Promoting a whole school love of reading

A school I work with has asked me to help them promote a love of reading that spans beyond World Book Day. Now there’s nothing wrong with World Book Day; in fact, there’s a lot that’s right about promoting books and reading. But I do understand the reason behind the school’s request. They want to think about sustainable, everyday things they can do to promote a love of reading in their school. Naturally, I’ve written on this subject before but in this article, I’ve added a few more ideas and as many links as I could think of. As the school are based in Warwickshire, I’ve made mention of organisations and initiatives in this part of England, but not exclusively so. I am of course only one of several educators who talk about developing a love of reading in school. Whilst much of what I discuss here is from my own work, I am indebted to those other reading enthusiasts for their ideas and inspiration.


If you’re looking to promote a love of reading in your school, you need to ensure that the books you have are worthwhile. When you consider that ‘UK publishers released more than 20 new titles every hour over the course of 2014,’ (The Guardian 22nd October, 2014) it can be rather daunting to start looking for books to suit the wide-tastes of all readers. This is where recommendations come into play. Your local School Library Service (SLS) should be right at the top of your list for support and guidance but there are other valuable outlets worth exploring too. I’ve listed a few below:

Coventry SLS (because I’m based in Coventry and they are in my opinion the best SLS around)

Warwickshire SLS (because Warwickshire is my neighbouring authority and they are also rather splendid and great people to work with)

Love Reading for Kids

Reading Zone

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Any questions?

The 2016 KS2 Reading SAT has long gone but the repercussions of ‘that paper’ are still being felt in Y6 classrooms across the land. There has been much written about the paper and I’m not going to add much more. What I can do though, is offer a couple of solutions.

My first solution comes in the form of the Primary English KS2 Question Prompts (see our resources page). This little booklet of reading comprehension questions is one of the most popular downloads from our resources page. It provides plentiful question stems organised by Content Domain and is an essential tool for planning high quality reading comprehension sessions. The reason I suggest this as a solution is this: I think the style of the 2016 questions was more of a concern than the challenge of the texts. This being the case, the Primary English KS2 Question Prompts have had a make-over. They now include question stems based on those found in the 2016 test. You’ll find more of ‘what impression…‘ and less of ‘what thoughts...’ than in the previous edition, which should better help you prepare your pupils for the end of Key Stage tests.

My other solution comes in the form of the Reading Detectives series from Collins Keen Kite. As the series editor and author of the Y6 book, I can guarantee that this series offers a solution to the thorny issue of question style. When writing the Y6 book I constantly referred to the questions in the 2016 SAT and made sure mine were as similar as possible. I also endeavoured to explain how the answers had been derived and the types of skills pupils needed to apply. The Reading Detectives are an essential addition to the KS2 reading comprehension curriculum that will help you familiarise pupils with the high demand of questions in the end of Key Stage tests.Read my blog for Collins Keen Kite here.

Please do click through to our resources page and download a copy of the Primary English KS2 Question Prompts.

Rachel Clarke, Director: Primary English Education

All content on the Primary English website is owned by Rachel Clarke and is protected by copyright.

#FocusOnReading No 9 – The Round Up

With the autumn term drawing to a close, it seems timely to reflect on the Primary English Autumn 2014 #FocusOnReading.

The highlight of our #FocusOnReading came early in October with our reading conference led by reading expert, James Clements. This was a practical and inspirational day which left our delegates with job lists longer than their arms, but smiles on their faces brought on by looking at wonderful books and discussing ways of developing a reading culture in their schools. We highly recommend you take a look at James’ website.

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#FocusOnReading No.8 – Guided Reading Countdown

During our recent #FocusOnReading we’ve written about and promoted the importance of reading comprehension and guided reading several times. Today’s contribution from our associate, Lynne Burns, provides further guidance on how to implement guided reading successfully in your school.

#FocusOnReadingTeachers sometimes say that Guided Reading doesn’t work for them and their class. If you feel this way then try following my top ten tips for ensuring successful Guided Reading sessions.

