In our fifty years of research and work with schools, we have long known the benefits for all children of making reading for pleasure a core part of the curriculum for all children. In July, the update to the DfE Reading Framework was published, and we are pleased to see this recognised more fully in this revised version, alongside the continued emphasis on phonics to support decoding.
There is much to be welcomed in the updated framework, but we also want to ensure that schools and settings interpret this new guidance with a wider view about what we know works in the teaching of reading, particularly at the early stages.
With Key Stage 2 results evidencing the continuing attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, the focus on reading, including older early readers, remains at the forefront of many school improvement plans. Although this is guidance, rather than a statutory document, we know that many school and subject leaders will be focussing on how to implement the recommendations into their practice in the 23/24 academic year, and so we wanted to support you in summarising some of the key messages in the document and exploring how you might interpret the guidance to maintain or plan for positive policy and practice.
There are several threads that run through all sections of the document and to which schools will want to give due consideration when reflecting on their English curriculum and reading provision. Schools that are part of CLPE’s community will, of course, be reassured that drawing on our evidence-based teaching approaches, training programmes, curriculum mapping guidance and resources, they already have much of this in place. Alongside each specific area of practice and provision explored, we have offered examples outlining how we can support you in implementing the recommendations.
A shared determination that all children should be able to read, regardless of disadvantages.
- Successful readers read widely and often; reading engagement supports the development of skilled reading; and reading for pleasure impacts on academic attainment.
- The act of reading expands understanding of language, vocabulary and knowledge of the world. If children are taught to read for themselves, they can overcome early disadvantages because of these known benefits.
This is at the heart of our charitable work and you can see what this looks like in any one of our Associate Member Schools. It is truly inspiring.
Reading for Pleasure is fundamental to a school’s culture and curriculum in ‘creating readers not just pupils who read.’
- Make reading for pleasure an integral part of a quality book-based English curriculum.
- Encourage all staff to be reading teachers, creating a classroom culture in which children can be influenced to read widely and for pleasure.
- Leaders and teachers should draw on knowledge of children’s literature and of their children’s reading development and motivations to curate selections of quality books in the school and classroom reading environments, to use in planned literacy experiences and to support children’s independent reading.
- Plan routines and practices that enable teacher and peer book recommendations to take place and which build reading habits and reader identity.
- Involve parents and families in supporting all stages of a child’s reading journey and in understanding their motivations and reading behaviours.
In the twenty years since CLPE’s Reader in the Writer research, our Power of Reading training programme, book recommendations and resources have continued to build expertise in teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature and children’s engagement and attainment in reading.
Curate an inspiring classroom book stock
- Carefully select and regularly refresh school library and classroom book stock to include rich and contemporary texts across a range of forms, which inspire children to read and complement a variety of reading experiences from the start of their reading journey and into Secondary school.
- Prioritise the selection of a range of quality texts before decorating or theming the classroom book corner.
- Like a well-curated book shop, create an inviting book corner with front-facing books to support browsing; familiar books which invite re-reading and revisiting, favoured by the children or recently read aloud in class; books that invite wider reading across forms, authors, poets and illustrators, topics or themes.
- Ensure you have read and selected the books in your classroom book corner and that these allow all your children to see themselves in what they read as well as books which offer perspectives from beyond children’s own lives or contexts.
- Less is more, fewer books rotated allows a regular opportunity to refresh stock regularly.
- Stay up-to-date with what is being published to build a reading environment that suits your children’s needs and interests, broadens reading experience, or connects to the wider curriculum.
- Support children’s independence and agency in book choices and reading material, rather than limiting children to books with an assigned band or score which can impact on the development of reader identity and engagement. Reading widely best supports children to articulate reading preferences.
- Decodable book stock can be stored separately by the teacher, from which to make careful selections for individual children to practice using and applying their phonic knowledge for reading at home and school.
CLPE’s Corebooks recommendations are constantly updated by our librarian and book selection panel. These helpful booklists are a fantastic starting point around which to have these discussions and to develop knowledge of quality children’s literature within teaching teams.
