Read All About It! - Head's Blog

Posted on: 23/11/2018

I was saddened this week to hear from my author friend Jacqueline Harvey that, whilst on her current book tour, when she asked 300 assembled children how many of them enjoyed that special time each day when their teachers read to them, the children were somewhat bemused by this. One little boy went on to tell her that the teacher would often put a story on the interactive whiteboard and they read it to themselves… I am sure that the Head Teacher of this school was on their knees in dismay at this.  

I am proud to report that reading is very much alive at St. Helen’s College and reading for pleasure is celebrated right from our Ducklings through to Year 6. But, oddly enough, I am still very much dismayed when I speak to many of our children around the school about their experiences of reading at home.  

I know this may be a very generic sweeping statement, and I apologise to those of you who do engage with your children on a daily basis with their reading, but more and more schools are finding that reading is being neglected at home. Parents are either too busy to hear their child read or it is the last aspect of homework to be addressed and thus the book stays in the bag. I urge you all to rethink if you find yourself hearing your child read whilst you are driving them to school, or hear yourself say, ‘I’m too busy at the moment - read to me while I prepare dinner,’ or even worse, ‘get on with something else, I haven’t got time’.

Last year Mr. McLaughlin arranged superb reading sessions for parents throughout the school, encouraging you all to embrace ‘reading for pleasure’ and to ‘get caught reading by your children’.  I am now asking all parents to make a pledge within their families that reading with your child takes top priority. Whether it is you hearing them read, sharing a book with them or just generally showing an interest in the book which they are currently reading - we need to ‘Big Up’ reading!

Reading unlocks learning, creativity, imagination and critical thinking and if we do not have inspired, inquisitive, curious children then we are failing in our duty as teachers and parents.

Having spent time analysing our own assessment results over the course of several years, we know that the best indicators for success in 11+ examinations are good reading and comprehension skills.

Children need to ‘hear’ a story being read to them, to hear how language enriches their experiences and sparks that awe and wisdom in whatever genre of story that is being shared with them. It is the one time as an adult that you need to set aside any inhibitions, become a budding actor and engage with the texts to draw your child in.  

The majority of our children learn how to read through a balance of our phonic based teaching and comprehension strategies; they learn the phonetic alphabet ( - all 44 phonemes - the sounds which can be made with the letters of our alphabet and all the variations. They begin to be able to decode, recognising the graphemes, sounding out and blending for reading. Teaching comprehension sits alongside this e.g. when children infer the meaning from the context, they summarise the main points from a text, develop questioning strategies etc.

However, school cannot do this in isolation and home plays a massive part in this.  It is for pupils aged 8+ that I am the most concerned (Years 3 upwards). At this stage, parents tend to wave the flag - ’Yeah! My child can read now!’...well, that is just the beginning! Your child now needs to enrich their reading skills and be exposed to a wide range of texts to develop their reading and comprehension skills.  

ALL children should be reading every night either to an adult or sharing a text with an adult, or discussing what they have been reading with an adult.

If you do have a reluctant reader, please let your form teacher know - we need to engage every child with reading. It is the crux of all learning and home and school must work together to create avid learners. Sadly, children will never become avid learners if they are reluctant to use their reading skills. Which is why we ask parents to put reading to the top of the homework list.

Please see below an extract from our ‘Homework Policy’. Please note that much of the homework expectation the whole way through the school is for adults to spend time reading to/with/hearing your child.

Time Allocation

Weekdays during term:

Nursery: informal

Reception: 10 minutes per evening

Year 1: 15 minutes per evening

Year 2: 15 minutes per evening

Year 3: 20 minutes reading + 20 minutes homework task(s)

Year 4: 20 minutes reading + 30 minutes homework task(s)  

Year 5: 20 minutes reading + 30 minutes homework task(s)

Year 6: 20 minutes reading + 40 minutes homework task(s)

Please note that 20 minutes is a minimum reading time, not a maximum!

I urge you all as parents to review your family homework habits and to prioritise reading - it is key to all learning.

Mrs. Drummond