Choose your book or text carefully

Make sure that the book you choose has no more than 10% of the text that will provide a decoding challenge.  Any more than this and the children will struggle to comprehend what they are reading.  Imagine if you were trying to read a story where every 8th word was blacked out.  You would almost certainly find it difficult to follow the story, especially if the blocked out words were key content words.  You should also choose a text that is well written and is going to engage the children.  For fluent readers you should choose a text which reinforces what the children are learning in their English lessons where possible, but for children who are still developing fluency then choose a book which will help them to develop the specific decoding and comprehension skills that they need to improve.  Also, be creative with what you read.  You can read newspaper articles, websites or blogs, adverts, information leaflets or recipe cards picked up from the supermarket. You can also use extracts from longer novels or books but do make sure that the more able readers also have the opportunity to read longer books in their entirety over a number of weeks.

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#FocusOnReading No.7 – Hearing children read

Reading aloud

This week’s blog post has been written with teaching assistants in mind. Read on for 10 tips on how to get the most from hearing children read aloud.

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#FocusOnReading No.6 – Phonics

You know that feeling of waiting for the bus? You wait for ages and then two arrive at the same time! Here at Primary English HQ we’ve had a similar experience with phonics training over the past few weeks. We hadn’t done any for what seemed like an age, and then in the past few weeks it’s been the most popular request coming into the Primary English office. We’re not complaining: we love phonics and recognise the significant role that good phonics teaching plays in teaching young children to read. As we’re holding our autumn term #FocusOnReading, it seems appropriate that our recent flurry of phonic activity should prompt a blog post on the subject.

At Primary English we like to deliver training that meets the needs of each of the schools with which we work. This means every training package, including our phonics training, is unique. Yet whilst different, each phonics course holds true to the principles of good phonics teaching; some of which we share here.


Perfect pronunciation.

Teachers, you’re busy people and I hate the thought of you wasting your time but poor pronunciation of phonemes does just that. If phonemes are accompanied by the ‘uh’ schwa vowel, all too quickly b-u-t becomes a dairy-based spread rather than a useful co-ordinating conjunction. This video from the Letter and Sounds Phonics Programme is an invaluable for checking the purity of your pronunciation.

Delightful diction

When teaching phonics your diction needs to be delightfully divine. The beginning, middle and end of every word needs to be enunciated with clarity and precision. Slurring sounds or relying on glottal stops can negatively impact on the ability of your children to hear each sound you pronounce.

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Spooky stories: Things that go bump in the night

So, it’s Halloween. The time of the year when it’s legitimate to knock on the doors of strangers and demand they hand over the goodies or risk a trick.It may not sound like it, but I do quite like Halloween. I like the focus on children, the fun and the inevitable hauls of sticky sweets and far-from healthy treats. I am though, no expert in ‘doing Halloween with style and panache’. I may just about scrape out a pumpkin and buy a few ‘funsize’ chocolate bars for those inevitable ‘after dark visitors’ but that is just about as far as my Halloween preparations and celebrations go. Charlotte, my fellow founder of Primary English was  brilliant at making any event one to remember; and her efforts for Halloween were simply ‘spooktacular’. So, today I revisit an old blog post by Charlotte where she shared her passion for spooky books.

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#FocusOnReading – No5 – Give guided reading a chance.


Recently I’ve noticed a trend. A small swell of teachers who are saying that guided reading doesn’t work and that teaching reading comprehension to whole classes is a much more effective way to teach reading. As an advocate of guided reading, I struggle to agree with teachers who are dropping it. When given the time and resources, and when taught by a skilled practitioner, I believe that guided reading is the best approach that we have of meeting the learning needs of all young readers. Today’s blog post from our Primary English Associate, Lynne Burns supports this view. Like me, Lynne is experienced enough to remember teaching reading before the widespread introduction of guided reading in the late 1990s. In this heartfelt article she pleads the case for the use of guided reading and the use of both scheme and real books as we open-up the world of reading to children. 

