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Great Missenden Church of England Combined School

An Academy of the Great Learners Trust


Reading Support for Parents


Reading comes in various stages to children and no matter which stage your child is working at reading at home is absolutely vital. It is through reading that we pick up many skills and styles of writing and confident readers often become the most competent writers.


At Great Missenden we approach reading as a vital life skill. For simplicity we can discuss the important stages of reading development by splitting the skill of reading into three parts, though of course there are no clear divisions between the following sections. We teach and the children learn all these aspects of reading, to a lesser or greater extent, simultaneously.


Decoding and Sounding Out: At first children learn the sounds each letter or group of letters make and then how to blend these individual sounds together to read out a word. At this stage constant practise is really important. Each time you read with your child you’re reinforcing the connections between different letters and the sounds they make. Each time they blend these letters together they are improving their speed and confidence until familiarity means that they will recognise by sight increasingly complicated words. At Great Missenden we teach decoding in Early Years and KS1 through daily phonic lessons. The children progress from simple phoneme (sounds) grapheme (written letter) correspondences, for example C A T, where each sound is linked to a single letter, to more complex words where sounds correspond to groups of letters, such as TH R EA D. Moving forward the children will learn how, in English, the same sound can be generated in several different ways, for example – F and PH. Finally, we teach the spelling rules that exist in the English language to help children move away from phonetic spelling, for example – the j sound when found in the middle of a word is represented by the letter G not J, hence we write MAGIC not MAJIC. (The rare occasions when this is not the case occur when a word has been adopted from another language, such as BANJO).


Engagement and comprehension: As children begin to read books with increased independence the first and most important point to consider is engagement. It is essential that a child is engaged with a text. As adult we all remember the book that stimulated our own love of reading and an important part of our philosophy at GM is to encourage and guide our children to identify a similar passion for reading.


No matter the level your child reads at, books should be fun and engagement and comprehension go hand in hand. A child who is interested in a text will be more willing and able to engage with it on a deeper level. To understand what is happening in the story and to be able to answer increasingly complicated questions about it.


Reading with your children at home is of course incredibly important, but so is talking about the books you read together. Talking and questioning. Simple questions can be used to check understanding. We might call these questions ‘retrieval’ questions. The answer is in the text, the children just need to retrieve it. To use a well know fairy tale as an example- What did the first pig make his house out of? What did the Wolf say before he blew the second house down? Which two adjectives are used to describe the wolf?


The complexity of the questions asked can be scaled up to encourage children to deduce and infer information. This type of question often has not clear right or wrong answer and are great for stimulating discussion as to answer them the children will need to explain their answer. For example, Which of the three pigs is the eldest? Why do you think this? Why do you think the Wolf asks the pigs to let him in before he huffs and puffs? Are the first and second little pigs heroes or villains or something else?


Finally, questions can become even more creative by moving beyond the parameters of the books and getting children offer their opinions, to predict what might happen next and to invent their own sequels, prequels or ideas inspired by the original text. If there was a fourth little pig what would she have built her house out of? What do you think happened next in the tale? How could you change this story so it is set in space? A particular favourite of mine, to instigate conversation, is to make bold and ridiculous claims that children can’t help but respond to- e.g. The Big Bad Wolf is clearly the hero of the story because he has the best hat.


Linking the books they read with the words they write: When children are confident readers they often begin to experiment with writing their own little stories, often copying vocabulary, plotlines and stylistic flourishes from their favourite authors. We can support this by opening up our discussions about the books we read to include questions about why the author has done something. Why was that word written in bold? Why did the author spend so much time describing the villain? Our new approach to English, ‘Talk For Writing’, which we will be embracing across the school over the course of this academic year. The ‘Talk For Writing’ approach epitomises this concept of turning readers into writers. In each unit of work children will be reading and learning off by heart engaging and aspirational texts which they will then adapt to create their own independent writing. We will not only be supporting the children as they read and comprehend, but we will also be encouraging them to read as writers, to learn new skills to improve their own writing and to believe in themselves as the authors of the future.


To summarise:

Read with your children as often as you can. They can read to you or you to them, or a wonderful mixture of the two! Discuss and explore the books you read together. Question your children, get them thinking about what is really going on in a story and encourage their own imaginings when they are inspired by the books you read. Finally, encourage them to put pen to paper and have a go and being an author themselves.