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The Power of Reading

At St Denys primary, our aim is to instill a passion for reading and a confidence with words - written and spoken - in all our children.


The Power of Reading is about teaching reading and writing through the use of high quality books and creative teaching approaches. Children are immersed into the text through music, art, drama, discussion and role-play. Other approaches include responding to illustrations, ‘Book Talk’, storymapping and book making. Children take ownership of the text and engage with it deeply. It also enables children to deepen their understanding of texts and provides a meaningful context for writing.


We have chosen to introduce the Power of Reading as part of our focus on further raising standards in reading and writing through developing inference, deduction and comprehension skills.


Reading aloud is also a key part of the Power of Reading. The strategy enables all children to access the quality texts. Reading aloud also enables the teacher to model expressive and fluent reading to the children.

Examples of books we have used to teach the Power of Reading:

Rainbow: Mo's Smelly Jumper by David Bedford

Mo Monkey loves his rainbow jumper. He wears it all the time - he even cleans his face and feet with it. Soon Mo's jumper starts to smell and pong and whiff. Mother Monkey is determined to give it a good wash - but Mo has other ideas.

Year 1: Beegu by Alexis Deacon

Beegu is not supposed to be on Earth. She is lost. This is a simple, bittersweet story telling a familiar tale of a child separated from her parents who struggles to cope in an unfamiliar world. It deals with themes of hope, kindness, loneliness and being an outsider. Alexis Deacon's simple text and illustrations, with stark empty backgrounds, allow the luminous Beegu to stand out. There is a childlike perspective to this touching tale.

Year 2: The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

This is a stupendous and original picture book. As the Postman delivers his letters to the Wicked Witch, the giant (Mr. V. Bigg in Beanstalk Gardens) and B(ig) B(ad) Wolf, Esq., c/o Grandma’s Cottage, Horner’s Corner, the child reader can actually open the envelopes, take out the letters or cards and read them. The rhyming text, the witty pictures, the references to nursery rhymes and stories make this picture book a treasure trove. Not to be missed - worth all the trouble of keeping track of the little missives.

Year 2: The Robot and the Bluebird By David Lucas

A broken-hearted robot is left on the scrapheap. Day turns into night, Autumn into Winter, as he lies there, and this is beautifully and simply portrayed in four consecutive pictures. It seems he will never move again until a Bluebird arrives who needs help to get to a warmer place. The theme of self-sacrifice and caring for other echoes that of Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince.

Year 2: The Lonely Beast By Chris Judge

Have you heard of the Beasts? No, not many people have. That's because they are very rare. This is the tale of one such Beast, whose determination to overcome his loneliness leads him to undertake a daring and dangerous quest to find others like him.

Trekking over mountains and swimming under seas, he comes at last to a great city. There he finds many delights but sadly no Beasts, so he returns home, where a surprise awaits him.

Year 3: Ug Boy Genius of the Stone Age by Raymond Briggs

In this multi layered graphic text the concept of a ‘stone age’ is taken to extremes with everything, including trousers made of stone. The story follows the quest of a Stone Age boy, Ug in his search for softer trousers. With ideas beyond his time his questioning and inventive mind proves exasperating at times for his parents. This book provides many opportunities for discussion and lots of humour at different levels from the illustrations to the footnotes.

Year 3: Pebble in my Pocket by Meredith Hooper

This narrative takes the reader into the deep and distant past to witness the formation of the rock from whence came the pebble held by the child in the first picture. A factual text blended with literary language and illustrated with cross-hatched pictures in earthy colours. The life story of a pebble, seen as part of a much wider picture, nothing less than the history of the earth itself.

Year 3: The Green Ship by Quentin Blake

Two children find the Green Ship when they climb over the wall into what is more like a forest than a garden. The ship has bushes for bows and stern and its funnels are trees; a small garden shed on an ancient stump is the wheel house and in command of the ship is the owner of the garden, old Mrs Tredegar. Throughout the summer she and the Bosun and the two children sail the Seven Seas visiting exotic faraway places and having wonderful adventures.

The Green Ship is a thematically rich picture book which captures both adult and child perspectives on the same narrative. As would be expected from a book written by Quentin Blake, the illustrations are integral to the narrative and open up discussions around how text and illustrations can combine to tell a story, whilst also posing alternative viewpoints. There are also rich opportunities to explore how the use of colour can stimulate imagination and influence our emotional responses.

