EYE Guide to... Closing the word gap

Find out about Bug Club's family of imaginative and independent reading resources which provide a reading solution for your whole school. These resources are currently free to download and use.

Key contents

  • Developing a whole-school strategy for reading 
  • Case study: Building links for home reading
  • Case study: Supporting boys to become enthusiastic readers
  • Guide to Bug Club resources

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Guide to...Closing the word gap
Sally Player, foundation stage leader, Quilters Infants School

There has been much debate about both the increased emphasis on reading under the revised Schools Inspection Framework and the strengthening of language and vocabulary development in the proposed Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) reforms. This has prompted practitioners to reflect on current practice and provision, seeking out strategies and resources to create a rich learning environment that will be most effective in developing communication and literacy skills for all children. 

Studies have shown that by the age of two, the disparity in children’s vocabulary development is already clearly evident. It is also acknowledged that, for those who start school with poorer language skills than their peers, their vocabulary deficiency will have a significant impact on their academic progress, not just in literacy but across a range of subjects, and could ultimately affect their future life chances. 

This presents schools with a significant and widespread challenge. It is imperative that they develop a strategic approach to address the issue, ensuring that children are supported by a programme of targeted, engaging and fun activities, using high-quality, flexible resources which can be adapted to meet their individual needs. A programme such as Bug Club Shared Reading, which includes assessment tasks, is particularly valuable, as this will enable teachers to monitor how children are making the rapid and sustained progress necessary to close the ‘word gap’ and to develop into confident readers and fluent speakers. 

Building on story time 
In daily conversations and through the careful selection of texts to read aloud to children, teachers should exploit any opportunity to expose children to unfamiliar and interesting vocabulary. It is important that there are planned activities for children to proudly deploy the new words that they have learnt, explicitly encouraging them to do so in circle-time activities and story-telling.

Bug Club Shared advocates for shared story time to be best enjoyed as a planned, special and memorable experience for children and recommends that plenty of time is factored in for this daily activity. Reading aloud is key to inspiring children to read for pleasure and teachers will want to make it a high-status, intrinsic part of every school day, not just in the EYFS and Key Stage 1.

It is a prime opportunity to instil in all children a love of books from a range of genres, to develop a fascination for stories, a desire to find out information and a passion for poetry and rhyme. By asking thought-provoking questions and encouraging discussion, teachers can also use reading aloud to develop children’s skills of empathy and understanding which they can apply in everyday life. Familiarity with a range of stories and genres is particularly beneficial, presenting opportunities for children to join in excitedly with repeated phrases, to sequence events and to discuss similarities and differences. Through these experiences, children will develop a sound understanding of story structure, which will support them to become imaginative story-tellers and fluent, fearless readers.

Parents gain confidence to support reading. 

Bug Club for a whole-school strategy
With limited financial resources and a seemingly ever-growing selection of phonic materials on the market, the need to closely match reading books to the phonic experience and ability of each child, presents significant challenges. When investing in a scheme, schools need to be sure that it is comprehensive and finely-levelled, enabling teachers to select with confidence texts they know will meet each child’s individual needs. However, these must be books that children will love to read. There should be a wide choice of innovative and attractive texts on offer, with content that is appropriate and appealing to its reading level. Programmes which also incorporate e-books can broaden the availability of texts for all children and have proved to be particularly successful in engaging reluctant readers, both at school and at home. 

Teaching grammar, punctuation and spelling at any Key Stage typically requires high levels of repetition, revisiting content to ensure that skills are fully embedded. It can be difficult to ensure that this is done in a way which continues to engage both students and teachers. It can also be hugely time-consuming for teachers to plan and create a range of activities themselves. 

Schemes which incorporate online practice games and video tutorials can therefore be invaluable in helping children master these essential literacy skills in a fun and exciting way. Teachers need to retain the freedom to take a bespoke approach to these activities, harnessing the general interests of their cohort and individual fascinations of each child. Such personalisation will inevitably beguile them into making the progress necessary to become self-assured and motivated writers across all areas of the curriculum. 

Pearson’s Bug Club aims to help more learners to steadily progress with a statistically significant relationship between the use of its products and student achievement. 

With books for phonics, guided, independent and shared reading, Bug Club offers a whole-school strategy for teaching and learning. By using Bug Club resources, teachers can be confident that children are being presented with materials that will support communication, language and literacy learning, foster positive attitudes to reading at home and at school, and encourage more frequent reading activity through the availability of in-print and online texts.

Head teacher Jill Watson, at Lent Rise County Combined Primary School, Buckinghamshire
Head teacher Jill Watson introduced Bug Club to help children develop a passion for reading, to drive up standards, and in particular, to develop stronger home-school learning links. She started by using Bug Club’s online reading world with the school’s 60 early years pupils, then extended its use to the whole of Key Stage 1. 

Preparing these pupils for their journey towards becoming fully-fledged readers is a key priority at the school, which is located in an area of disadvantage. ‘Parents are given guidance on supporting reading prior to the children starting school,’ explains Jill. ‘All pupils begin home readers on entry and are taught phonics and reading skills daily through a variety of approaches.’ 

