Reading is fundamental to education. Proficiency in reading, writing and spoken language is vital for pupils’ success. Through these, they develop communication skills for education and for working with others: in school, in training and at work. Pupils who find it difficult to learn to read are likely to struggle across the curriculum, since English is both a subject in its own right and the medium for teaching.

Language comprehension

The guidance discusses the importance of talk and stories, and the critical links between these, especially the role stories play in developing young children’s vocabulary and language. It also considers the role of poetry, rhymes and songs in attuning young children to the sounds of language. It explains how teachers might expand children’s store of words through talk throughout the day, within the curriculum and, in particular, through stories. Listening to and talking about stories and non-fiction develops children’s vocabulary, because they meet words they would rarely hear or use in everyday speech. Understanding vocabulary is vital for comprehension at all stages – both reading and listening – and so for all pupils’ wider learning and progress.

Teaching word reading and spelling

The national curriculum is designed to make sure that all pupils are able to read and write fluently and proficiently by the time they leave year 6, so that they can make progress at secondary school. A vital element of this is the early and successful teaching of phonics, complemented throughout the school years by teaching that promotes fluency and comprehension. Understanding that the letters on the page represent the sounds in spoken words underpins successful word reading. Pupils’ knowledge of the English alphabetic code – how letters or groups of letters represent the sounds of the language – supports their reading and spelling.

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