“Over the last two decades, there has been a deepening recognition of the fundamental importance of improving reading standards on a child’s future academic achievement, wellbeing and success in life.” (The Reading Framework DfE, 2022)

Recent government guidance highlights the importance of children ‘keeping-up’ with reading progression, rather than having to ‘catch-up’. Schools must follow a Systematic Synthetic Phonics Programme (SSP) to ensure robust plans are in place to help children quickly master the foundations of phonics and then build upon these basic mechanics of reading towards fluency.

“Yet despite our best efforts, too many children fall behind in literacy…and the gap in literacy attainment grows substantially during Key Stage 2.”

(Improving Literacy in Key Stage 2 EEF, November 2021)

In fact, in 2019 (the last year of ‘normal’ data) over a quarter (27%) of children who took KS2 SATs tests did not reach the expected level in reading at the end of primary school, and this was before the unprecedented trials and tribulations of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Children’s reading and the role the pandemic has had in worsening the situation continue to be widely reported on. In terms of learning recovery, reading has been a widespread focus across key stage phases (School Recovery Strategies: Year 1 findings DfE, January 2022) and continues to be a priority for many schools.

By 2021 a survey of primary school teachers, conducted by Oxford University Press, reported that 1 in 4 children are behind in reading. This delay continues to impact negatively when a pupil transitions into secondary education. The proportion of pupils entering high school who are still struggling to read well shows that there is more that needs to be done to narrow these gaps, as the knock-on effect of leaving KS2 not fully equipped to take on the challenges of secondary school learning is profound.

In 2020, GL Assessment published research from a large study looking into the reading abilities and GCSE results of more than 370,000 secondary school students during 2018/19. It found that,

“Children who are weak readers will struggle as much in maths and science at GCSE as they do in English and in arts subjects.”

Reading is the gateway to fully accessing all other subjects and holds the keys to success across the curriculum. The importance of reading also extends far beyond its crucial role in enabling learning across the curriculum. Throughout one’s daily life, reading plays a significant role in influencing the opportunities that children and adults have available to them.

So, what about the children already falling behind when they enter KS2?

What can be done to enthuse and advance these pupils, so they are ready for the transition into secondary education?

Read on for inspiration in how to support children’s reading and boost outcomes in KS2.

Rapid and responsive approaches to the complex challenges of reading inequality are called for. Whilst no solution should be taken on in isolation, a combination of strategies and resources, which support the specific needs and dynamics of each school/cohort/individual child, will make a positive impact on assessing and addressing reading gaps and improve outcomes for all.

In its simplest form, being a successful reader involves being able to mechanically decode words and then understand what has been read. Once word reading skills are secure, children begin reading for comprehension. Alongside these two fundamental goals should be a mission to nurture a learning environment where children not only become fluent readers by the time they leave primary school but they also develop a genuine love of stories and reading.

The following ‘Top Tips’ offer practical advice, resources and ideas to help children make accelerated progress towards closing the reading gap.


KS2 Top 10 Tips to Narrow the Reading Gap


  1. Develop positive reading routines.

Planning a text-rich curriculum where books and reading are valued, enjoyed and creatively woven into the school day will help to boost confidence, increase engagement and ensure pupils reach their full potential. Teachers play an important role in helping to model good reading behaviour and promote a love of literature, from encouraging book talk after sharing a text together, to reading aloud to the class and showing genuine love and excitement for the books they are sharing. If teachers show they love the story, the pupils are likely to respond in the same way.

Developing productive routines which promote reading could include; daily whole class reading, regular time spent visiting the school library, ensuring the classroom library is an inviting space and full of enticing books, using book recommendation bookmarks (FREE download here,) or setting up a buddy reading programme with a younger class. Talking with children about their book interests, browsing books with them and allowing them the autonomy to make book choices themselves can further increase enjoyment and interaction with reading. A book a child has chosen is one they want to read. Encouraging children to set their own reading goals and acknowledge their achievements will help build a sense of accomplishment and encourage them to read even more.


  1. Promote enjoyment, engagement and reading for pleasure.

Confidence and attitude can go a long way towards influencing success and a positive, growth mindset is definitely a very good place to start from. In contrast to this, a negative, disengaged state of mind can stagnate progress. Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right!

A child who reads for pleasure is not only more likely to perform better in reading tests than those who don’t, but evidence suggests that reading for enjoyment every day is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.

To encourage reading for pleasure, schools need to provide children with a range of books, books are the foundation of any reading curriculum and the most important aspect of any reading classroom.” (The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) — Reading for pleasure, 2022)

It makes total sense that reading success is linked to exposure to high-quality literature, an inspirational ethos, an exciting environment, and a community of readers who regularly talk about books and share opinions and ideas.

Pupils also need to be provided with opportunities to read and share books in a variety of ways, including reading aloud, individually or as part of a group.

In this short video below, Professor of Children's Literature at Goldsmiths, Michael Rosen, tells us how to promote reading for pleasure and why it's so valuable.

  1. Maintain well-stocked school libraries and classroom book corners.

Stagnant stock will not promote reading for pleasure. Pupils need access to a variety of high-quality fiction and non-fiction resources to build knowledge and a range large enough to develop their own tastes and interests within this. Even a reluctant reader can be drawn in by the buzz of a new book.

