At school: age 4-5

Where you live will determine when your child may start school: in the year they are five, the term when they turn five or the term after they have turned five! But, here are some activities that children will do when they first start learning to read at school:

1. A critical time for phonic skills

Children will now be learning phonics – learning to crack the alphabetic code. This involves learning letter sounds and shapes, hearing and saying the sounds in words in the correct order as well as being well on the way to being able to read and write the 44 phonemes or sounds in the English language.

Find out more about phonics.

2. Tricky words

Words which are not easily sounded out are learned by sight. Some schools may send home these words to be learned using flashcards so that children can practise reading them easily and at speed. Make it a game!

3. Levelled reading books

Your child may not come home from school on day one with a ‘reading’ book. Some schools focus on just learning the letter sounds in a ‘homemade’ book in which the children paste or write letters, and then move onto levelled or decodable books for your child to read. However, be prepared to buy your school’s reading bag so that you have a special place for your child’s reading books, work and letters sent home from school.

4. Wider reading skills

In addition to phonics, your child will also start learning comprehension skills, understanding story sequences, structure, language and characters. They will also look at different types of texts: story, information, poetry. Your child should become more familiar about how a book works; that the words carry meaning and that we read from left to right and from top to bottom.

5. The teaching and practice of reading

The teaching and practice of reading may be more frequently teacher-led now than at nursery, so taught to the whole class or in a group (group or guided reading ). Individual reading practice might be with the teacher, teaching assistant or a parent helper.

6. Reading through structured play

Early years learning encourages good speaking, listening, reading and writing in all sorts of settings. Language games, outside play and role play will all be activities that your child will be excited to tell you about. If they want to take something in to contribute to the play hospital or to write labels for the vegetables in the school garden then help them to do that.

7. Reading linked to writing

Once children begin to sound out letters to read words, they can begin to say the sounds needed to write simple words and are encouraged to have a go at this from early on. Your child will start to write simple sentences, to form letters correctly and to begin to notice punctuation marks and to use them.

8. Books to share - practice at home

Some schools might send home wordless books, books with very few words or picture books for you to share with your child. Sharing a book in this way helps develop story structure and language skills and familiarises children with handling books. Some reading schemes introduce characters, e.g. Biff, Chip and Floppy, that children can relate to and talk about as they learnto read.

9. Number of books in a week

This will vary from school to school, but once your child gets a reading book don’t expect it to be changed every single day. It’s fine to read the same book again or as much as the child wants to. Rereading books is good practice for your child and it is really important not to push them on too quickly.

10. Contact and progress

It’s important to have regular and informal chats with your child’s teacher, as you drop off/collect for example, as well as at more formal parents’ meetings. Use the reading diary too if there is one in your child's book bag. Teachers will be monitoring your child’s progress using a short baseline test and through observation and simple activities. Some may complete a picture diary of your child’s best work to show you at the end of term, using an early years school-based profile to show their progress.

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