Learning to Read

Learning to Read

Learning to read is one of the most important things that a child will learn to do at Dukesgate Academy. Evidence shows that children who read daily with an adult at home, achieve better academic success later in life than those who did not read  as often. At Dukesgate we value reading as a key life skill, and are dedicated to enabling our pupils to become lifelong readers. We believe reading is key for academic success and so, to ensure we have a holistic approach to the teaching of reading. 


Reading is at the heart of our curriculum. At Dukesgate Academy we know that research shows that children who read succeed academically, and our aim is to engender a life – long love of reading in all our children. To this end, we endeavour to introduce our children to a wide range of classic and modern authors, to ensure that they have the stamina and the fluency to read at length and to foster a curiosity about the use of language and the love of words. 

At Dukesgate, we want our children to: 

  • Become fluent, confident and expressive readers who have both the skill and the will to read effectively 

  • Read with enjoyment across a range of genres 

  • Read for pleasure as well as for information 

  • Read and respond to a wide range of different types of literature 

  • Understand the layout and how to use different genres and text types 

  • Understand and apply their knowledge of phonics and spelling patterns and use this to decode words with accuracy 

  • Build their bank of sight words to enable fluent reading 

  • Have an interest in words and their meanings, developing a rich and varied vocabulary 

  • Understand and respond to literature drawn from a range of cultures and literary heritage. 

Our school understands the challenge that exists between teaching children to be fluent readers whilst ensuring that we support them to develop a life-long love of reading. Our reading curriculum is designed to achieve a balance between develop the Instructional Agenda (the skill) and the Pleasure Agenda (the will). This policy intends to promote a love of reading for all pupils whilst creating life-long readers who have the skills to access all areas of the curriculum with independence and confidence so that they go on to be successful in Key Stage 3, 4 and beyond. 

Our reading curriculum is also planned in a way which promotes the cultural capital of all our children. We enhance our curriculum, especially for the most disadvantaged, by providing access to a diverse range of texts including those which promote different socio-economic backgrounds, disabilities, religions and cultures, and periods of history. We strive to offer texts that act as ' windows and mirrors' - including texts that both reflect the experiences of our pupilsand provide them with insights into the experiences of others.


Phonics from the Start

Reading is at the very heart of our curriculum and is given the highest priority in order to ensure that all pupils, regardless of background, succeed in reading. At Dukesgate Academy, we are passionate that every child in our school will become a competent, confident reader with an authentic love of reading. Our reading curriculum is based on extensive research, particularly the work of Ruth Miskin (Read, Write Inc) and the work of Christopher Such. Pedagogy has been developed in order to enable children to become expert readers as they move through school and into adulthood, thus providing them with improved life chances. 

At Dukesgate, our children will be taught to: 

  • understand and apply their knowledge of phonics and spelling patterns using this to decode words with accuracy;
  • build a bank of sight words to enable fluent reading;
  • become fluent, confident and expressive readers who have both the skill and the will to read effectively;
  • understand what they read showing a solid understanding that text carries meaning;
  • compare, contrast and comment on texts read;
  • understand the etymology of words and their meanings, developing a rich and varied vocabulary;
  • understand the layout of texts and how to navigate different genres and text types;
  • demonstrate understanding of what they have read through answering a range of different question types;
  • read for information across the wider curriculum;
  • read for pleasure responding to a wide range of different types of literature.

Our children begin learning the skills for early reading from the very moment they walk through our door. In Nursery, our children are immersed in a language-rich environment, along with pre-phonic activities, in readiness for accessing the Read, Write, Inc Programme in during their first and second term. This is used alongside a carefully designed environment that allows children to explore their interests in reading and phonics and provides them with many different opportunities to practice, re-visit and consolidate their ever-growing phonic skills and knowledge.  