She realised that Bug Club could help her early years pupils develop a passion for reading as well as improve reading standards across the school. ‘Our vision for Bug Club was to use it to develop home school learning links and parental confidence alongside our own learning platform. We also wanted to use Bug Club’s eBooks and printed books to enhance our existing reading resources,’ she says. 

Jill reports that combining the use of print and ebooks works well. ‘The children enjoy finding their past and future reading books in their online reading world,’ she says. ‘They really look forward to accessing or receiving particular books that they have enjoyed together using a differentmedium. They enjoy discussing which books they have read and enjoyed the most.’ 

This enthusiasm has provided a big boost to home learning, as the parent of five-year-old Alfie reports: ‘This computer reading is fab! Alfie cannot get enough of it. He actually wants to read the next book so he can answer the questions and get the applause!’

Bug Club hits the spot for boys.

Five months after starting to use Bug Club, the school’s comparative Early Years Foundation Stage eprofile scores for reading and letters and sounds showed a noticeable improvement. Staff also find the pupil interface very user-friendly, highlighting that the bugs theme and mix of topics ensure it appeals to both boys and girls.

Jill says: ‘The children are keen to read the Bug Club eBooks and play the educational games linked to them. Teachers have found the resources very helpful for whole class and group teaching as well as one-to-one work and at this stage it appears that pupils are progressing at a faster rate with their phonic decoding and sight recognition.’ 

Wendy Jenkins, literacy coordinator and deputy head teacher at Bangor Central Integrated Primary School, Northern Ireland

Wendy has a strong focus on promoting reading throughout the school. The Foundation Stage teachers assess all children for reading readiness when they start and with quite a few not used to handling books, she finds the Lilac level wordless books in Bug Club really useful. 

‘A particular favourite is the Trucktown series – the boys loved the trucks and the girls loved the fact that there was a girl truck just for them!’ she says. ‘Getting children hooked on books is a real challenge as they are so used to TV, DVDs and everything else. But Bug Club has them laughing, engaged and begging for more!’ 

Like many literacy coordinators, Wendy is faced with the tricky issue of how to turn boys into enthusiastic readers, but she feels she has found the answer with Bug Club. She relates how one little boy’s enthusiasm was sparked by its Jay and Sniffer books, The Missing Masks. 

The boy began the trialling process by saying that he was bored. But once he started to read, he really connected with the story, wanted to read it and laughed at the pictures. Later, Wendy overheard him animatedly retelling the story and describing the pictures to some other children who had not been involved in the trial. His final comment was ‘It’s really funny!’ 

Like many schools, Bangor found that when children start school their parents are very keen to read with them, but the older they get, the less they read with them and the harder the school has to work. This is now being tackled with parent workshops and parent activity sheets which go home with the books. Wendy feels that the help parents are offered on the inside covers of Bug Club books are invaluable. She is pleased that Bug Club software offers parents extra support and ensures teachers can monitor how much children are really reading at home. 

When asked what she most likes about Bug Club, Wendy names the diversity of books with the great variety of genres in fiction, non-fiction and comics. She feels that there is a good balance of context words, high frequency words and phonically decodable words in all the books. She is also really looking forward to using the eBooks on her interactive whiteboard to model reading and to deliver shared reading.

Wendy believes Bug Club is the solution to turning her reluctant boys into enthusiastic readers.


Bug Club Family 
An engaging and imaginative independent reading solution for your whole school. Shown to: 

  • encourage reluctant readers to read at home using the online reading world 
  • increase reading enjoyment
  • develop skills, helping children make 30 months of reading progress in 18 months. 


Bug Club Independent – Build up positive attitudes to reading at home with164 fully decodable titles from our Bug Club Phonics programme and over 300 additional fiction and non-fiction print books, comics and graphic novels alongside an online reading world.

Bug Club PhonicsEncourage your young readers to develop their reading skills with beautiful artwork, humour, loveable characters, and books and topics they really want to read. The Bug Club Phonics programme comprises 134 decodable readers and features on the validated SSP programme list provided by the Department for Education for teaching systematic, synthetic phonics, available for English Hubs funding. 


NEW! Bug Club SharedBring rigour and structure to story time through engaging stories with curriculum-linked and considered vocabulary progression. Comprehensive teacher guidance supports discussion based learning and text comprehension. 


Bug Club GuidedA guided reading programme that helps children master fluency and deepen comprehension, giving you everything you need to help them. This includes exciting printed texts and materials to help save you time, and improve your children’s deeper understanding of texts. Guided Reading is broken into KS1/ P1-3 and KS2/P4-7 packages.

Bug Club Vocabulary – This is a fun and effective series of play based sessions for children in Reception and the early years who start school behind their peers in their language development. Bug Club Vocabulary – This is a fun and effective series of play based sessions for children in Reception and the early years who start school behind their peers in their language development. 

Grammar & Spelling Bug – Built to find the fun in learning grammar, punctuation and spelling, Grammar and Spelling Bug is bursting with online practice games and video tutorials that help children master essential skills.


Find out more and access free Bug Club resources, here

This Guide to...has been produced by eye in association with Bug Club, a Pearson product.




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