Reading Intent

North Mead Primary Academy is situated in the Northfield area of Leicester.  The school community we serve has a high level of deprivation (39% FSM 2023), a high proportion of children and families who speak English as an additional Language (79% EAL 2023) and a high mobility.  We are proud of our school and the families we serve.

Research shows that reading for pleasure is more important for a child’s cognitive development than parents’ level of education and is a more powerful factor in life achievement than socio-economic background.1  At North Mead, we do not believe any barriers should hold our children back and strive to do whatever it takes to remove barriers to children’s enjoyment of reading.

Low levels of literacy cost the UK an estimated £80 billion a year in lost earnings and increased welfare spending, impacting on ‘the success of the economy as a whole.2  Adults with lower levels of literacy are more likely to believe that they have little impact on political processes.3

At North Mead, we believe every child has the right to access their full potential. We strive to provide a broad and rich reading curriculum which will raise aspirations and provide cultural capital for our children and their families.  We endeavour to ensure every child has a love of reading and every barrier to this is removed.  We aim for every child to be a lifelong reader: able to enjoy and access learning and life, in and beyond the school curriculum.

Our reading intent forms part of our wider curriculum intent: We will provide all of our children with a broad, relevant and enriched curriculum so that they have the character to make a positive contribution to our society and are knowledgeable, skilled and ready for the next phase of their education.

Reading Journey

At North Mead, we consider each child individually as being on our reading journey.  In the earliest stages of reading, children develop spoken language, learn text conventions, rhyme and listen to stories.  They then use the Read Write Inc (RWI) systematic synthetic phonics (SSP) scheme to learn the 44 sounds in the English language and the associated phonological awareness.  After passing the Year 1 Phonics screening, children read carefully matched books.  Teachers use Accelerated Reader (AR) to help select finely matched books for children who progress through ZPD levels (Zone of Proximal Development).  Where children fall behind on this journey, or are new to the journey (for example new arrivals with limited or no English), they are assessed, and the most appropriate teaching is put in place to enable progress.

‘Stage not Age.’ 

We view a child’s reading journey as being about their ‘Stage not Age.’  Children at North Mead work their way through the RWI ditty books which are finely matched to their most recent RWI phonics assessment and class teaching.  When children pass the Year One Phonics Check, they begin to read books from the North Mead library which are organised according to ZPD levels.

RWI and Early Reading

Read Write Inc. is a government backed phonics scheme designed by Ruth Miskin, which through systematic teaching and consistent routines, enables children to achieve high levels of reading success. At North Mead Primary Academy we believe that reading is the key to all learning and we are fully committed to making sure that every child is a reader by the end of KS1.

We have a dedicated team of staff who have all received accredited RWI training. They are passionate about achieving success and take part in weekly meetings for coaching and training purposes. The scheme is overseen by the Reading Leader, who will monitor RWI sessions and ensure that all teaching is high quality and that children are focused and engaged.

Each child is carefully assessed and placed into a RWI group based their phonics sound knowledge and reading skills. This ensures that all children are working at the right level for their ability which is the best way to ensure progress and confidence in their reading skills.  Groups are assessed regularly and children are moved accordingly to either accelerate progress or provide further consolidation. This compilation of rapid acceleration, streamed groupings and targeted support helps to ensure our children are confident readers.

Children are taught the early sounds in Set 1. This covers the alphabet and a few ‘special friends’ which are two letters which make one sound such as ‘sh’. They will learn to spot and recognise them quickly through fun activities and also to write them using ‘phrases’ to help them remember the correct formation. Staff teach children ‘pure sounds’ which can be heard using this link.

Using these simple sounds, children will learn to ‘blend’ sounds together so c-a-t becomes cat. To help the children do this, we have a lovely green frog called Fred! He can only talk in sounds so the children put the sounds together to make the word. We call this ‘Fred Talk’. This is also used in early reading, as when children see a new word they can use ‘Fred Talk’ to break down the sounds and then say or read the word. Similarly, this supports early writing skills as children use ‘Fred Fingers’ to break down a spoken word into its sounds to enable them to write the word. We use the phrase ‘Say the word – pinch the sounds’ to help children remember.

When they are confident with blending and know all of their Set 1 sounds, the children will move onto Set 2 sounds and then Set 3 sounds, which introduce alternative spellings for sounds they know and more special friends. They may begin to use ‘Fred in their head’ to read more quickly and fluently, which helps to build up speed, however this stage is also tricky for children as they need to be able to spot ‘special friends’ easily within new words.

Words which can be decoded are called ‘Green Words’ as they can be deciphered using phonics knowledge. Unfortunately, there are lots of words in the E

nglish language that do not follow these rules: they are called ‘Red Words’ or tricky words and need to be learned by sight. When faced with an unfamiliar word we use the phrase ‘Special friends – Fred talk – Read the word’ as this reminds them that it is important to spot the special friends before attempting to read the word. To further consolidate this we also use ‘Alien Words’ which are made up words that do not make sense. These words test to see if the children can spot any special friends and that they have good sound knowledge, rather than recognising familiar (or sense) words and using memory rather than reading skills. This technique is also used in the National Year 1 Phonics Check.

