Schools are putting into practice the phonics approach to reading
Schools are responding positively to the recommended phonics method of teaching reading, suggests a snapshot survey by inspectors.
Ofsted inspectors say there is a "virtuous circle" of improved reading skills and higher expectations.
The report from inspectors also concluded that children were enjoying phonics lessons.
This survey tested the progress of the Rose Review of reading, which called for a more systematic use of phonics.
Ofsted inspectors found schools using the recommended phonics method had "raised their expectations of how quickly and well children could learn to read and write".
"Teachers have been 'surprised by the joy' shown by children as they master phonic skills," says the report.
The principle behind phonics is that children learn the sounds of letters and of combinations of letters and use them to decode words.
The report, based on visits to 20 schools and responses from a further 43, found that teachers were putting into practice the recommendations for improving the teaching of reading.
In 2005, the government-commissioned review of reading by Sir Jim Rose called for "relatively short, discrete sessions, designed to progress from simple elements to the more complex aspects of phonic knowledge".
Phonics had already been taught in many primary schools, but the Rose Review emphasised the need for a rigorous and systematic use of from the earliest years.
And this snapshot survey shows that in 16 of the 20 schools visited such sessions of teaching phonics were taking place every day.
It also found that 19 of these schools had adopted a systematic approach to phonics teaching.
However, it also found that this was not an easy subject to explain to parents.
Meetings for parents about phonics were poorly attended and teachers said there were difficulties in "conveying the subtleties of the programme".