3 children looking at their own PCs

Headmaster’s Blog – The importance of reading

16th October 20

Reading is the one of the most important skills we teach boys at The Mall. We want boys to develop a love of reading, to read widely and to have an excellent understanding of what they have read.

The early years focus on developing the key phonic skills and sight vocabulary, which are so important for reading fluency. For boys who joined us in Reception, by the time they reach Year 4, their phonic knowledge and sight vocabulary is often three or more years ahead in these skills. Even boys identified as being dyslexic have scores in excess of their chronological age. By Year 6, three-quarters of our boys are in the top 10% nationally for reading.

As the boys become more confident and fluent, the focus on reading comprehension increases and to develop this vital skill we use the Accelerated Reader and BOFA online schemes.

Accelerated Reader is a quiz a boy takes when he has completed his reading book, which assesses his recall and literal understanding of what he has read. We introduce the Accelerated Reader scheme from Year 2. The quiz can be taken in school or at home (although the system is set up so he cannot take a quiz at the weekend). We recommend your son takes the quiz as soon as he has completed his book. Some of the books also include a vocabulary test, which he must also complete. Boys should aim to complete a quiz once a fortnight.

The answers are multiple choice and a boy should aim to score 80% or over. Regularly scoring below 80% means the books he is reading are too challenging for him or he is not rushing to finish.  If he scores 100% all the time then this suggests that the books he is choosing are too easy. Your son’s English teacher will advise him on the sorts of books he should be reading (he has already been given a reading list of titles appropriate to his level). The Accelerated Reader programme also includes suggestions for books your son might enjoy.

The BOFA online programme assesses a boy’s higher order comprehension skills particularly those of inference and deduction. We introduce this from the spring term in Year 4 when boys are given a booklet with a collection of short pieces of writing. Boys are asked to read the passage and then answer the online multiple-choice questions. If they get any of the answers wrong, they have an opportunity to correct them. We encourage boys to aim to get full marks on the retest and, as they gain in confidence, to try to achieve 100% on their first attempt. Boys are expected to complete one of these exercises each week at home.

Boys in Year 3 and above still benefit from reading aloud to a parent regularly. This will help them to develop expressive articulation, and give the parent a chance to discuss the plot, themes and vocabulary with their child.  Just as important is that you continue to read aloud to your son – many parents choose to do this as a bedtime story. This allows you to enjoy a book with your son and their siblings, which may be a more advanced book than they might read by themselves. It can also introduce boys to the classics that they may not choose to read for themselves. Research shows that most children have a listening comprehension which is a few years more advanced than their reading comprehension. Boys are encouraged to take Accelerated Reader quizzes on novels that have been read aloud to him as well as those that he has read independently.


Beyond the classroom