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St Joseph's Catholic Primary School

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Reading & Phonics

Our vision for Reading at St Joseph's


At St Joseph’s, we firmly believe that the teaching of reading is not only fundamental to a child's academic journey but is also a key to unlocking a profound understanding and appreciation of the world around them. Our reading curriculum serves as a powerful platform, enabling our children to transcend their immediate surroundings, share in diverse cultural experiences, and develop the vocabulary essential for effective self-expression. This is underpinned by the pillars of our curriculum: live wisely, think deeply, love generously.


Central to our mission is the cultivation of a lifelong love of reading. We strive to instil behaviours that foster discerning readers—individuals who read frequently and widely. Our comprehensive curriculum, delivered through synthetic phonics, guided reading, home reading initiatives, reading across various subjects, regular opportunities for independent reading, and daily exposure to quality texts, aims to develop fluent, enthusiastic, and critical readers.


Recognising the reciprocal relationship between children's motivation to read and reading for pleasure, we emphasise the importance of regular reading at home. Increased reading opportunities not only enhance fluency and stamina but also contribute significantly to the overall enjoyment of reading. We understand that reading pleasure extends beyond academic outcomes to impact broader learning enjoyment and mental wellbeing. Consequently, we are dedicated to building communities of engaged readers and fostering a love for independent reading.


We recognise the importance of individualised learning and are committed to tailoring our reading programs to meet the unique needs and interests of each child. Our goal is to create an inclusive and supportive environment that accommodates various abilities, ensuring that no child is left behind in their journey to becoming a proficient reader. Regular assessments and feedback mechanisms are integrated into our approach to ensure that each child receives the necessary support and guidance on their reading journey.


Building strong foundational skills is paramount in the early stages of reading development. Therefore, we place a strong emphasis on phonics and comprehension strategies to equip our pupils with the tools they need to decode and understand written language effectively.


We are committed to providing a rich and diverse range of reading materials that reflect the cultural, social, and spiritual dimensions of our community. By incorporating literature that celebrates our DISCOVERY values, we aim to promote empathy, understanding, and moral development among our students.


We acknowledge the crucial role parents and carers play in supporting their children's development of both word reading and comprehension skills. Thus, we actively seek to establish a strong home-school partnership, empowering parents and carers with the confidence and tools to support their children's reading journeys at home.


At St Joseph’s, reading is not just a component of our curriculum; it is at the very heart of our educational ethos. We are committed to providing an enriching, inclusive, and inspiring environment where every child is motivated to explore the world through the pages of a book, setting the foundation for a lifelong relationship with reading.





Individual records of reading progress are maintained for each child in the form of Reading Record Books, Reading Journals, reading targets and test results. Children in Reception and Key Stage One are heard read by an adult in school once or twice a week. We aim to hear our lowest 20% of readers in all classes at least three times a week.


For our early readers we use ‘Rhino Readers’ fully decodable reading scheme which completely aligns with our phonics scheme, Twinkl Phonics. The reading scheme provides clear progression and support for children’s early decoding skills. Children are assessed using Phonics Tracker and are matched with a reading book that is fully decodable for the child. This ensures that our children only read the sounds and tricky words they’ve already learnt.


Once the children have finished all the levels in Rhino Readers (usually by the end of Year 2) they are encouraged to choose a book of their choice from the school library; these books have been organised into different levels, identified by numbers. These levels build seamlessly onwards from the top of the Rhino Readers levels, ensuring a smooth transition from heavily structured, phonetically driven reading, to a wider choice of books to enjoy whilst sequentially progressing their reading skills.


Children are encouraged to read daily in a range of different contexts. Reading occurs in many ways throughout the school, and good practice sees children being exposed to books in a variety of ways:

•  Independent reading: for enjoyment;

•  Guided reading: reading in small groups and targeted at the pupils’ reading ability;

•  Shared reading: reading as a whole class at an increased level of challenge;

•  A class book: read by teacher (or audio book) and provides most challenge, promoting a high level of vocabulary acquisition.


To support the teaching of reading comprehension, Years 2 - 6 use an acronym to aid the recall of the 6 reading domains as part of the national reading curriculum. They are the key strategies which children use in order to improve their comprehension of texts.


VIPERS stands for: Vocabulary, Inference, Prediction, Explanation, Retrieval, Sequence or Summarise.


The 6 domains focus on the comprehension aspect of reading and not the mechanics: decoding, fluency, prosody etc.  As such, VIPERS is not a reading scheme but rather a set of strategies for ensuring that teachers ask, and students are familiar with, a range of questions and that the children develop wider reading skills, beyond decoding.  They allow the teacher to track the type of questions asked and the children’s responses to these which allows for targeted questioning afterwards.


To support the use of the VIPERS strategies, teachers use Literacy Shed Plus. They have access to mini-comprehension texts that are accompanied with teaching slides that focus on a selection of the VIPERS strategies. Alongside this, high quality class texts are selected and enjoyed daily with the children.


Every class visits the school library each week in order to further promote an enjoyment of reading and love of books.




The impact of our dedicated approach to reading instruction in our Catholic primary school is far-reaching. Through the systematic teaching of phonics, our primary goal is to empower children to become fluent and confident word readers by the conclusion of Key Stage 1. This foundational skill lays the groundwork for a lifelong journey of literacy and learning.


As our children progress through their educational journey and transition into Year 6, our aspirations for them extend beyond mere proficiency in decoding words. We envision confident and fluent readers who not only read for pleasure and enjoyment but also possess the ability to engage with a diverse range of texts. This proficiency in reading serves as a gateway, enabling our students to unlock learning across all areas of the curriculum.


Reading, in our view, is the key that opens doors to knowledge and understanding. We firmly believe that a strong reading foundation is not only essential for academic success but also for personal enrichment and development. Our reading curriculum is designed not merely to meet statutory assessment requirements but to instill a genuine love for reading and an appreciation for the role it plays in all facets of learning.


The impact of our reading program is evident in the well-rounded, intellectually curious individuals our pupils become as they move into the next stage of their academic journey. Embarking on their secondary education, our children carry with them the enduring belief that reading is indeed the key to unlocking the vast realms of knowledge and understanding that await them.






At St Joseph's we use the Twinkl Phonics programme to teach children effectively. Twinkl Phonics is a fully comprehensive, synthetic teaching programme. Delivered through the stories and adventures of Kit, Sam and the Twinkl Phonics family, the scheme builds and develops the skills and understanding children need to become effective, independent readers and writers.


Our reading scheme is aligned with Twinkl Phonics and is called Rhino Readers. The scheme has an exciting, original collection of engaging full decodable books. Children are assessed and books are carefully chosen to ensure they are fully decodable by the child. This means children will only encounter the sounds and tricky words that they are secure on. The stories reflect the world in which we live, promote diversity and keep 21st century readers turning pages.




The Phonics Screening Check is a statutory part of the curriculum for children within Year 1.


During the summer term all children in Year 1 are tested in their ability to apply phonics knowledge to read a range of real and nonsense words. This is to check they are able to apply the key phonics skills to all words, both known and unknown.