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Purple Oaks Academy

Reading

At Purple Oaks Academy we believe strongly in the importance of learning to read and the importance of developing a love of reading.

Reading is integral to our curriculum and a lifelong skill that allows independent learning and develops a growth mindset. We use clear and consistent whole Academy approaches that support the learning characteristics of our students with autism in their development of reading skills. 

Language and communication for our students starts with their ability to communicate, use functional language and understand that words carry meaning. All students are presented with many opportunities throughout the day to read.

Our use of the Cornerstones Curriculum to engage, innovate, develop and express through themed, termly imaginative learning projects encompasses meaningful key texts and book lists enabling a culture for a love of reading. 

At Purple Oaks Academy, we follow the progressive ‘book band’ scheme alongside the National Curriculum. Book bands ensure that reading books are correctly matched to the phonological reading level of the individual. The teaching of reading is progressive throughout Academy and children are provided with a variety of ways to acquire knowledge to know more and remember more.

In the contest of our special school, reading skills and knowledge across the curriculum is supported through pedagogy and thinking aligned to the learning characteristics associated with autism.

We aim to overcome barriers which can impact on the skills and knowledge that relate to reading.

Therefore, our pedagogy addresses the characteristics of:

• Social communication difficulties (both receptive & expressive language that can impact on comprehension and inference skills)

• Restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests (time for reading is included in individual students schedules and a wide variety of genres encouraged)

• Sensory processing (difficulty filtering and modulating input - we provide quiet, distraction limited and inviting spaces to read)

• Learning characteristics of autism impacting on reading:

- Difficulty with implicit teaching (individuals require explicit teaching of reading)

- Attention (ability to ‘lift and shift’, ability to see the big picture, rather than details)

- Executive functioning (explicit teaching of how to use and navigate books and other texts)

- Theory of mind (teaching social thinking and the perspective of characters/others)

Based on current research and theory the term ‘dyslexia’ as a specific learning difficulty can be used interchangeably with literacy difficulties (reading/spelling difficulties) at the word level. There are clear genetic and biological basis to autism. There are differences in the brain functioning of our neurodiverse students compared to their neurotypical peers. Some of our students will learn to read through the dual-route model, applying both phonological awareness and a memory store of whole words, recognised by sight.

We recognise that some of our students may find the application of phonics difficult to master and the whole word route may be dominant for some students when learning to read.

We offer pupils a well- balanced diet of literacy activities for reading:

• Recognising that language development is vital to reading development and focus on vocabulary instruction

• Ensuring that phonemic awareness and phonics are taught explicitly and systematically

• ‘Word study’ approaches, particularly for those with literacy difficulties

• Teaching sight-vocabulary (to the point of fluency)

• Modelling, teaching and practice of reading comprehension strategies

• Meaningful reading and writing opportunities

• Encouraging fluent reading through shared and independent reading

• Ensuring that students have opportunities to read for pleasure in quiet, relaxing spaces

• Making sure pupils are reading at the ‘Just-Right’ level

• Ensuring access to a wide range of reading materials, across multiple genres

Love of reading 

We recognise the importance of hearing and engaging with high quality texts above the reading level of the students. Therefore, all students will experience the adults in the class sharing a book with them on a daily basis.