English curriculum – reading

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At Dartford Primary Academy we want to foster a love of reading, where children can not only demonstrate an understanding of what they have read, but also show enthusiasm and excitement for it. We believe that reading is an integral part of a child’s learning and development and that it underpins all other learning. Therefore, reading is at the heart of the school curriculum. It is our view that every lesson is a reading lesson. 

We also believe that a love of reading plays an important part in a child becoming an independent reader and it is a more reliable indicator of academic success rather than socio-economic status. At Dartford Primary Academy, we foster this by encouraging children to choose their own reading books which are not only suitable for their reading level but that also interests them. By linking our reading curriculum to the International Baccalaureate Primary Year Programme (PYP), we allow children to experience a broad range of texts and genres which in turn broadens their vocabulary and supports them in becoming more confident speakers and writers. Consequently, it builds the children’s knowledge across the curriculum and it promotes the children’s love of reading as they are able to read widely. 

Our main aim at Dartford Primary Academy is to ensure that all children learn to read at least age-appropriate books regardless of their background or circumstances.We ensure this by teaching reading lessons which follow a clear progression through EYFS, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 and phonics lessons that are pitched to a child’s individual needs. We hope to build a strong community of reading children who are able to learn how to change the world through the books and texts they read.

At Dartford Primary Academy, the English National Curriculum aims to underpin the planning of reading and this ensures a broad and balanced curriculum that is progressive throughout the key stages. Additionally, planning and teaching are also closely linked to the PYP, where teachers match their current inquiry themes to interesting reading materials and class reader books which support our children’s learning. 

At Dartford Primary Academy, we have spent a lot of time researching and developing a reading spine that has been designed to give children the opportunity to have exposure to high quality texts, which are slightly above the average reading ability for their age, and which we believe should be the staple diet of all primary-aged children. The reading spine also includes a balance of genres, including: fiction, non-fiction, rhymes, raps and poetry. Additionally, we have kept cultural diversity at the forefront of our decision making when selecting books and authors, therefore enabling children exposure to a high-level of cultural capital. (To access our reading spine please click here.) 

Reading skills are taught in discrete, daily phonics and reading sessions and are then implemented across the curriculum, ensuring children are applying what they have learnt. Strategies we implement to provide children with the best possible chance at learning to read and developing a love of reading: 


At Dartford Primary we follow the Read, Write Inc (RWI) phonics scheme in EYFS and KS1 and where needed in KS2. Children are assessed and grouped based on their current phonic knowledge which means that lessons target the needs of the pupils regardless of their age or starting point, and this promotes personalised progress for each child. Children read out loud frequently from carefully selected books that closely match their phonic knowledge. Children are assessed at least once per term and more frequently if progress is more rapid. This allows progress to be tracked effectively and key areas for development to be fed back to teachers and parents. Therefore, children move through the groups at an appropriate pace and those who may need additional support are identified. RWI focuses on developing spoken language, reading comprehension and writing which are the key skills children need in becoming proficient readers and writers.

On average, children will reach the end of the RWI programme by the end of Year 1 or the first term in Year 2. Those children who require additional support, and have not passed the phonics check at KS1, will continue on the RWI programme at KS2. These children will be in smaller, targeted focus groups and will have additional 1-1 sessions designed to plug their gaps and get them reading accurately and fluently as quickly as possible. This is so they can access the KS2 English curriculum. This further ensures provision and equal opportunities are provided for all children no matter their starting point.

Story time with a class reader from our reading spine

Story time is a valued part of the daily routine at DPA. All children have the opportunity to hear an adult read aloud for at least fifteen minutes a day. This is to allow for high quality discussions about books with their teacher and peers, as well as hearing a good model of fluency, comprehension, intonation and expression. 

Whole class reading

In both KS1 and KS2, children take part in various whole class reading activities to promote discussion around what the children have read. In EYFS and KS1 the children have access to a strategy called Reading Rainbows, which can be applied to any high-quality text, and KS2 children (as well as those who have finished RWI) will be following a new reading sequence from September 2020. This reading approach uses VIPERS (Vocabulary, Inference, Prediction, Explanation, Retrieval and Summarising/Sequencing) to ensure the National Curriculum skills are explicitly taught to develop the children’s comprehension skills. It also has been well thought-out to include two days of immersion in the class reader (including one day where new vocabulary is explicitly taught) and three days a week focusing on either: non-fiction, songs, poetry, picture books, short films, fiction from significant authors or traditional children’s literature. This is to increase their exposure to high quality texts and give the children a broad and balanced reading curriculum to further promote the love of reading. The success of these programmes will be evident in the development of their spoken language skills, their vocabulary development and the quality of writing they produce. 


At Dartford Primary Academy, we regularly assess reading to ensure children receive any additional support they may need. Throughout the school reading interventions are put in place to provide extra opportunities for children to develop their reading skills. Children may take part in 1:1 reading sessions where they can share their book with an adult, 1:1 phonics interventions in order to pick up on any sounds they may not know or to develop their blending skills, or they may be part of small group interventions which aim to close the gap with children who are all at a similar level. 

Library areas 

Across the academy, the library areas outside the classroom further promote the love of reading through the inviting displays, comfortable seating and opportunities for the children to share their favourite books with their peers. We have had an investment in a range of high quality books from a range of book levels, genres and authors to engage all types of readers. Inside each classroom, there is also a reading area where children can pick books that spark their interest to read in purposeful, independent, free choice reading time during the school week. 

Home reading

At DPA, once a child has completed RWI, they follow the Accelerated Reader scheme which provides them with recommendations for books which match their reading level. Children can then complete a quiz on the book they have read to check their reading and comprehension skills. We believe that reading is an integral skill to learn and we strive to have a partnership between school and home so that this continues seamlessly. Children are given the opportunity to take home a reading book twice a week and these match their current reading level in order to promote progress and consolidate their reading skills. 

Across both Key Stages, children are encouraged to read a book more than once in order to develop their pace, fluency and expression. Alongside our parents, we have worked incredibly hard to emphasise the importance of children being praised and celebrated for what they can read, rather than pushing them on before they are ready. This has had a huge impact on the way children at DPA view and value reading and our children are always excited to change their reading books. As well as a levelled reading books, children are also invited to take home a book, which promotes reading for pleasure, from our school library once a week. These books are chosen solely by the children based on their interests, and have inspired our children to widen their book choices. Children are also encouraged to read for an extended period of time on a Wednesday night using our Buster’s Book Club reward incentive. The class who reads for the most amount of minutes each week receives a prize and this promotes collaboration between the students and encourages them to take pride in their reading. 

In addition to Accelerated Reader and Buster’s Book Club, we also have myON. This is an online platform where the children can access thousands of high-quality, high-interest digital books and news articles which have built-in scaffolds to support readers at every level. This is another way in which we encourage children to practise their reading skills and build up their reading minutes each week.

At Dartford Primary Academy, we strive to create a positive reading culture and to help shape children’s confidence, enthusiasm and love for reading. Children will coherently and enthusiastically discuss their learning and the books they have read and also offer opinions and recommendations to adults and their peers. We have high expectations that all children reach at least the age-related expectation at the end of each year and ensure that those with gaps in their knowledge receive appropriate support and intervention to progress towards this. Our reading curriculum is intended to ensure that all pupils are academically prepared for life beyond primary school and that they are exposed to a range of reading styles. We intend to give children of Dartford Primary Academy the gift of reading and, in doing so, a pass to all that school and life beyond education has to offer.