Reading for Pleasure at Blackhorse

How we read for pleasure at Blackhorse


Our aim is: to ensure not only that children can read but that they want to read, so they become enthusiastic, independent readers by the time they leave school.


It is a fact that children who are read to daily perform better in maths, vocabulary and spelling at GCSE, than those who are not (Sullivan & Brown 2013).  Yet a DfE survey in 2019 found that only 31% of children were read to daily at home.


By the age of 4 children who have been read to will have been exposed to approximately 45 million words, as opposed to only 13 million for those who have not.  This is not just everyday vocabulary, but story and book language, and topic specific language from non-fiction books: words that are important for early language development. 


Therefore, by the time children start school, the reading gap is already apparent.  It is our role to stop this widening and close it.  The way we do this is twofold – teaching children to read and inspiring a love of reading within children.


How we do this:

  1. All children have daily story times sessions
  2. Books accompany displays across the school; books are also displayed inside and outside of the classrooms for children to see teachers as readers
  3. Having a well-used library and a classroom environment which promotes reading
  4. Sharing and developing a passion for reading
  5. Seeing adults as readers
  6. Developing awareness of different authors, themes, genres, types of texts


Story Time:

To develop positive attitudes, we read a range of texts regularly to children.  In these sessions, teachers read through whole books, so the children experience the understanding of the beginning, middle and end of a text, of seeing how exciting situations are resolved, and how books can open us up to new worlds and strange possibilities. 

As we know, young children learn to read through reading phonetically decodable books, which are vitally important for the skill of learning to read, but do not encourage a love of reading within children.  Therefore, being read aloud to daily and listening to familiar books is how we engage young children, capture their imagination and begin to develop their love of reading.


At Blackhorse, in Reception and Year 1 we have a termly ‘Fab Five’.  These are 5 books, including a story, non-fiction text and poem, that are read throughout each week, for the whole term.  This enables children to become familiar with the language, text structure, characters and vocabulary within the books.  Children are encouraged to join in with repeated phrases, discuss the characters and events, note the familiar language (e.g. ‘Once upon a time’) and understand the meaning of new vocabulary.   This familiarity and repetition are developmentally important for young children and helps them to develop as readers.  By hearing the same books regularly, this enables them to build a ‘mental store’ of stories and text structure.   By the end of the Year 1, this means children will be familiar with and able to discuss or retell 30 books.  It also allows children to access vocabulary and language above their reading level. 


Children in Key Stage 2 continue to be read aloud to daily.  This may be their class text, a book with a similar theme, or a book which links to their foundation subject learning.  Children are given the opportunity to listen to a text, share and discuss ideas.  This enables children to hear a longer text and to engage in listening to texts that may be above their independent reading ability.


Reading Displays:

We want children to learn to read, so that they can read to learn.  To do this, we need children to see reading all around them.  Wherever possible, we include related books as part of our corridor displays, showing that reading is everywhere and is a part of everything we do.  We also have reading displays throughout the school.  These allow staff and visitors to engage with children in discussions about the books and authors they are learning about.

Reading Environments:

Professor Teresa Cremin, the Reading Expert for the English Hubs, says that reading is pervasive across the whole of our curriculum and school day.  For this reason, we ensure that our classrooms have books in all areas, about all aspects of the curriculum, and our children read anywhere in the school – carpet, desk, quiet space, library, outside.  In addition, both schools have inviting and engaging library spaces which are used regularly by the children; here they can access and borrow fiction, non-fiction and poetry from a vast selection of books, which is frequently updated.


Sharing and developing a passion for reading:

We want all our children to develop a positive attitude to reading which they can carry with them through life.  We encourage book talk – children discussing favourite books and authors, questions and opinions on books – and actively encourage children to respectfully disagree with one another!  We encourage all forms of reading – stories, comics, magazines, non-fiction, audiobooks, ebooks, leaflets, football cards – anything and everything! If children love it and it engages them in reading, then they will be keen to read more.


As staff we actively encourage children’s choice of reading materials by asking why they chose something, then recommending other reading materials, for example, “I can see you like reading facts on football cards, have you read this non-fiction book about football or this football story?”  This encourages children to broaden their reading experiences, but based on their interests.


Seeing Adults as readers:

As adults in schools, it is our responsibility to create a positive image of reading and to demonstrate a love of reading.  To this end, we ask that adults show themselves as a reader – this can be through teachers reading their own book whilst children are reading independently, through discussion about what adults like to read, or through adults making recommendations to children about books.

In a survey carried out by Open University Reading for Pleasure, only 46% of teachers could name 6 children’s authors, whilst only 10% could name authors of picture books or children’s poets.  Adults in school must have the subject knowledge themselves in order to share, nurture and develop this in the children.  Therefore, staff need to borrow, read and engage with the books the children are reading.  It is also essential that staff are up-to-date with the best in children’s literature, which we achieve through raising awareness of and purchasing book-award winners every year.


Developing awareness of authors, themes and genres:

As outlined above, it is key that school staff have up-to-date and secure knowledge of children’s literature, which they can use to inspire, motivate and engage children in our schools.  We also want our children to have this knowledge: we want them to be able to talk about different authors, themes and genres with confidence and their own thoughts and opinions.  Therefore, whenever we explore a new book with the children, we are explicit about the author, theme, genre and text type.  The graphic below shows an example of how ‘genre’ is referenced.