Reading is a fundamental part of everything we do at Cunningham Hill Infant. It is the skill that underpins everything that is taught and opens the door to learning across the curriculum. Throughout the school, we utilise the Literacy Tree scheme for the teaching of English, which influences how our curriculum is organised.  This scheme uses high quality texts in all units of work to engage the children through reading of books which are linked to foundation subjects where possible.  This helps them have necessary knowledge to become lifelong readers. Carefully matched, high quality texts support the development of reading skills. These are taught explicitly in all year groups. The use of whole class texts supports the development of decoding and comprehension skills. We want the children to develop a love of reading for pleasure by showing how highly we value it as part of everyday life. All staff are encouraged to read to the children regularly to ensure that they are familiar with both traditional and new texts.

We feel that it is important that the children read every day and are therefore given plenty of opportunity to read and experience books.  To support their reading, our children receive:

  • Regular guided reading sessions using a carousel of activities.  In Reception and Year 1 these are directly linked to the phonics they are learning and utilise texts which are matched to the phonics rule they are learning at the time. Once they are able to use phonics to decode and understand texts effectively, they will have 15 minutes each day to read for pleasure.
  • Extra phonic support is provided, as part of the Essential Letters & Sounds scheme we follow in all year groups as necessary.
  • A reading book which is matched to their phonic knowledge (until their phonic knowledge and reading ability is of a strong enough level) and a shared reading book which they can enjoy at home.
  • Regular access to the Library including activities to investigate different genres of texts with our school librarian.
  • The opportunity win prizes each half term for how often they read at home in order to encourage them to read everyday.
  • A whole school Reading Spine which outlines the books that children will cover each term in school.  Each term, the spine includes books that: are chosen by the Literacy Tree English scheme, which are used in our daily English lessons; fiction and non-fiction texts relating to our topic; representative of our community and books that will be shared with the children though each term, through a shared class reader and in free reading time.


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.