At school: age 5-6

At this age, your child will start to become a more ‘independent’ reader, having preferences for types of books and making choices about what to read. Don’t worry if progress seems to plateau for a bit; they make such progress in the first year of school that to continue at that speed would mean they would be doing A levels before they leave Primary School! They need time to consolidate what they’ve learned and to start to apply their reading skills to their everyday lives.

1. More complex phonics

Children will still be learning letter sounds for reading and spelling, but these will become more complex. For example, they will look at the same sounds but with different spelling patterns, such as long vowel sounds, e.g. ai, ay, a-e. It’s valuable to help them with these sounds at home when you are reading together and reinforce the letter sounds from the previous year so that children start to automatically apply their phonic skills when reading unfamiliar words.

Find out more about phonics here.

2. Tricky words

Children are also expected to recognise some tricky words words by sight. They will continue to build up a bank of tricky sight vocabulary and some schools may send home lists of these words so that they learn them off by heart.

3. Levelled reading books

Your child will probably now be regularly bringing books home from a reading scheme or from a selection of schemes. Sometimes these books will be colour coded in boxes so that your child can choose a book at the right level of difficulty to ensure the appropriate level of challenge and success. It’s vital that you hear your child read to you and to talk about the book – with praise of course!

4. Wider reading skills

In addition to reading a wide variety of texts of all kinds, your child will be developing comprehension skills, understand the sequence of a story (the beginning, middle and end), use story language (once upon a time...), identify main events and characters in stories, and find specific information in simple texts.

5. The teaching and practice of reading

The teaching and practice of reading will be more frequently teacher-led now than in the early years, so whole class teaching or group or guided reading really begin to feature more strongly. But individual reading practice is still vitally important to really secure a successful launch into the world of independent reading.

6. Still time for fun and games

Language and reading games of all kinds can still be used to reinforce your child’s reading skills and may focus on reading, vocabulary, spelling and punctuation. Learning is still most effective when it is active so role play, drama and outdoor learning in the local community will feature strongly.

7. Linking reading to other language skills

Children at this age will be learning about all the key skills of English; reading, writing, listening and speaking building on their work from the Early Years Foundation Stage. Writing may develop at a slower pace than reading but is just as important as is their development of vocabulary and understanding of grammar and their wider bank of vocabulary too.

8. Spellings

Your child will be using phonic skills to spell unfamiliar words and to spell common and tricky words too. Some schools might start spelling ‘tests’ and you will be expected to practise these with your child at home – use board games and online games to make it fun!

9. Progress

Assessment is still continuous and informal to track your child’s progress and to inform the teacher’s planning. In England, a short phonic reading check is planned at age six to make sure that the essential phonic skills are in place. The school will let you know how you can help or if there are any concerns.

10. Keeping in touch

It is still important to stay in touch with your child’s teacher through reading diaries, informal appointments and parents’ evenings. However, if you have concerns about your child’s progress then it is always best to see the teacher as soon as you can.

Some schools send ‘targets’ and/or notes home about what the children in the year group will be learning, so you can get excited together!

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