London Fields Primary School

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Early Reading

Learning to read at London Fields

Teaching children to read and write independently, as quickly as possible, is one of the core purposes of a primary school. These key skills not only hold the keys to the rest of the curriculum but also have a huge impact on children’s self-esteem and future life outcomes.

Reading and writing are both two part processes; readers decode and comprehend, writers create and encode. In one respect, decoding and encoding are the ‘mechanical’ skills that children need to master in order to be able to comprehend what they read and write creatively. Research has shown that by teaching phonics thoroughly and rigorously to children, we can ensure that they use this knowledge to decode effortlessly and automatically. This means all energy can be focused on understanding and enjoying what is read and on composing and creating fantastic writing. 


How do you teach a child to read?

The English spelling code is one of the most complex in the world. It has evolved over hundreds of years and has had many different influences. As a result, our words are made up of combinations of 44 different sounds but many of these sounds are spelt in different ways in different words. Furthermore, we only have 26 letters to write these sounds down. This can lead to misconceptions for children, as letters combine together in different words to make different sounds. For example, the letter ‘a’ sometimes makes the sound /a/ (c-a-t), or, with other letters, the sound /ay/ (d-ay) or the sound ‘air’ (f-air).  This can be overwhelming.

In order to help the children conquer this complex code, we teach it to them systematically, using a system based on a programme called Read Write Inc (RWI).

We begin by teaching children to read the first thirty sounds (Set 1 Sounds) and to be able to blend these sounds to read words (i.e. to know that the sounds c/a/t can blend together to read the word cat). Once children have conquered this skill, they start reading phrases and then storybooks that include words made up of the sounds they know. This means that they can embed and apply their phonic knowledge and start to build their reading fluency. At the same time, we teach them how to write the sounds and use this knowledge to spell words, leading to writing short sentences.

 As children's confidence and fluency grows, we start to introduce further sounds (Set 2 and then Set 3) and the children read texts with increasingly complex sounds and graphemes (different ways of spelling the sounds, e.g. /igh/, /ie/ or /ay/, /ai/). They learn that a sound can be written using 2 or 3 or even 4 letters. We call this a grapheme (e.g. igh represent the /i/ sound in the word night). Equally they learn to use these graphemes to spell words.

 In short, the essence of our reading program is based on the belief that by reading the sounds, you can read the words, and so the story. But, if it is hard to understand what sounds the words are made up of, it is hard to read the words accurately and therefore hard to understand what has been read. Additionally, if it takes too long for a child to decode a word, it is difficult to understand the story as the meaning gets ‘lost’ in the individual words. Fluency and accuracy are key to comprehension.


What about comprehension?

Being able to decode a text alone is not enough. Children need to comprehend what they are reading and need to be actively taught key comprehension skills from a very early age. We do this through comprehension activities linked to the stories the children come to read with Read Write Inc, and also through a range of different literacy activities based around core texts shared with the children in class. We know that good readers question, check and engage with their own understanding; these are some of the skills we seek to develop. We know that decoding and comprehension should not be taught in linear progression but need to be taught simultaneously.


Where does vocabulary fit in?

Our entire curriculum has a strong emphasis on vocabulary acquisition. Vocabulary is key to understanding and learning. Children need to know, through active teaching, what words mean in order to understand what they have read. 


How can we help at home?

There is much you can do to support your child at home.

  • Talk to them! The most important thing you can do is to talk to your child and listen to them when they are talking to you. Try to extend their vocabulary range and their skill at talking in increasingly more complex sentences. For example, try to teach them alternative words for ideas, or nouns they already know.
  • Read to them daily and always discuss the story you are reading to try to build your child’s comprehension skills and understanding.
  • Practise the sounds they know at home. There are flashcards available to buy from the school office.
  • Listen to your child read every day and embed this routine, encouraging reading for pleasure. 

Look out for our Early Reading Workshops for parents and carers, where you can find out more details of how to help at home. 

Please click here for a comprehensive parent guide to RWI phonics. The downloadable parent booklet (below) is also beneficial reading for home reading guidance.

If you need further advice or assistance with how best to help your child with their reading, please ask your child’s class teacher.


What does this all look like in practice?

The table below outlines our expectations. All children are individuals and learn at different rates. The expectations below are for an average child, with good attendance. Some children will make accelerated progress and some may need further support or intervention. For this reason, we organise our phonics groups according to where children are tracking in the program so that all children can have the appropriate level of challenge. We have daily, additional one to one phonics tutoring for Key Stage 1 children beginning in the Autumn Term and for Reception children from the Spring Term.


Year Group


Set 1 sounds



Reading ditties, Green books



Set 2 sounds



Purple, Pink and Orange books

Reception/Year 1


Set 3 sounds

Year 1/2

Spring/Summer/Year 2

Yellow, Blue, Grey books

Year 1/2

Summer/Year 2

More Information

Please see the document below from our Early Reading parents meeting for more information about our early reading programme and how you can support at home.

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Where to next?

Once children have learnt to read independently, they move onto our Literacy programme. All of our teaching and learning is now directed at developing comprehension skills and writing. Lessons are focused around a series of carefully chosen, quality texts which act as the stimulus to teach higher level comprehension, build knowledge and develop a love of reading.


Please see the English subject page for further information about our English curriculum.