Reading and Phonics at St Matthew’s

At St Matthew’s it is our vision that every child will leave primary school being able to read fluently and clearly understand and enjoy what they are reading. The National Curriculum (2014) clearly states that teaching the English language is an essential, if not the most essential role of a primary school.  Our whole staff develop pupils’ spoken language, reading, writing and vocabulary as integral aspects of the teaching of every subject. English is both a subject in its own right and the medium for teaching; for pupils, understanding the language provides access to the whole curriculum. Fluency in the English language is an essential foundation for success in all subjects.


We use a wide range of reading schemes to ensure breadth and depth in the early stages of reading.  Our schemes include The Oxford Reading Tree, Collins, Songbirds, and Rising Stars. Children are informally assessed on a regular basis to ensure that they are reading at the right level. Children should be able to read the books sent home to an adult with ease and should be able to discuss the content of the book and make predictions. Books of a higher level are used within Guided Reading session in school to teach new skills and to make sure that children are making progress. We believe it is important that children have a rich diet of texts so we ensure that our reading schemes are supplemented by a selection of other reading material. All classes have a weekly trip to the school library where they are shown how to select their own books using the Junior Library system and encouraged to read a wide selection of books. In class children use reference books and dictionaries, both as hard copies and online, throughout the curriculum. In addition to this diet of reading, stories, non-fiction and poetry are read to the children. We encourage a variety of reading materials such as children's newspapers, magazines, poetry books and Non Fiction books in our Non-Fiction Fridays. 


St Matthew's children now have access to a range of online books which you can get for free!

Use the Love Reading 4 Schools link below to find our school and then sign up with the school password. 

Recommended Reading Lists For Schools, Book Extracts and Book ...

Younger children also have access to a range of reading books on the Rising Stars website.  Please use the link below to access these at home with your child's username and password. 



Essential Letters and Sounds

Essential Letters and Sounds (ELS) is our chosen Phonics programme. The aim of ELS is ‘Getting all children to read well, quickly’. It teaches children to read by identifying the phonemes (the smallest unit of sound) and graphemes (the written version of the sound) within words and using these to read words.


Children begin learning Phonics at the very beginning of Reception and it is explicitly taught every day during a dedicated slot on the timetable. Children are given the knowledge and the skills to then apply this independently. Throughout the day, children will use their growing Phonics knowledge to support them in other areas of the curriculum and will have many opportunities to practise their reading. This includes reading 1:1 with a member of staff, with a partner during paired reading and as a class.

Children continue daily Phonics lessons in Year 1 and further through the school to ensure all children become confident, fluent readers. We follow the ELS progression and sequence. This allows our children to practise their existing phonic knowledge whilst building their understanding of the ‘code’ of our language GPCs (Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence). As a result, our children can tackle any unfamiliar words that they might discover. 

Children experience the joy of books and language whilst rapidly acquiring the skills they need to become fluent independent readers and writers. ELS teaches relevant, useful and ambitious vocabulary to support each child’s journey to becoming fluent and independent readers. We begin by teaching the single letter sounds before moving to diagraphs ‘sh’ (two letters spelling one sound), trigraphs ‘igh’ (three letters spelling one sound) and quadgraphs ‘eigh’ (four letters spelling one sound).


We teach children to:
• Decode (read) by identifying each sound within a word and blending them together to read fluently
• Encode (write) by segmenting each sound to write words accurately.


The structure of ELS lessons allows children to know what is coming next, what they need to do, and how to achieve success. This makes it easier for children to learn the GPCs we are teaching (the alphabetic code) and how to apply this when reading.


ELS is designed on the principle that children should ‘keep up’ rather than ‘catch up’. Since interventions are delivered within the lesson by the teacher, any child who is struggling with the new knowledge can be immediately targeted with appropriate support. Where further support is required, 1:1 interventions are used where needed. These interventions are short, specific and effective.


Supporting Reading at Home:

• Children will only read books that are entirely decodable, this means that they should be able to read these books as they already know the code contained within the book.
• We only use pure sounds when decoding words (no ‘uh’ after the sound)
• We want children to practise reading their book 4 times across the week working on these skills:

Decode – sounding out and blending to read the word.
Fluency – reading words with less obvious decoding.
Expression – using intonation and expression to bring the text to life!


We must use pure sounds when we are pronouncing the sounds and supporting children in reading words. If we mispronounce these sounds, we will make reading harder for our children. Please watch the videos below for how to accurately pronounce these sounds.


At the beginning of each academic year, we will hold an information session for parents and carers to find out more about what we do for Phonics, Reading and English at our schools. Please do join us.


More support for parents and carers can be found here:



How we teach Reading

Updated: 18/10/2019 41 KB

Reading Progression

Updated: 11/03/2020 115 KB

Please see below our reading book band chart.

Reading & Phonics

Updated: 07/03/2019 31 KB