Everybody loves a good story! Children particularly enjoy humour, relatable characters, engaging illustrations, exciting adventure, mystery and suspense and books offering a different perspective.

Our mission at Badger Learning is to ensure schools are able to easily select high-quality books, so only the best make it onto their library and classroom bookshelves and into their pupils’ hands. Browse our Badger Learning Library boxes (below) or view our full range of books and resources here for inspiration.

Featuring this year's newly selected and best-selling books these Badger Learning Library Boxes include fresh, exciting and engaging titles that will appeal to all. Each box boasts a careful balance of books which caters for a variety of tastes and reading abilities. Whether you're looking to top-up your school or classroom library or have a complete overhaul, look no further than these money-saving library collections:

Reading success can also be encouraged in a library with the use of posters. Posters are perfect for engaging all pupils but especially reluctant and struggling readers. They are visually engaging with a clear and concise message, so information can be absorbed quickly, even at a glance. They can also be used to promote a specific book or introduce new subjects or concepts and can often focus children in a way that other learning aids may not.

Find a stock of FREE downloadable posters for you to print and display in your school library or classroom here.


  1. Encourage engagement with diverse and inclusive books to reflect and expand the lives and experiences of the reader.

Stories are a powerful medium which help children to understand their place in the world and make sense of different situations, through the safety of another’s adventures. Choosing literature with inclusive and diverse characters enables the reader to imagine themselves as the main protagonist, nurturing a sense of inclusiveness and promoting engagement through an emotional attachment to what they are reading.

“We know that emotional engagement is the tipping point between leaping into the reading life or remaining in a childhood bog where reading is endured only as a means to an end.” (Maryanne Wolf, 2008.)

Completing an audit of the literature your children are exposed to is an important and very worthwhile activity. The decisions made about the stories and non-fiction pupils are given to choose from in classroom and school libraries, or that are read to them, needs to not only reflect the school community but also provide stepping-stones to learning about those whose lives, cultures and perspectives differ to their own. 

The following book selection includes some wonderful voices for children to discover and offers the perfect solution of injecting some brilliant books into school collections at every level, whilst also reflecting communities, the wider society and most importantly turning reluctant readers into engaged book lovers.


  1. Provide targeted support.

Rapid and responsive approaches to targeting support for children falling behind in reading is crucial.

Catch Up® Literacy is a structured intervention programme for struggling readers who benefit from one-to-one support and a personalised programme of learning grounded in rigorous academic research. As specialists in publishing collections for struggling and reluctant readers, our books are written and designed to be age-appropriate, enticing and yield high-impact results. Each Badger Catch Up collection contains titles from our fiction and non-fiction ranges and can be viewed here.

Accelerated Reader™ (AR) is a management and monitoring programme that aims to foster independent reading. It is currently the most popular reading practice software in UK schools. Developed by Renaissance Learning, it allows teachers to monitor the reading development and practices of their pupils and provides tools to quickly ascertain their reading level, reading age and comprehension level.

There are numerous examples of AR being used as a whole school programme or for directed intervention. For more information check out our Guide to Accelerated Reader™.

View our full AR range here.

KS2 Phonics Schemes:

Pupils who are struggling to read words accurately and fluently can become overwhelmed, struggle to make sense of what they’ve read or remember and can fall behind in any subject that requires reading. Regardless of age, special need or background, the same knowledge of phonics is needed, as the tool which underpins all reading. Intensive and specific practice should be given to enable children to make accelerated progress if falling behind in phonics in order to read age-appropriate texts accurately and automatically.

Big Cat Phonics for Letters and Sounds 7+ is specially designed to give children, aged 7+, 28 books that reintroduce and practice the phonics covered in Phases 3–5 of Letters and Sounds.

Big Cat Phonics for Letters and Sounds 7+

The Little Wandle Rapid Catch-up programme is for children in Year 2 and above who are not reading at the expected level for their age. It mirrors the main phonics programme but has been created to help children catch up quickly, so has a faster pace. The programme includes a comprehensive teachers guide, grapheme, word and tricky word cards and 50 new decodable books.

Big Cat Phonics for Little Wandle Letters and Sounds Revised Age 7+

Oxford’s Project X CODE is a proven intervention programme for children in years 2-4 who are a year or more behind expected levels for their age and need support in their reading.

Oxford’s Project X CODE

These fantastic series from Phonic Books™ are expertly written by specialists who understand how important it is for children who have really struggled to read to have access to books that they think of as mature, fun and exciting.

Phonic Books™

Ransom's catch-up series is for older readers aged 9–13 who have gaps in their phonic knowledge and need age-appropriate resources to ensure they are secure in their learning.

Ransom Reading Stars Plus

Read Write Inc. Fresh Start is an intervention programme suitable for upper KS2 pupils still learning to read. Developed by Ruth Miskin, Read Write Inc. Fresh Start uses a proven phonics-based approach which teaches pupils to read accurately and fluently, with good comprehension. Fresh Start can be delivered flexibly, depending on the number of students who need it in your school, and the number of staff you have available to teach it.