Place quality children’s literature at the heart of your reading curriculum
- Create an English curriculum in which children experience quality books across a wide range of literary forms which both reflect and broaden their lived experience.
- Choose books with strong human themes that enable children to inhabit the world of a story and characters with whom they are invested.
- Choose and use whole books, not extracts, to teach reading and in work with such books in depth over several weeks in English lessons.
- Build a progressive English curriculum by planning for children to enjoy increasingly demanding books, which also enable them to make intertextual connections within and across year groups.
- Consider linguistic complexity alongside text structure; content and concepts related to children’s background knowledge; cohesion and layers of meaning.
CLPE’s English Curriculum Maps demonstrate how to create a progressive English curriculum built around our Power of Reading book recommendations and associated teaching sequences.
Reading aloud is an integral approach to teaching reading across all Key Stages
- Make reading aloud a key teaching approach across your English curriculum. This enables children to respond more deeply to what is heard, than when they read a text for themselves.
- Daily story time is recommended across all Key Stages, in which the class can simply enjoy a book together without interruption or analysis.
- If children are not being read to at home, provide opportunities for them to be read to and with at school.
- When reading aloud, model skilled reading behaviours and the pace, prosody and expression of fluent reading.
- Draw attention to the vocabulary and language models introduced in stories read aloud. Plan for these texts to be enjoyed, discussed, re-read, revisited and used across the day and in different contexts. This will enable children to come to possess and use this vocabulary for themselves and increase their access to other, more challenging texts, forming a virtuous circle.
- Planned talk and language development is a priority for Reception and Year 1 teachers.
Make meaning through rich discussion and engagement with a book
- Plan for fluency to develop progressively throughout each stage of the reading journey.
- Demonstrate what skilled readers do to make meaning from a text so that children can practise this for themselves in shared reading, in revisiting the same book or other familiar books they have heard read aloud, and in re-reading their decodable books or carefully selected independent reading books several times.
- Give children opportunity to engage in performance reading to see how they can breathe life into a text and make meaning for an audience.
- Model how a skilled reader draws on the range of comprehension strategies required to make meaning from a text rather than focussing on one domain in isolation. Comprehension is an outcome, not a skill to practise, and so it does not make sense to divide up the elements of skilled reading and teach them separately.
- Questioning is most effective when it is text specific and builds on rich discussion which encourages children to offer personal response and build on prior knowledge to make new connections and construct a mental model so that they understand a text’s meaning.
- If teaching specific comprehension strategies explicitly – as part of a time-limited intervention to support early readers in Upper Key Stage 2 – also plan to model how these are used by skilled readers all the time.
Build staff expertise in teaching reading
- Build a team of expert teachers who know and understand the processes that underpin reading and have both the subject and pedagogical knowledge to teach reading across all stages of development, including older early readers.
- Draw on expert teachers to support less experienced colleagues so that all children can make progress.
Teaching children to read
- The act of reading makes complex demands and it needs to be taught explicitly.
- Draw on sound knowledge and diagnostic assessment of each child’s reading development, knowledge and behaviours to teach reading effectively. The case studies provided in the framework provide a useful starting point in understanding what this might look like.
- Nurture all pupils’ love of reading throughout their reading journey. Systematic, synthetic phonics is emphasised throughout as the prime approach to teaching early readers of all ages but ‘phonics is not sufficient on its own.’
- Plan daily teaching opportunities and meaningful contexts for children to use and apply phonic knowledge in Reception and Year 1, beyond the discrete phonics lesson.
These areas and approaches have long been recognised by CLPE as transformational to children’s engagement and attainment in reading. Our face-to-face and online training programme including the Power of Reading and our Teaching Reading and Phonics courses explore how to put this guidance into practice, offering planning and resources for teachers to immediately implement learning in the classroom.
Teaching older early readers
- Prioritise teaching older early readers to read independently so that they can access the increasing reading demands of the wider curriculum.
- Draw on thorough knowledge of how a child reads through diagnostic assessment and analysis of their reading behaviours to pinpoint specific interventions, including language comprehension and exactly where to start on a systematic phonics programme.
