5 steps to boosting reading at key stage 1

Ready-made reading schemes can limit children's reading, says Nicola Fosker, but building your own scheme can give them a better foundation

Nicola Fosker

ks1 reading

Children in key stage 1 will read many books from their school’s reading scheme, both in class and at home. These are the texts that form the basis of teaching children to read.

For some children, this is their only individual reading and we know that there is a high percentage of disadvantaged children who do not have any books at all at home. 

Most schools will fill their reading bands with texts from different reading published schemes. These pre-existing schemes have their place, but using them exclusively means many children’s experience of early reading will be severely limited. Children who read with an adult at home will have a wide knowledge of stories and facts – but not all children get this opportunity. 

KS1 reading: make your own reading scheme

What can we do about this? Simply increasing the breadth and quality of your scheme will enable all children to start building this foundation. It is a simple way to boost reading levels and at the cost of a few boxes of coloured stickers. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Search your school for suitable books

Scour your school library, book corners and storage boxes. I guarantee that there will be enough books without you having to buy new ones. 

Only use quality texts and never lower your standards. As a general rule, if you don’t want to read a book, chances are that the children won’t want to either. It is better to have fewer books of a higher quality. 

Once you have your books, colour-code them to your reading bands by looking at the reading exemplification for KS1 and going from there. Make sure they are in good condition and attractive to the children. Beautiful books inspire reading.

2. Add animal books

Animals are a big part of the KS1 science curriculum and children love them. Try to find fiction and non-fiction books about the same animals so that children can increase their scientific knowledge and have a greater understanding of the settings and plots. For example, you could pair Elmer by David McKee and Ridiculous! by Michael Coleman with non-fiction books about elephants and tortoises.

3. Add fun

Look for funny texts and books that children can read aloud to each other. Read them to the class in the way they are meant to be read so that the children have a reading model.

My children’s favourite text last year was Michael Rosen’s Little Rabbit Foo Foo. When a disadvantaged child who you know has no books at home and is lacking in confidence with their reading ability, runs over to the box in the morning to find this, then sits and reads it aloud to a group of friends who are all laughing and joining in, then you know that child has discovered the joy of reading and your reading scheme is doing its job.

4. Provide links for children to find

Select books that provide links for the children to find: books by the same authors; texts connected to your topics or theme; texts related to the KS1 curriculum; different versions of fairy stories and traditional tales. 

If children can’t find a link, start a discussion with: “This book reminds me of …” They will soon catch on and will surprise and delight you with the links they do find.

5. Love and enjoy the books in your scheme

Read books to the children often, so that they are familiar with them. Let the children have free access to them. Be enthusiastic about them and enjoy learning about them alongside your children. Every time you read a book, there will be something new to discover.

With these simple and cheap steps, children will soon be building reading foundations for their future learning and, most importantly, all children will be reading quality texts several times a week.

Nicola Fosker is a KS1 teacher based in south-west London. She tweets @Immersed_in_KS1

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