By moving through the carefully designed stages (or colours) of books which consolidate the sounds learned at the right time, children will gain speed and confidence in their reading ability. As reading becomes more fluent, children begin to understand the stories they read and can enjoy the books. As part of the RWI sessions they will read their group books a total of three times; to support learning new speedy green words and more tricky red words, to investigate vocabulary and to build expression.

They will also complete comprehension activities as part of each book to ensure they know word meanings and can find and retrieve information as well as give opinions about the story or link to other books they know or life experiences.

In a session, children complete RWI Get Writing activities. They will explore building up sentence structures and rehearse ideas before writing. They will continue to work on letter formation and investigate grammar and punctuation rules appropriate for their stage. This will enable all children to practice and apply their individual phonics learning throughout the lessons and for class teachers to provide further input.

The scheme provides a strict routine and is very fast paced. Children will often learn a new sound per day so full attendance is vital! (If your child has a holiday for a week – they would miss 5 new sounds and 6.5 hours of focused learning, and therefore have knowledge gaps which may prevent them from moving forward.) As all children learn at different paces, some will find reading easy while others find it hard.

Whilst your child is learning their Set 1 sounds, we recommend you read ‘Reading for Pleasure’ books. These are books from school, or books that you may have at home, that children are interested in and have chosen to enjoy with you. They can look at the pictures and spot letters or sounds that they know to build confidence but most importantly they should hear you read the book with expression in order to absorb the rich language and vocabulary within in and learn to love story time.

When your child is learning to blend, they will be given RWI Sound Blending books. To help your child with these, ask them to try to ‘Fred Talk’ the word and blend it together.  When they turn the page they will see if they were right! Encourage them to sound out carefully using pure sounds and give lots of praise and support for effort and success.

Once confident in blending, children will begin to receive book-bag books.  This is done to build self-esteem and enjoyment in reading as well as to allow them to show off their reading skills to parents and carers. These books allow children to apply their reading skills and are matched to the sounds they have been taught so far. The book will will be unfamiliar to your child, so read the opening instructions on the front page carefully before reading. These books should be read at home a minimum of three times before being returned to school.  (Please bring to the books to and from school every day).  In the first read, your child will be focusing on reading each word individually and it may seem robotic. In this phase very little comprehension of the story is likely. In the second read, their word recognition will become quicker allowing a faster pace and better understanding of the story. In the third read, the speed should be much quicker and therefore your child will be using more brain power to understand the story rather than on reading each word. This is the point when the story becomes meaningful and pleasurable and they can answer questions based on the content. There are questions at the end of the book to check understanding and promote discussion of the story. Please take the time to complete these activities as there are the early comprehension skills which are built upon throughout school.

It is recommended that all reading should take place in a calm and quiet environment, a story before bed time or snuggled on the sofa without distractions of the TV etc so the focus can purely be on the reading enjoyment. It should be relaxed and enjoyable and lots of praise should be given when children are successful. Please try not to get frustrated if your child is struggling as this likely to put them off trying. Instead, encourage them to ‘Fred Talk’ words and help them to blend and then praise for being successful.

Don’t forget that even if your child can read RWI books it is still important for them to regularly hear you read in order to learn expression. This will remove some of the pressure on them and also helps to improve their vocabulary levels as the books they listen to can be for any age.

Simple activities can be completed to help your child recognise sounds and read or write words, so there is no need to buy any resources for use at home.

RWI How to pronounce the Phonics Sounds

RWI Supporting early reading at home

Other RWI Parent Videos

The main resource you can provide your child with are time, patience and praise, and together we will make sure they are confident readers!

Book Led Curriculum

Books are at the heart of our curriculum from Nursery to Year 6.  We use a book led curriculum in which a wide and broad range of high quality, well researched and carefully chosen books are the stimulus for each subject.  Our chosen books have been selected to ensure appropriate challenge and progression across the school, to foster a love of reading and to represent a diverse range of authors, characters and experiences to enrich cultural capital.

Reading is not limited to a child’s reading journey or the book led curriculum.  Children at North Mead read across the curriculum for purpose in every subject; from historical sources in history lessons to fact files in geography.

Whole Class Reading

At the appropriate stage of their reading journey, children at North Mead Primary Academy take part in a one hour reading comprehension lesson per week.  This is in addition to their own personal reading journey, reading books and the book led curriculum. The goal of reading comprehension lessons is for children to complete activities independently when faced with an unfamiliar text.   Teachers focus on a specific, taught reading comprehension skill during the sessions for example: understanding vocabulary in context and use the VIPERS skills to do this.  This may be with individual children, a small group or whole class depending on teacher assessment of children’s needs.  The specific work that children complete depends on their stage in the reading journey:

These reading comprehension resources addresses the Programmes of Study for reading comprehension in the 2014 National Curriculum for England for primary schools. At North Mead, teachers know it is vital that children understand what they are reading yet, it is also fundamental that they enjoy what they are reading, so that they grow up to become lifelong readers.  We chose these series as we know they provide children with a variety of engaging, enjoyable texts, including a range of text types, that will grab their attention and promote a love of reading.

