Early Reading

Early Reading at Hillside

Early reading at Hillside Primary School is centred on the exploration of quality texts which engage and inspire our children. Reading for pleasure is at the heart of all that we do at Hillside and this begins as soon as the children enter the EYFS. We recognise that the early years of a child’s life are crucial and the experiences that we offer the children in the EYFS and KS1 are fundamental in laying the foundations for future reading success.

Reading interest is sparked in our children from day one and we ignite this through the use of class libraries, mystery readers, daily reading, initiatives to encourage regular reading, celebrations of authors to name a few.


Daily discreet phonics lessons are taught in differentiated groups that are suitable for the child’s phase of learning. A synthetic scheme is used in school which is a fun and interactive way to support children in learning how to read and write. To promote high quality phonic teaching at Hillside we use a variety of strategies and resources including:


  • Quality daily phonics lessons that last between 15-20 minutes.
  • Careful differentiation for all ability groups, addressing the needs of children with special educational needs, including more able children, based on ongoing formative assessment and teacher judgement.
  • Well planned interactive lessons, delivered at a brisk pace, that keep children engaged and focused.
  • Opportunities to reinforce and apply acquired phonic knowledge and skills across the curriculum.
  • Additional decodable reading books for children to apply their phonic knowledge in phases 2-5 continuing in to the reading scheme in KS2 to ensure children have grasped the basis of reading.


As children’s reading develops at different rates, phonics teaching is tailored to each child and their ability. Children are expected to sit a phonics screening assessment in year 1 that tests their knowledge of phonics sounds. The children that do not pass the phonics screening check are given appropriate support and materials to ensure they catch up. To support these children we ensure they continue to receive daily phonics at the relevant phase and daily reading in either shared reading, one to one reading or guided groups. These children also become a focus within lessons and they are encouraged to read a range of books that are tailored to support their learning of phonics sounds whilst being written in a context that is suitable for their age. This continues into KS2 if the children are still not secure in their phonics sounds.

Assessment of Phonics.

Alongside the continued teacher assessments of Phonics that take place daily in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 2, the children’s progress is tracked termly by the class teacher. This allows the progress of every child to be monitored, so further support can be offered if needed. The children are assessed on the sounds they can read and write and reading the high frequency words that are based on their phonics stage. Common exception words are also a focus in year 1 and 2 and teachers assess with the children can read these words and they identify those that need to become a greater focus in class over the next term. At the end of Year 1, the Year 1 Phonics Screening check will take place. This is a national assessment that all Year 1 children take part in.


Our School Library

Reading for pleasure and enjoyment is a key element of our reading programme throughout school. The library contains a wealth of reading materials from Non- Fiction to Fiction and the children have expansive mini libraries within classrooms and access to these areas in always encouraged to allow children to handle and share books. The children have weekly library sessions where they spend time selecting and reading books they wish to take home and share.

Parental Support

The school recognises and values the significant role of parents in further developing reading skills and they are encouraged to share books and read daily with their child. We support parents in developing their child’s reading skills at home and send regular information home on how to develop reading habits and the types of questions that children need to answer depending on their reading level. Parents are regularly invited into school to enjoy shared reading sessions with their children, these events are always well attended and provide another opportunity to share stories.

Using Texts in our Curriculum

Quality texts are used as hooks into learning across the curriculum. A rich diet of books from modern classics to contemporary fiction along with high interest non-fiction texts are used to engage our EYFS and KS1 children into new areas of learning. Reading is a core skill that allows children access to all areas of the enriched curriculum, and is in fact an essential and rewarding life skill. Books are placed at the heart of every topic, and reading is integral to everyday school life.

Shared Reading Sessions

In Nursery, pupils take home a book from our Library to share with Parents. From Christmas, some children will have a picture book to take home to support early language acquisition. When the children are ready, they will also have a banded book (that follows the Oxford Reading Tree system) to further practise the use of the phonics sounds being taught.

