Reading opens the door to all learning. The best schools, according to Ofsted, find their success is based on the resolve that every child will learn to read, together with a very rigorous and sequential approach to developing speaking and listening and teaching reading, writing and spelling through systematic phonics. One literacy programme that is referred to on numerous occasions by Ofsted in their report ‘Reading by six – how the best schools do it’ is Read Write Inc. Read Write Inc. is an inclusive, top-drawer literacy programme from the queen of phonics, Ruth Miskin. It has been widely used in hundreds of schools with glowing results. There are various resources to access, including Fresh Start – a catch-up programme that has been written for older children in KS2 to give them a second chance at becoming fluent readers.
At the very heart of the Fresh Start programme is the dynamic teaching of synthetic phonics. Pupils are taught the 44 phonic sounds systematically, and how to sound-blend words alongside spelling (this using the excellent Speed Sounds Lesson Plans resource along with three impressive Sounds Cards Sets). The lesson plans offer very clear guidance and a photocopiable worksheet is provided for each lesson. This enables children to practise both reading and writing at the same time as they learn each letter sound through speaking and listening. The writing on the sound cards is a bit too small for my liking, but there’s no knocking the content. Vitally, after using these resources, children then read books with words they can sound-blend.
There are 33 superbly written modules on offer that contain thoughtfully graded, age appropriate stories and non-fiction texts. The modules each come with nine reading activities and nine writing activities, so there is plenty to go at. At first glance, you might wonder where to begin, so it’s just as well there is a blueprint lesson plan provided in the Fresh Start handbook that provides a very helpful step-by-step outline for all the module lessons. Follow this and you won’t go far wrong. It’s brilliant. The modules come in pupil workbook formats so are not for photocopying.
For every module there are also accompanying texts in Anthologies and More Anthologies, which have been designed to encourage further and wider reading and contain a lively collection of non-fiction, poetry and fiction texts – each including various quizzes, play scripts and comic strips. These are all colourful A4-size books that can’t fail to appeal and contain a mixture of illustrations and photographs.
The books have been pitched absolutely on the button with an impressive range of topics that children will definitely want to read more about. Texts that caught my eye were Know your fright limit, Odd achievements, Down the hatch! and Wild Mike’s guide to staying alive.
The books have been presented in such a way that children will want to explore what’s on offer and they will probably ask to take them home. In fact, they are designed to encourage independent reading and I think they will certainly motivate children to do just that.
The Fresh Start handbook is a must if you want to implement the programme with conviction because it provides all the step-bystep guidance you need to get things moving and includes the module lessons, timetables, assessment and lots of advice including how to organise Fresh Start As with anything, success of the programme will come about if it is tightly managed.
Fresh Start is an astute and expertly crafted set of synthetic phonics resources that will give struggling readers the opportunity to access and enjoy a healthy range of texts appropriate to their age level. It is streets ahead of anything else commercially available and ranges in usefulness from worthwhile to remarkable, with stupendous progress more than possible. It might not work for every school, but if you have an enthusiastic reading manager and a staff who are relentless in their efforts to create a read-a-lot and talka- lot school, then you’re halfway there. If there is anything better to help children crack the code of reading and boost their confidence then I’ll eat my hat. The Miskin reading bullet has proven itself to be the bees knees and using these resources will give you and your children a real buzz.