Literacy: A Parents’ Guide

What is Literacy?
Literacy covers the three keys aspects of: reading, writing; speaking and listening. Mastering these skills is not only essential for life, but will also ensure the full curriculum can be accessed. They are important for success in all subjects, not just in English. At Wilsthorpe, we take a cross-curricular approach to literacy. All staff receive regular training and we have lots of whole-school programmes and initiatives to promote and improve literacy.

How can parents support their child’s literacy?

The most important thing that parents can do is talk to their child about their literacy and encourage them to read regularly – for a minimum of 20 minutes every night.


Reading for pleasure is vital for improving your child’s literacy.

Each pupil has their reading ability tested each year, which produces a reading age. This information is used by staff to check for improvements and provide support and challenge where necessary.

Regular reading is proven to:
- Improve vocabulary, spelling, writing and speaking skills.
- Develop imagination.
- Create empathy towards others and develop critical thinking skills.
- Improve mental health.
- Increase confidence.
- Improve your child’s chances of getting better grades in all subjects.
- Improve career prospects in later life.
- Be fun and enjoyable!

Establishing routines around reading can be helpful. For example: insist reading is completed before rewarding with screen time. An alternative could be to ensure reading is done in bed before sleep: this is much healthier than looking at a screen just before sleep and will also improve sleep quality. You could start by getting your child to read out loud to you before leaving them to read independently. Ask them questions on what they have been reading to encourage them and check comprehension. Being read to or listening to a story via audiobook is still beneficial.

At KS3, the Knowledge Organiser includes a Reading Log to fill out. These are checked once a fortnight in Library lessons. Please ensure your child has read and sign the log to confirm they have done so.

Fun activities completed during the reading of a text can increase understanding and engagement for your child, as well as improve their writing skills. Try one from this list: 81 Novel Activity Ideas. 

It is important that your child is reading a suitable book. At KS3, the fortnightly Library Lesson is an opportunity for pupils to get advice from a Librarian and English teacher and recommendations from peers. We expect all of our pupils to have a reading book in their bag at all times.

What to Read

Each pupil receives a ‘Reading Challenge’ bookmark at the start of each year, to provide guidance on what to read and ensure enough range and challenge. You can view the bookmarks and guidance here:

Not finding the ‘right book’ can be a barrier to reading, however, it is not an excuse – there are millions of books out there! The internet is a fantastic resource for discovering new reads. For example, Books for Keeps is an online children’s book magazine which is full of recommendations.

Our own Library recommended reading lists:

Classic Literature and Young Adult Fiction (aimed at stronger and more mature readers) are clearly labelled in the Library.

Subject-specific reading lists

Subject-specific reading lists can be found at the end of each subject page here on the website under the 'Curriculum Tab'.



Our Library is always well-stocked and so it is not necessary for parents to purchase reading books. However, if you wish to we ask you to do so through the Scholastic Book Shop  as the school receives rewards to buy new books. There is free delivery if you choose to have the books delivered to school. We also welcome any donations of good quality used books suitable for teenagers and young adults.

Reading Buddy Scheme

We run a leadership scheme where our most able readers mentor and support weaker readers.

Writing & Handwriting


  • Encourage your child to write for pleasure: a diary entry, a story, letters to family, an opinion piece – fiction or non-fiction - anything goes!

  • Planning: encourage your child to plan before attempting an extended piece of writing.

  • Proofread: Teachers at Wilsthorpe encourage pupils to check their written work before they see it as ‘finished’. Encourage your child to check for full stops, capital letters and spelling mistakes as the very basics.

  • Read aloud to punctuate: Get your child to read out their completed work and they should hopefully hear where the punctuation should go. If not, try reading it to them with the correct pauses for punctuation (rather than simply telling them where the punctuation goes).

  • At KS3, the Knowledge Organiser contains spellings to be learnt, which will be tested fortnightly in Grammar lessons. Encourage your child to use the ‘look, cover, write, check’ method to help them to learn these.

  • Ensure your child is confident with the words on the Academic Word List – encourage them to complete a Word Study for words they don’t know.

  • Make your fridge a word wall: Using magnetic fridge letters, you could create vocabulary lists (such as alternative words for ‘good’) or put up commonly-misspelled words on the fridge door! A variation on this is to put up words that are incorrect and ask them to spot the mistakes.



