schemes. Our staff enthusiastically promote reading and we have a knowledgeable children’s librarian in Mrs Hyde, who can always recommend a good book or two!
You may have read, or listened to the interviews with Dr Andrew Davis this week. He is a research fellow at Durham University who criticised the forced learning of synthetic phonics for children who can already read when they start school as being “almost a form of abuse”. In his publication, ‘To Read or Not to Read”, he argues that for children not yet able to read, an emphasis on synthetic phonics can give them the illusion that ‘proper’ reading is “decoding and blending”.
We strongly believe that a varied, balanced approach is best. Children are all unique and approach their learning in different ways, so an over emphasis on one single strategy would be ineffective and detrimental to a child’s development. Reading is a complex process involving a range of elements, skills and techniques, starting foremost, with the essential skill of language and communication. Due to its complexity and numerous elements, a rich variety of techniques and activities are absolutely essential. From picture books and puppets, to board games, e-books, reading comprehension, guided reading, role play, drama, mime, dance, flashcards, wordlists and word building using apparatus…..the possibilities and opportunities we provide at The Elms to nurture and encourage our ‘little bookworms’ are endless!
Our youngest children in the Foundation Stage build on the skills and experiences acquired from home. Within a busy, balanced curriculum, we strive to develop the children’s language and communication skills. Good communication skills open the door to access all areas of learning and help the children to develop effective relationships with their peers. The power of the spoken word is imperative and remains so throughout a child’s school career.
‘Reading’ starts with developing an awareness of the environment and an appreciation that signs, labels, pictures and photographs carry meaning. Children will begin to make sense of what they see based on their personal experiences and interactions with adults and older siblings. As children enjoy their picture and storybooks, they gradually become acquainted with the alphabet. This provides the early tool kit for decoding and reading strategies.
We utilise Jolly Phonics as our main scheme to introduce the children to sounds and letters. It is a particularly effective resource as it incorporates auditory, visual and kinaesthetic strategies, so that there is something for everyone. Not only does it support the acquisition of reading skills, it also forms the basis for early writing strategies.
As the children progress through Reception, word building strategies involving phonic sounds are introduced and modelled to the children. The use of synthetic phonics is vital in this process….how else can a child read cat without knowing the sounds as opposed to the letter names? The children are gradually shown alternative methods of making their sounds and digraphs as well as developing a sight vocabulary comprising of words that cannot be decoded and need to be learned. This synthetic phonics and whole word approach to reading and writing are developed and continued throughout Key Stage One and into Key Stage Two. We have a wide variety of reading materials in our library and reading areas. To gain full access and enjoyment from these books, both strategies are essential.
Clearly, our approach to teaching reading at The Elms works! Recent analysis of our standardised reading scores shows that around 25% of our Year 6 children achieve a reading age (at 11) in excess of 14 years and around 10% of our Year 6 children reach a reading age beyond 17 years!
In addition, at The Elms, we pride ourselves on building in our children a love of books. We encourage an enthusiasm for the traditional quality texts but also the very latest reads. In addition we run competitions, schemes and events (such as visiting authors and our Reading Champions) throughout the school to promote and reward our children in that most important and fundamental element of learning, a love of reading!
‘The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go’
From Dr Seuss ’I Can Read With My Eyes Shut’
Our Foundation and Key Stage One Literacy Co-ordinator, Mrs Emma Large will be running a Phonics evening on Wednesday 5th March.