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Early Reading

One of the greatest gifts adults can give

is to read to children 

-Carl Sagan


At Bishop Gilpin, we aim to create a firm foundation for a lifetime of learning by establishing excellent decoding skills and reading comprehension to enable all children to become fluent, confident and capable readers who have a genuine love of reading. 

Further details about how we teach Reading at Bishop Gilpin can be found in our Reading Curriculum Aims document. An overview of which authors, books and texts are covered in each year group can be found on our Reading Curriculum Overview.

Our phonics policy explains how and why we teach phonics in more detail and parents/carers can learn more about supporting reading at home through our presentation to parents.  If you would like to watch videos to learn about how to support your child with reading, please visit the Little Wandle YouTube channel.

 I just wanted to write to say thank you so much for the fantastic visit this morning! It was brilliant to hear and see how you are implementing Little Wandle at Bishop Gilpin. It has given me a lot of food for thought and many ideas to take back to my school. Thank you!

- English Lead from a Merton school 2022


At Bishop Gilpin, we follow the Little Wandle Letters & Sounds Revised as our systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) programme to teach early reading and spelling.  

Despite the intermittent controversy around approaches to reading, it is clear to staff at BG that children learn to read most efficiently through direct teaching of the phonics body of knowledge. We want to develop of a love of reading and enable our children to access learning through reading, SSP is a proven way to achieve the foundations for both aims. 

Mrs Douthwaite led the implementation of the approach at Bishop Gilpin (and numerous other schools) on behalf of the Wandle English Hub, as a Literacy Specialist.   

Mrs Riley (English Lead) and Mrs Dobinson (Early Reading Lead) continue to embed the Little Wandle Letters & Sounds Revised programme at Bishop Gilpin through 2023-24. 

Supporting your child with reading

Although your child will be taught to read at school, you can have a huge impact on their reading journey by continuing their practice at home.

There are two types of reading book that your child may bring home:

A reading practice book. This will be at the correct phonic stage for your child. They should be able to read this fluently and independently.

A sharing book.  Your child will not be able to read this on their own. This book is for you both to read and enjoy together.

Reading practice book

This book has been carefully matched to your child’s current reading level and robust research evidence into how to teach reading effectively. If your child is reading it with little help, please don’t worry that it’s too easy – the purpose of these books are to develop fluency and confidence in reading. 

By the time your child brings the book home, they should be reading with at least 95% fluency which means that they can read all the words, but may need to decode one word in every 20.  The cognitive load will come from reading in context, with comprehension.

Listen to them read the book. Remember to give them lots of praise – celebrate their success! If they can’t read a word, read it to them (do not ask them to guess from the context or pictures, as this is an unreliable method of reading).

After they have finished, talk about the book together.

Sharing book

In order to encourage your child to become a lifelong reader, it is important that children learn to read for pleasure. The sharing book is a book they have chosen for you to enjoy together.  This book will develop their vocabulary as you read it to them.

Please remember that you shouldn’t expect your child to read this alone. Read it to or with them. Discuss the pictures, enjoy the story, predict what might happen next, use different voices for the characters, explore the facts in a non-fiction book. The main thing is that you have fun!

...her teacher's teaching methods and curriculum materials (such as chosen reading books) were fantastic... very useful for my daughter  (parent/carer survey 2022)


How we teach early reading


In Nursery, we teach whole class phonics daily to develop children’s phonological awareness in preparation for learning grapheme-phoneme* correspondences (GPCs) and blending in Reception. We teach this through 7 aspects:

  • Aspect 1: General sound discrimination – environmental sounds 
  • Aspect 2: General sound discrimination – instrumental sounds 
  • Aspect 3: General sound discrimination – body percussion 
  • Aspect 4: Rhythm and rhyme 
  • Aspect 5: Alliteration              
  • Aspect 6: Voice sounds             
  • Aspect 7: Oral blending and segmenting 
  • We provide a balance of child-led and adult-led experiences each day for all children that meet the curriculum expectations for ‘Communication and language’ and ‘Literacy’. These include:

o   sharing high-quality stories and poems

o   learning a range of nursery rhymes and action rhymes

o   activities that develop focused listening and attention, including oral blending

o   attention to high-quality language.