As long as handwriting is legible, priority should be given to the speed of writing over neatness. Not getting enough down on the page within time limits can be a barrier to success for some of our students. If your child does need to make their writing more legible, there is a ‘Handwriting Practice Booklet’ available to download and print here.


We believe it is vital for every child to ‘find their voice’: for success in education and the wider world. Successful speakers understand how to be polite and respectful, actively listen and articulate themselves, as well adapt their speaking for different audiences and purposes. Being able to scrutinise and develop ideas are just as important in speech as they are in writing. Our fortnightly ‘Oracy Focus’ provides opportunities for pupils to develop these skills.

Parents can:

  • Provide opportunities for speaking.

  • Follow the ‘Talk with TRUST’ model when speaking to your child:
    Take turns to talk
    Recap ideas
    Use lots of encouragement
    Share and talk about experiences
    Tune-in and be interested
    See an example of this in practice here. 

  • Encourage your child to engage in face-to-face conversation with others when appropriate: i.e. with an elderly relative; with the cashier when shopping. Actively talk to your child about their approach to speaking in these scenarios.


To develop presentation skills, ask your child to read some of their reading book or writing work out loud. Encourage them to speak fluently and clearly, in Standard English, and to vary the intonation and pace of their speech. Using eye contact, open body language and gesture is also important.

Online Learning and Literacy Leaders


The Literacy folder on the Student Shared Google Drive is full of resources and activities that your child can access and complete at home.

To access, your child needs to:
Go to Google Drive ( and login using their school details (email and password).

Once logged in, go to Shared Drives > Student Shared Drive > Literacy.

Literacy Planet

All KS3 students have access to the Literacy Planet website, which includes a range of fun activities proven to improve Literacy. Logins are available from English teachers.

Literacy Leaders
Part of the ‘Wilsthorpe Leadership Academy’, the Literacy Leaders are a group of pupils who aim to promote Literacy across the school. They have won the ‘Wilsthorpe Inspire Award’ for several years running, in recognition of their work. They support the Head of Literacy with her projects, but also establish and run their own initiatives. They work with younger pupils and teach lessons. Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum badges and certificates are awarded in recognition of the leadership work completed.

The Literacy Leaders meet in Room 102 during Monday lunchtimes. New members of any age and ability are welcome – this is a rewarding opportunity to help others and enhance CVs!

See the Literacy Leaders’ advertisement here. 
Download an application form here.

ParentPay Workbooks and Guides

CGP literacy workbooks and guides (fpr KS3 and KS4) are available to purchase for your child through ParentPay from only £2.60 each.

Literacy at KS4 & KS5

Literacy at GCSE

All of the above is important and relevant to GCSE study. However, it is important to note that many GCSE exams, not just English, award marks for SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar). For success at GCSE, it is essential that pupils can read and understand exam questions and communicate clearly in their writing, often under time pressure.

To maximise success at GCSE, encourage your child to:
- Keep reading for pleasure
- Practice timed exam responses
- Plan any extended responses in exams
- Proofread their writing in exams
- Break down and highlight key words in exam questions to aid understanding
- Revise connectives – these can ensure extended answers are logically structured and developed
- Ensure your child is confident with exam command words and the words on the Academic Word List – many of which often appear in GCSE exam questions. Encourage them to complete a Word Study  for words they don’t know.

In English, pupils will have to deliver a spoken presentation to their class, which is filmed and assessed for their GCSE Spoken Language grade.
In Year 10, pupils will complete a one-week Work Experience placement. In Year 11, pupils will have to attend interviews when applying for Post-16 places.
Confident speaking skills are essential for success in all of these; encourage your child to prepare and practice for their assessment and interviews.


Literacy at Sixth Form

Strong literacy skills are essential for pupils to meet the demands of Post-16 study and all of the above is relevant our Sixth Form pupils.

As the majority of our Sixth Form students aim to attend university, wider reading really helps university applicants stand out in their personal statements and at interview.

Each student receives a Sixth Form Wider Reading Booklet, which contains specific recommendations about wider reading for subjects and other fields of interest.

0115 972 9421

Derby Rd, Long Eaton NG10 4WT, UK


© 2020 by Wilsthorpe School