Evidence shows one in ten pupils who decode satisfactorily, fail to get full meaning and enjoyment from reading. (*1)   Inference training is a teaching strategy used at North Mead for pupils in who decode adequately but fail to get full meaning and enjoyment from their reading.  Inference focuses on the VIPERS skills and is split into 5 minute sections:

  1. Background knowledge (P: Predict)
  2. Spotting meaning breakdown and repair (V: Vocabulary)
  3. Asking questions as an active reader (I: Infer / R: Retrieving)
  4. Adding sentences
  5. Getting visual (E: Explain)
  6. Summarising. (S: Sequence or Summarise)

*1 [Nation & Snowling (1997) and Cain and Oakhill (2007)]

Lexia is a computer adaptive program which targeted children use to improve their reading ability.  It is an Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) accredited program.  Students use Lexia to work independently at their own pace through individualised learning paths to develop fundamental reading skills in a structured, sequential manner.  At North Mead, teachers supervise initial assessments by the programme before allowing pupils to work on the intervention independently, a minimum of three times per week.


VIPERS is a framework which teachers at North Mead Primary Academy use teach reading comprehension and question children in reading sessions across the curriculum.  It is used to promote active reading.  VIPERS is an acronym for: Vocabulary, Inference, Predicting, Explaining, Retrieving and Summarising.

She is there to help you to work out the meaning of words you don’t know.

She helps you to do this by looking at the words or
phrases you’re unsure of in context.

This means using the story so far, the sentences around the words and what you already know about the plot to figure out what the words must mean.

She is there to help you to pick up ideas from the text that are not always written in the text itself.

She helps you to do this by getting you to read the text as if you are a detective. You’re not looking for what is there – you’re looking for what is meant by it.

For example, if the text says ‘Jenni’s face was red – she wrinkled her brow and began to shout’, what could you infer about how Jenni feels?

He is there to help you to try to make a logical and reasonable guess about what could happen next.

He helps you to do this by getting you to look at what has already happened, what the characters may have hinted is coming up or what has been implied by the author’s use of language.

If someone brought a cake lit with candles into a party, what would logically happen next?

He is there to help you to do two things:​​

explain how certain parts of a text build or change an overall message or meaning;

say how characters or events within the story are similar to or different from each other or how a single character changes over the course of a story.

He is there to help you to find key pieces of information within the text you are reading.​​

He helps you to do this by looking through the text for a specific answer.​​

With Retrieving Ramiz questions, the answer you are looking for is always in the text somewhere… you just have to find and retrieve it!

This means that she is there to help you to sum up what you’ve read.​​

She helps you to do this by reading the text, picking out the key points that are really important and giving a quick run down of the text’s main ideas.​​

Imagine that you’ve read a book and have to send your friend a message about the plot – which key points
would you tell them and which would you leave out?

Accelerated Reader

Accelerated Readers (AR) offers children a bank of quizzes on ‘real books’, and assessment tools for teachers.  At North Mead, children who pass the Year 1 phonics check have access to an AR account and to our library which is organised into ZPD ranges (Zone of Proximal Development).  AR helps teachers at North Mead manage and monitor children’s independent reading practice.  Termly (or as needed), children take a STAR reading test. STAR reading is a computer-based reading assessment which uses computer-adaptive technology: a series of multiple-choice questions continually adjust to a child’s responses.  If correct, the difficulty level is increased; if incorrect, the difficulty level is reduced.  STAR reader assigns children a ZPD range.

Children are guided by teachers to pick books from the library within their own ZPD range and read them at their own pace. When finished, children take a short quiz in Accelerated Reader. Passing the quiz is an indication that they have understood what has been read. AR gives both children and teachers feedback on quiz performance which the teacher then uses to help the child choose further books.  Through teacher leadership, AR assists with the nurture of a love of reading: both as a hook to keep children interested and by making sure children access books they can enjoy.  Children using AR have a free choice of the books they read, rather than having one assigned to them.  This makes reading an enjoyable experience as children can choose books based on authors they like or subjects that interest them. 

Children with access to AR are also able to access 5000+ ebooks through MyOn – AR’s online platform for ebooks.

Further, we believe in rewarding reading effort and progress.  Children are rewarded according to words read measured in Accelerated Reader. 

Total Words Read


50,000 words

50,000 certificate

extra Golden Time

100,000 words

100,000 certificate

extra golden time 

250,000 words

250,000 certificate

extra golden time

500,000 words

500,000 club badge

pizza delivery

1 million words

1,000,000 word badge

book token

Further multiples of million words read:

Additional 1,000,000 word badge

book token