*phonemes are the smallest units of sounds, graphemes are how we write the sounds. 

Reception - Daily Phonics

In Reception, children learn the mnemonics (a picture and phrase) for Phase 2 and 3 from the Little Wandle Letters & Sounds Revised programme.

Daily phonics lessons in Reception 

  • In Reception, we build from 10-minute whole class lessons, with additional daily oral blending games, to the full-length lesson (25 minutes a day) as quickly as possible. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers.
  • Children make a strong start in Reception: teaching begins in Week 2 of the Autumn term.
  • We follow the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programmes expectations of progress
  • Children in Reception are taught to read and spell words using Phase 2 and 3 GPCs, and words with adjacent consonants (Phase 4) with fluency and accuracy.

Year 1- Daily Phonics

Daily phonics lessons in Year 1 (2022-23)

  • In year 1, we continue to teach whole class phonics lessons for 30 minutes a day. Each Friday, we review the week’s teaching to help children become fluent readers.
  • Children have keep-up sessions most days to provide additional input to those children who require it. In addition, we assess pupils and provide catch-up sessions for those who have gaps in their phonic knowledge.
  • We teach in line with the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised programmes expectations of progress

Reading practice sessions (Reception-Y2)

We teach children to read through reading practice sessions three times a week, these:

  • are taught by a fully trained adult to small groups of approximately six children
  • use books matched to the children’s secure phonic knowledge using the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised assessments and book matching grids on pages 11–20 of ‘Application of phonics to reading’
  • are monitored by the class teacher, who rotates and works with each group on a regular basis.

Each reading practice session has a clear focus, so that the demands of the session do not overload the children’s working memory. The reading practice sessions have been designed to focus on three key reading skills:

  • decoding
  • prosody: teaching children to read with understanding and expression
  • comprehension: teaching children to understand the text.

In Reception, these sessions start in Autumn 1 Week 4, which enables children to have learned enough GPCs to be able to access the books. Children who are not yet decoding have daily additional blending practice in small groups, so that they quickly learn to blend and can begin to read books. Every child should be blending by the end of their first term in reception.

In year 1, these reading sessions start in Autumn 1 Week 2

In year 2, we to teach reading in this way for any children who still need to practise reading with decodable books. 

Home Reading

The decodable reading practice book is taken home to ensure success is shared with the family.

Reading for pleasure books also go home for parents to share and read to children. These will be chosen from a regularly refreshed library box in the classroom or from a visit to our school library.

We use the Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised parents’ resources to engage our families and share information about phonics, the benefits of sharing books, how children learn to blend and other aspects of our provision, both online and through workshops.


Additional reading support for vulnerable children

Children who need additional practice receive additional support through:

  • Pupil premium reading 
  • Reading mentors (trained adults who support our children weekly)
  • 1:1 reading with another adult in school (e.g. class teacher / TA)
  • Lexia Core 5 programme (year 2+)

Ensuring consistency and pace of progress

  • Every teacher in our school has been trained to teach reading, so we have the same expectations of progress. We all use the same language, routines and resources to teach children to read so that we lower children’s cognitive load. (Glossary of key terminology)
  • Weekly content grids map each element of new learning to each day, week and term for the duration of the programme.
  • Lesson templates, prompt cards and 'how to' videos ensure teachers all have a consistent approach and structure for each lesson.
  • The Early Reading Lead, English Lead use the Audit and Prompt cards to regularly monitor and observe teaching; teachers and leaders use data to identify children who need additional support.

BG phonics workshop presentations for parents and carers:


 Reception and Year 1 Little Wandle presentation (September 2023)