When I first started teaching, far more years ago then I care to remember, it was before the introduction of Guided Reading.  I used to teach reading by listening to each child read one to one at least twice a week, which was equivalent to spending over a day a week teaching reading.  Except, of course, I wasn’t really teaching reading and I definitely wasn’t promoting a love of books.  There was rarely, if ever, time to share a whole book with a child.  The children usually read one or two pages to me while I corrected any decoding errors.  If there was time, I might ask them a couple of questions about the part of the book they had read.  The books the children read were dull, old fashioned reading scheme books; books that I would never have dreamt of reading to the whole class or using as a text in my English lessons. But this was just the way things were done and I was too inexperienced to do otherwise.

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#FocusOnReading – No3. Children’s Book Awards

This week, as part of our #FocusOnReading we hosted a Reading Conference featuring reading expert James Clements. The event was attended by English Subject Leaders, Leaders of Reading and Senior Leaders from schools across Coventry and Warwickshire. They have unanimously told us that it was an inspirational day which has left them with a multitude of ideas to apply back in school. One area of reading practice that James drew our delegates’ attention to was the role of the literary competitions in helping to promote a love of reading in a school. Primary English has a long history of promoting children’s book awards so this advice from James fell on very welcome ears indeed.

Here in Coventry we have the annual Coventry Inspiration Book Awards. These awards cater for all ages and tastes from birth to 80+. Just like the national book awards there is a website with voting facilities, shadowing events in schools and a lavish award ceremony attended by dignitaries and lovers of literature. We’re immensely proud that for several years we were part of the shortlisting committee for the school-age categories of this fabulous book award and that our director Charlotte Reed has presented awards to winners several times over the years.

So, in the week that the UKLA 2015 Book Awards Longlist has been released and in the month when the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards reach the classrooms of Coventry we turn our attention to one book that has found its way onto both of these lists, Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales by Jamila Gavin.


Our Director, Charlotte Reed gives us this short insight into why she recommends this book for use with children in Upper Key Stage 2.

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#FocusOnReading – No.1

This term at Primary English HQ we’re taking a #FocusOnReading. Through a series of CPD events and regular blogs we aim to support our schools as they #FocusOnReading and ensure that every child can read, and read well.

To launch our #FocusOnReading campaign, our first contribution comes from our associate Andrea Sherratt.  As Coventry Local Authority’s Reading Recovery and Every Child a Reader (ECaR) Teacher Leader Andrea is a real expert in teaching children how to read.  In this short blog Andrea reflects on the huge impact school, parents and carers can have on reading proficiency through just 10 minutes of daily reading. 

What a difference 10 minutes makes!

Have you ever said, “There are simply not enough hours in the day!”? Are you looking for improvements in reading progress but feel you are battling to juggle the two single handed?

A report out today from the Save the Children Foundation  stated that ‘one and a half million children will reach the age of 11 unable to ‘read well’ by 2025 unless urgent action is taken to tackle the reading crisis facing Britain’s pupils’.


Good Morning Britain presenters share their favourite children’s books and offer advice to parents on hearing their children read.

This has prompted ‘Good Morning Britain’ to launch #take10, an initiative to encourage all of us to remember the importance of literacy in achieving a brighter future. It’s a multi layered approach for schools, parents and communities to come together with the goal of improving reading skills for our children. By taking just 10 minutes every day to hear a child read we can all  have a huge impact on reading progress.

But what’s the best text material to send home? 

In order to improve reading skills and become effective readers, children need to build their ‘reading mileage’. Simply decoding text is not enough to build stamina and develop understanding, and so by reading a familiar text that a child may have seen 2 or 3 times before, is a great way to build fluency, phrasing and expression. think of this as ‘putting the cherry on the cake’!  Sending home familiar texts allows the child to grow in confidence while taking pressure off parents to ‘tutor’ their child. Rather, they can simply listen and talk about the book with their child.

When a child returns to school after having read at home, the difference is marked and progress accelerates. By encouraging parents to #take10 it becomes a team effort not just a one man/woman mission! 

Andrea Sherratt –  Reading Recovery and (ECaR) Teacher Leader, Coventry LA.

Our thanks to Andrea for kicking off our #FocusOnReading campaign. If you think that #take10 sounds like just the initiative that your school needs then take a look at the ‘Good Morning Britain’ website for videos of their presenters reading virtual books and providing tips and advice for parents.

Rachel Clarke – Director: Primary English Education Consultancy Limited