In EYFS, regular Guided Reading sessions take place. Guided reading is an instructional approach that involves an adult working with a small group of children who demonstrate similar reading behaviors and can read similar levels of texts. During this session children apply their phonics, use the pictures, segment and blend words, practise reading tricky words and develop their strategies to read unknown words. In addition, they learn to ask and answer questions about the book to develop their comprehension of the text. Guided reading continues into year 1 during the autumn term to aid transition and the children will then move to whole class reading by Christmas.

From Reception to Year 2, a book banded contextual book and a phonic book are sent home. This encourages the children to practise phonic skills, at their level. Library books are also sent home to allow children to share a range of text types and develop their reading for pleasure.

Volunteer Readers

Whilst the children are still learning the mechanics of reading, an adult in school will listen to them read. Due to the support from parents and people in the school community, our children have lots of opportunities to read to an adult. Those who need it will have daily reading and we have a group of reading ambassadors (Year 5 children) who have paired up with a younger child to support them with their reading.

Reading Ambassadors

At Hillside, we have a number of children who have volunteered to be a reading ambassador. A reading ambassador is when an older child (from year 5) pairs up with a younger child to support them with their reading. This allows the older child to be a positive role model for the younger child; to help model good reading; increase each other’s’ self-esteem and to develop a love of reading.  This partnership has been running for over five years in school and all children involved benefit. The year 5 read at least twice a week with their partner and this role has evolved during the current academic year with ambassadors reading to the whole class or practising spellings and common exception words with groups or individuals. The reading ambassadors also supervise the use of the reading and writing boxes at lunch times. Boxes of reading books, writing resources, white boards and even outdoor bean bags (to keep the children comfy) are used on the KS1 playground. The reading ambassadors help to organise the use of the boxes each day and all year groups enjoy an additional activity at lunch time that helps to support their reading and writing skills.

Mystery Reader

At Hillside, we encourage our parents and members of our community to come and share stories with our children; we do this through the mystery reader scheme. The aim of "Mystery Reader" is to show children that adults love reading too. We invite family members to come into their child’s class and to share a book that their own child particularly enjoys or one they enjoyed when they were growing up. This is kept ‘secret’ to the children and there is a buzz of excitement on a Thursday afternoon as the children guess who the mystery reader may be.

Children in EYFS and KS1 particularly love these visits and they are always well attended by parents and family members.

Author of the Term

The Author of the Term initiative begins at soon as children enter nursery and encourages children to read texts by the same author. Information about the chosen author and their achievements and is shared with the children as they read many of their texts over the half term. Author of the term displays are evident in each classroom from nursery to Year 6 and they are changed either half-termly or termly depending on the length of the texts and amount of texts the author has written. This initiative promotes a love of reading as children are exposed to up to thirty-five high quality authors in their school lifetime. The children learn about their life, inspirations and get lost in their stories. Parents are welcome to buy further texts by the authors promoted in class for home reading and we endeavour to stock as many of the Author of the Term texts in our library and book corners to encourage children to become familiar with similar genres and styles before moving on to the next author.

Better Reading

At Hillside, we are determined to support all children in their reading, and on occasions, some children may begin to make less progress than expected. In this case, we endeavour to support the child with reading both at school and at home. The ‘Better Reading Programme’ (BRP) is utilised to ensure children catch up rapidly. This programme entails children being allocated an adult reading partner and having reading support three times per week. Three different texts (a familiar text, a recently introduced text and a new text) are chosen and parental support is sought to ensure children are practising essential reading skills both at home and school. This programme has a considerable impact on the children that have taken part and their confidence increases due to the new skills they have gained over the ten-week course.

Book Week

At Hillside, we use World Book day to celebrate and promote our children’s love of reading. To make the most of this national celebration we celebrate for a whole week rather than a day. The main aim of the week is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading, to celebrate authors and illustrators and to use the books they read as inspiration for their own writing. The events that take place include a theatre performance from M&M Productions that forms the basis of the children’s learning during the week, examples in the past include: Treasure Island, Charlotte’s Web, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and most recently Oliver Twist . Other examples include shared reading sessions with families; book swap; book tasting; reading hunts and writing competitions in the style of the chosen text. The children always thoroughly enjoy the range of activities and the immersion in reading. Events like this inspire our children and encourages the lifelong love of reading that we are endeavouring to create.