Read Write Inc Fresh Start

  1. Read aloud.

Reading aloud to children not only enables them to have access to high-quality texts, regardless of their ability but also promotes exposure to new vocabulary, models reading, helps to improve comprehension, creativity and imagination and can generally be a much more relaxing, enjoyable and stress-free experience for a struggling reader.  

Reading aloud is probably the most important thing that teachers can do and needs to be a frequent and regular part of each school day.” (CLPE)

Cognitive skills, concentration, social skills and empathy can all be explored and expanded by reading aloud. A good story and a skilled storyteller are a sure-fire recipe for success. It’s not just the number of stories that’s important but also that children are given the chance to hear stories being read more than once. This familiarity and attachment builds confidence, deepens comprehension and encourages struggling or reluctant readers to read the story for themselves.

  1. Use Book Bands to support reading in KS2.

Book Bands provide a structured, trackable and progressive reading framework for supporting pupils through phonics and beyond, ensuring challenge and progression every step of the way. These collections of banded 'real' books for KS2 give children access to high-quality literature which can be matched to reading ability, making it easy for pupils to form independent choices in book selections and experience success leading to increased confidence in reading:

Every book in these Banded Boxes has been read, assessed and levelled by our team of experienced book experts against the widely used colour bands in a best-fit way. These great value collections will help you source books that not only meet the needs of individual pupils but also add variety and breadth to children's reading diets, helping children get the most out of reading for pleasure.

For more information, read our Guide to Book Bands.

  1. Break down the barriers to reading.

Do you have pupils who struggle to read due to dyslexia or visual stress? Are they reluctant to engage with books or read for pleasure?

The challenge is to make sure that the right books support all children to thrive. Badger Learning work with the best authors and illustrators to publish super-readable, accessible books that help every child experience the joy of reading.

Our range of primary school learning resources includes books to excite and motivate struggling or reluctant KS2 readers. Reluctant reader books and series are available in paperback or as eBook PDFs. There are books available that are suitable for all learning styles and many of the published series' have teacher books that provide support and help save time. Our fiction and non-fiction struggling/reluctant reader titles have a high ratio of pictures to words to maintain the interest of your pupils and encourage reading. They also feature dyslexia-friendly design with bite-sized chunks of text and line spacing, accessible low word counts and eye-catching illustrations.

  • View Badger Learning’s full range of titles for struggling or reluctant readers here.

Reluctant readers may also respond more positively to digital book formats (more usually associated with technology and gaming) than traditional print. Other benefits of eBooks include:

  • They are readily shareable
  • Multiple pupils can read the same book at the same time
  • They can be read on any device that accepts PDFs
  • You can load them onto your school VLE
  • You are able to change the screen brightness to reduce visual stress
  • The page size can be increased as needed.

View our wide range of titles here, which suit both EAL pupils and struggling readers, including very low reading age books which can be hard to source.

  1. Reading for wellbeing.

Focusing on improving mental health and well-being can greatly improve a child’s chances of succeeding academically. Not only are children with better mental well-being likely to be more engaged in lessons, better behaved and make more progress they are also more able to deal better with stressful events and recover more quickly from illness.

  • Research by David Lewis showed that reading as little as six minutes a day can reduce stress levels by 60% by lowering the heart rate, easing muscle tension and altering a state of mind. There is also evidence that children who are the most engaged with literacy are three times more likely to have higher levels of mental well-being than children who are the least engaged — 39.4% vs 11.8%. (National Literacy Trust, September 2018)

Hook children in with a focused class reader or invite pupils to a lunchtime or after-school book club. Ensure pupils have a wide range of books available to them, have access to inviting spaces to read and share books and are given the time and encouragement to read and listen to stories just for fun! Take a look at our blog How to Support Wellbeing and Mental Health in Schools for more suggestions and free downloadable resources such as our Book Talk sheet to encourage shared reading for wellbeing. https://www.badgerlearning.co.uk/book-talk-shared-reading-for-wellbeing.html

These two collections offer books that shine a light on key well-being skills such as determination, celebrating your strengths, self-respect, talking about your problems and working together.




10 Support reading at home.

Parental engagement can be a powerful lever for raising achievement in schools and there is much research to show the value of schools and parents working together to support pupils’ learning.” (‘Schools and Parents’ report — Ofsted, 2011)

The value of supporting children academically by encouraging them to read at home should not be underestimated. Sharing books, hearing children read and reading to them is just as important in KS2 when they start to read on their own as it is when they first start school. Supporting a positive home/school relationship and valuing the impact of spreading a reading culture into the home can help to develop a child’s confidence, deepen understanding, develop language and promote the value and enjoyment of reading.

You will find more information and ideas in our blog: Parental Engagement — Reading at Home, including this download for our FREE PDF leaflet: Reading at Home Tips, which can easily be printed out and sent home in book bags or emailed directly to parents/carers.

To avoid a dip in progress and keep children reading over the holidays, especially over the longer summer break, why not try sending these FREE downloads home: 1,000 Minutes of Summer Reading / Summer Book Review Bookmark / Summer Book Report / Football Reading Bingo.