Year 4: Krindlekrax by Philip Ridley

Krindlekrax is the name of a mysterious lizard that lurks under Lizard Street, where a boy named Ruskin lives. Ruskin is an unlikely hero (gentle, skinny and no footballer) but he is desperate to be chosen for the role of hero in the school play. The lives of Ruskin and Krindlekrax become entwined through the stories told by Corky, the school caretaker, and Ruskin's father whose job as zookeeper came to a mysterious end. As the story unfolds, Ruskin proves he can be a worthy hero after all. This is a humorous, fast-paced read with vividly painted characters and events. The text is strongly patterned, which aids prediction, and the book is structured in short chapters, making it an accessible and quick read.

Year 4: Bill's New Frock by Anne Fine

Bill Simpson wakes up to find he's a girl, and worse, his mother makes him wear a frilly pink dress to school. How on earth is he going to survive a whole day like this? Everything just seems to be different for girls.

Year 4: Into the Forest by Anthony Browne

This picture book, with its highly detailed illustrations, provides a great deal for classes to explore. The narrative and images depict a young boy's imagination as he ventures into the forest to face his fears. The gaps in the main storyline enable children to relate it to their own experiences. The intertextuality, through rich fairy tale references, provides lots of opportunities for making links with the children’s knowledge of other texts.

Year 4: Charlotte's Web By E. B. White

This classic novel for children, first published in 1952, retains its appeal for modern children. It is the story of Fern, a little girl who saves a pig on the family farm from being killed, and the pig’s friendship with a spider who lives alongside him in a barn with the other farm animals. Their lives are woven into the cycle of the seasons and farm life. We hear, as Fern does, their conversations, and see how life and death are a natural part of things. 

Year 5: There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom by Louis Sachar

This book has as its main character Bradley, a ‘bad’ boy who is always in trouble. We get right into Bradley’s heart and mind in this narrative, offering readers ways to discuss issues of friendship, bullying, and the links between self esteem, behaviour and learning.

Year 5: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech

This Jack doesn’t like poetry. And he’s certainly not a poet. He has nothing to write about anyway. Or does he? Love That Dog is a powerful narrative poem that explores a child’s reluctance towards poetry and his development as a poet over the course of a school year. Through reading Jack’s comments and poems, written in response to his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, the reader is drawn into the experiences and thoughts of a boy who has something important to tell us, not only about his own story, but about the nature of writing, the child’s experience of being taught, and about just how personal the experience of learning is. 

Year 5: The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars

This classic children’s novel, written in 1970 by the American writer Betsy Byars, tells the compelling story of Tom, a boy who is sent, very reluctantly, to stay with his aunt and uncle on their farm. The children will experience his sense of wonder at the beauty of nature as he observes the beautiful sight of a black fox and her cub. The harsh reality of life in the country is revealed as Tom’s concern for the fox and her cub come into conflict with his aunt and uncle’s attempts to protect their farm stock.

Year 6: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider is not your average fourteen-year-old. Raised by his mysterious uncle, an uncle who dies in equally mysterious circumstances, Alex finds himself thrown into the murky world of espionage. Trained by MI6 and sent out into the field just weeks later, Alex’s first mission is to infiltrate the base of the reclusive billionaire suspected of killing his uncle. Filmic and fast-paced (the novel was later made into a feature film), Stormbreaker is a riot of an adventure story in the vein of James Bond and offers teachers and children the opportunity to explore the structure of a successful adventure story in detail.

Year 6: The Highwayman By Alfred Noyes

“The Highwayman” is a classic favourite - a poem that tells a good story with powerful imagery and a rhythmic cadence reminiscent of horses' hooves. The story tells of the highwayman's visit to see the beautiful Bess at the old inn (probably the Spaniard's Inn on Hampstead Heath) and of the terrible fate they both meet. The mysterious ending of the poem suggests that the lovers' spirits still linger on the edge of the heath. Their haunting story certainly remains alive in the words of Alfred Noyes. 


Year 6: Goodnight Mister Tom By Michelle Magorian

A neglected child from a deprived home in London, Willie Beech is evacuated to the country during the Second World War to live with Tom Oakley, an old widower. With Tom, Willie flourishes, develops friendships and finds real happiness and security for the first time. Then he has to return to London to his mother, and his old life experiences wait for him again there, only to worsen. This is an accessible, but powerful, emotionally charged novel, which explores themes like safety and trust, parenting, fear and loss.