 There are seven aspects taught in pre phonics lessons 

  1. Environmental Sounds 
  2. Instrumental Sounds 
  3. Body Percussion 
  4. Rhythm and Rhyme 
  5. Alliteration 
  6. Voice Sounds 
  7. Blending and Segmenting

 All the aspects are taught through group times and total immersion in a rich language environment. We aim to do this by providing an immersive nursery experience inclusive of lots of rhymes, singing time, rhyming stories, clapping rhythms, musical instruments taught through play at every opportunity. Informal ways to explore letters: e.g. sounds of the week, phonics awareness through modelling writing, or sounding out words. 

We also use short discrete group times to model a variety of activities with all 7 aspects taught during the week and use carefully chosen books every day to over learn rhyming words and voice sounds. We encourage children to join in, especially with the repetitive parts to build confidence and learn. 

 Decoding: Moving on with Phonics 

All children start formal phonics teaching and learning in Nursery in their third term of being in Nursery using the Read, Write, Inc programme. All our staff are highly trained to deliver this. It is taught daily, systematically both through whole class teaching and discrete groups. 

It is important that the teaching of reading is matched to the teaching of phonics. As such, all children have a banded reading book that matches the sounds they have learnt, or are learning, in their phonics lessons.

Phonics & Early Reading 

We teach phonics daily using 'Read, Write, Inc.', a scheme which enables children to learn how to decode words quickly, and develop skills in tackling unfamiliar words; this is sometimes known as synthetic phonics. Click to learn more about this programme



Our reading curriculum is planned to promote the cultural capital of all our children. We enhance our curriculum, especially for the most disadvantaged, by providing access to a diverse range of texts including those which promote different socio-economic backgrounds, relationships, family circumstances, disabilities, religions and cultures, and periods of history. Opportunities are planned for pupils to experience and take part in theatre productions and have guest authors and poets into school.  

 Reading at Dukesgate Academy is taught through a systematic process that is centred around children becoming life-long readers. 

Whole Class Reading

Across all classes we implement the following:

  • Children take part in daily Guided Reading lessons, where they are exposed to a range of different texts. These lessons give the children opportunities to be taught and to learn the reading skills needed to become proficient readers. We focus on: vocabulary, inference, prediction, explanation, retrieval and sequencing.
  • We have a wide range of reading books in our school. Each classroom has a selection of books in their classroom, which are directly linked to the curriculum. This offers opportunities for the children to apply their reading skills across the curriculum. We also have a well stocked library and the school has links with our local library too.
  • Class teachers read to the children every day. This could be a book that the teacher recommends to the class or a recommendation from a child.
  • Each classroom has a reading area with books suitable for their reading age.
  • Children who are not yet ‘free readers’, will work through our school reading scheme – these are levelled books which match the children’s current reading age.


In Early Years, this begins with the children are encouraged to develop their listening skills and to discriminate between different types of sounds. This continues in Reception where children rapidly begin to learn the links between the sounds and the letters which represent these sounds.

By the end of Year 1, most children have reached a nationally agreed standard for phonics, which enables them to decode unknown groups of letters or words, by combining the letters and sounds. This is known as the ‘Phonic Screening Check’ and takes place in early June. For some children, reaching this standard may take a little longer and all children continue to be taught phonics daily in Year 2. Additional small group support is provided to address gaps in knowledge for those who did not reach the expected standard by the end of  Year 1. We aim to ensure that all children leave key stage 1 at the end of Year 2 having reached the expected standard.

Any child still not reaching the expected standard in phonics  will be thoroughly assessed to identify areas where they are struggling, and will continue to receive additional small group or individual support in Year 3 and beyond, until they can decode fluently.

Children from Year1 to Year 6 are assessed termly and their attainment tracked to ensure progression. We use PIRA tests as our main assessment tool.

Oxford Owl

Children on the RWI scheme will read at home using Oxford Owl. These e-books match their RWI level, using storybooks that have been used in class to support fluency. Children have a login and can access Oxford Owl here:

Owl logo


Set 1 Practise

Set 2 Practise

Set 3 Practise

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