- Time-limit interventions and balance what other learning is lost with what will be gained when deciding how and when these take place.
- In supporting older early readers, teachers are still advised to use systematic, synthetic phonics as the prime approach.
- Phonics programmes designed for older children are advised as are books with age-appropriate presentation and sophistication but closely matched to decoding ability.
- As well as additional or focussed phonics teaching, other strategies to support older early readers include pre-teaching, reading aloud and discussing challenging texts, revisiting and re-reading.
CLPE’s Reading Scale outlines the continuum of development in reading and will be invaluable to support discussions and development of subject knowledge within teaching teams exploring the practice and provision which best support your children’s continued progress. Our Meeting the Needs of Early Readers in Key Stage 2 and Teaching Phonics to support Reading and Writing in Key Stage 2 courses provide specific subject knowledge and guidance for supporting older readers at the earlier stages of reading.
As with all guidance documents, especially one of this size, there is the potential for missed opportunities or misconceptions, some of which are worth highlighting here:
- Working with a high-quality book in depth in English lessons will inevitably provoke natural stopping points and inspire rich writing opportunities. Following sessions in which reading has been the focus of the teaching, children can deepen their understanding and engagement through artwork, drama and writing. This will include understanding how an author or poet has crafted language to create an affective response in them as readers, and how they might craft their own writing with reader in mind.
We know from over twenty years of researching and evaluating the impact of the Power of Reading that weaving reading and writing teaching together over time in response to a quality text creates both readers and writers in even the most disadvantaged schools.
- Props don’t need to be removed from the reading areas, nor does a reading area have to be dull. Young children enjoy reading to their favourite toys or re-enacting a story using small world figures, toys or puppets, perhaps whilst listening to an audio book or engaging in shared and social reading activity. And making a reading corner attractive to children is important in giving reading for pleasure status or to encourage browsing and social reading experiences.
In our Power of Reading training, we guide teachers through an audit of their book stock so that they can select books that reflect the reading stage, interests and engagement of their own pupils before aesthetic considerations. Puppets and props have been shown to provide rich and stimulating opportunities to retell and invent own stories, supporting language and vocabulary building, comprehension and composition for writing.
- Developing oracy is a priority. Teachers should plan for all children to be included and active participants in reading sessions and in the wider curriculum, creating dialogic classrooms. However, the emphasis on paired talk gives the impression that collaborative learning is unnecessary for language development. Well-designed collaborative learning approaches are proven to increase progress and necessitate the development and use of different types of language.
Paired or ‘back-and-forth’ talk doesn’t mean formalising an Early Years or Year 1 setting or – if paired with concerns over ‘noisy’ classrooms – mean shutting down talk that might be modelled and promoted across the provision. Classrooms can be zoned to facilitate both busy and calm learning spaces and writing can and should be encouraged across all areas of learning.
In CLPE’s most recent research into early language development – Closing the Vocabulary Gap – we partnered with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library UK to explore the impact of book ownership alongside provision of EYFS Power of Reading book packs, teaching plans and teacher training to support a quality book-based English curriculum at school. The evaluations involving almost 1500 Reception children, showed that the number of pupils achieving age-related expectations in Communications and Language (combined) more than doubled by the end of the year compared to baseline attainment. Collaborative learning opportunities are carefully planned into our all of our teaching sequences to enable teachers to support rich language development.
So, with this summary and caveats in mind, what do school leaders need to do now?
Implementing the guidance in practice requires leaders and teachers to have a depth of subject knowledge. Evaluation from across our research programmes shows how essential a planned programme of CPD is for teachers, which covers the full spectrum of reading and writing and the interrelationship between them, including CPD in the teaching of phonics which is specifically mentioned in the report.
As you plan for the next academic year with this guidance in mind, you may find it useful to reflect on the following questions as a staff team:
This revised Framework could present a huge opportunity in building a rich reading curriculum in which children are taught to read within a rich and diverse reading curriculum. We have seen the impact of this on our member schools and CLPE’s Associate Schools and through our continuing research with schools and look forward to continuing our support for schools in the next academic year.