Phonics at Westhaven

At Westhaven, we follow the approach to phonics teaching as outlined in the DfE validated programme UNLOCKING LETTERS AND SOUNDS.  Children begin this programme and continue to access it until they are fully confident and ready for it to be superseded by our spelling programme. 

Unlocking Letters and Sounds is a systematic synthetic programme for the teaching of phonics. The central principles involve:

  • Children having knowledge of the alphabetic code;
  • Children having the skill to blend to read;
  • Children having the skill to segment to spell;
  • Children understanding these as a reversible process

Unlocking Letters and Sounds links reading and writing to phonic knowledge and is of great benefit to many of our children. The knowledge children acquire to support their development of early reading is equally as relevant for their development as a writer. It is important that children are given equal opportunities to practise and apply their phonics skills in writing and reading tasks so that they can understand the relationship between decoding skills for reading and encoding skills for spelling. These skills are underpinned by the modelling and teaching of good listening skills, combined with frequent opportunities to improve children’s visual and auditory memory and their ability to sequence. These skills are developed through the teaching of activities to promote phonological and phonemic awareness in young children before they embark on a systematic phonics programme.

Alongside daily teaching of phonics, activities and opportunities are provided within the learning environment for children to apply and consolidate their learning.

To support our systematic, synthetic phonics approach, we also teach and value strategies such as learning sight vocabulary and looking for context when reading unfamiliar vocabulary.  It is vital that early reading is undertaken through the use of phonetically decodable texts and, therefore, we ensure that the first books the children receive to read are matched to the phonic step they have secured. Specific texts, selected from our reading scheme, Reading Stars Phonics from Ransom Publishing, are used in school. 

Reading Stars Phonics – samples 

Phonetically decodable books are organised by phonetic step with a clear progression that is in line with our phonics programme. This allows us to ensure that each child is accessing books which are matched to their current level of need and complement their phonetic development. The correct level of text will both inspire and enthuse, whilst nurturing their reading ability. This ensures that children will progress rapidly with both their decoding and understanding of a text.  Understanding is the key to enjoyment; text comprehension starts straight away in EYFS with class story time and continues right the way through the school.

 Our overall aim is to enable each child to gain a love for reading, which will last a lifetime.

Articulation of Phonemes

Westhaven School Reading Continuum

Tips for reading at home

We want all of our children to develop a love of reading and there are so many different ways that you can encourage this at home. Below are some tips to help your children embrace reading. 


  1. It doesn’t have to be at bedtime! Choose a time that suits your family life. If you can, try to read for 10 minutes each day and keep distractions to a minimum.
  2. Let them choose the book/song/nursery rhyme/comic/newspaper/poem/wordless! We just want them to enjoy their reading time. Below is a list of links or websites that you can access different texts from.
  1. Turn on the subtitles while you are watching television. Parents – Turn On The Subtitles
  2. Try not to rush – relax and enjoy it together – whether you are discussing the pictures or reading alternate words/paragraphs/chapters or listening together/discussing characters/predicting what might happen.
  3. Be a good role model – do your children see you reading?
  4. Keep it fun – voices/actions/siblings/not school/ if the choice of reading does not work try something different.
  5. Everyone loves a spot of Karaoke, don’t they? This is a great hidden reading trick for those children that don’t always want to pick up their reading books. Have a good sing-along!


Websites that may help 

5-Ways-to-Encourage-Children-to-Read-2020-1-min.pdf (

Tips on reading books with your child | Words for Life


Support for multilingual families at home | National Literacy Trust

Make Reading Fun – Top Tips for Reading with Your Little Ones


Parent / Carer Introduction to Phonics and Early Reading

If you would like further information or would like to know how you can help your child with reading and phonics please see the links below: