Your child’s reading experience is much more than the reading book which comes home from school. Reading is happening all the time in a classroom and in school. It is taught in specific reading and English lessons, but children are practising and using their ‘reading’ constantly across all subjects too.
A child’s ‘reading journey’ begins with ‘learning to read’ and moves on into ‘reading to learn’. This advice will help you to make sense of the latest curriculum and testing changes and understand how reading is taught and developed.
Statutory requirements for teaching reading
All schools have to follow an agreed curriculum in the teaching of reading (and other subjects).
Follow these links to find out more:
There are lots of different ways schools track children’s progress. Here are a few that your school might use:
- Some schools use reading tests that give a result called a ‘reading age’ – like ‘six years six months’. A child’s reading age should be at the same level as their actual age, or above this, if they are keeping up with what is expected.
- Other schools assess children’s progress in different ways, based on the National Curriculum. Again, they will be able to tell you where your child is in relation to what is expected.
- Schools may use a system of colour-coding books, with different colours representing ‘bands’ of difficulty. The colour banding differs from reading scheme to reading scheme, so looking at the colour band of the books your child is bringing home is not always a good guide to how they are getting on. It’s best to ask the teacher about this rather than try to work it out for yourself, or start to compare the books in your child’s book bag with those other children are reading.
- All children in England now also have a phonics test in the summer term of Year 1, so when they are around six you will automatically receive information from the school about whether your child is on track with the phonic skills that are vital building blocks of reading.
Follow these links to find out more about assessing progress in:
Different ways to teach and practise reading
Take a look below for general top tips for younger readers 3-7 years or 7-11 years, or select from the panel for age specific ideas for 3-11 year olds.
Younger readers 3-7 year olds
You'll probably hear about different methods of teaching and practising reading such as:
- Children start to learn how to read, by using phonics. They also need to recognise and remember those 'tricky words' that cannot be sounded out letter by letter e.g. the or said.
- There are special phonic 'decodable' books that help them to practise their early reading.
- At 6 years old (in the Summer term of Y1) children sit a statutory 'phonic screening check' to ensure they are making good progress in the basic phonic skills.
Find out more about phonics here.
- Children also draw on their own experiences (the language and stories they know), the setting of the story and the pictures to help them understand what they are reading about. Comprehension skills are vital in making sense of what the words say and interpreting meaning.
A reading scheme is a structured and levelled set of books written specifically to ensure that your child can take steady and progressive steps towards reading success. There are many reading schemes available to schools. Some schools use one exclusively at least for the first few years and others use more than one. Most schemes are very phonic-based at the beginning.
Different types of reading
Children are encouraged to read stories, plays, poetry and information, but remember that reading is all about words, not just books, and words are everywhere in a school. Children read to help them with their work, e.g. instructions, displays, word lists for tricky words, projects (The Egyptians), other subjects (Science), signs, rules etc. Every school should be swimming in words in print and on screen. We live in a digital world and your children will do plenty of digital reading both at school and at home. They will take much of this in their stride, so embrace it!
Speaking, listening, reading and writing...
Good speaking and listening underpins so much of good reading and writing so there is often lots of talk in the classroom. Children need a rich bank of words to make sense of their reading and to use in their writing. When they are learning early reading skills, there is a very close connection between sounding out, and spelling – putting the letters back together again to write. Children will start writing from the very start of school; the spelling may not always be quite right, but as they work out the code and the rules, it quickly develops.
It is vital that there is communication between you and your child’s school. You should try to:
- Attend curriculum meetings to hear about how the school teaches literacy and reading in particular – and how you can best help.
- Read the school prospectus or look on the website for more information about the wider curriculum. Use the reading diary to send in quick and easy messages about your child or home.
- Speak to the class teacher after school if you have a very quick query or concern.
- Book an appointment if you need a little bit more time to discuss a concern.
- Wait for open evenings or parent consultation meetings for one-to-one meetings with your child’s teacher (but don’t wait for this if you have urgent concerns!).
- Offer to help in the classroom or school; teachers love to have extra ears to hear children reading.
Reading at home
As parents, you can make the biggest difference to your child’s success as a reader by encouraging your child to read as much and as widely as possible at home. Your child will probably have a reading bag/book bag to keep the take-home reading book in (and other homework). A short daily reading session at home can make all the difference to your child’s progress. Most reading schemes have notes for parents to help you help your child. Find out more in our Get reading section or take a look at our free eBooks.
Assessment and progress
We hear lots in the press about tests and assessment but don’t worry! Assessment for young children is informal and discrete and helps to inform the teacher’s planning so they can support each child in their class.
To support the teacher's assessment of how well your child has settled in and how they are progressing, there are a number of simple checks or tests:
- A short reception baseline test (from September 2015).
- A phonics check near the end of Year 1 to make sure you child can decode.
- A teacher assessment at the end of Key Stage 1 in maths, reading and writing.
- A grammar, punctuation and spelling test (from Summer 2016).
- A teacher assessment of speaking and listening, and science.
Find out more about Progress and testing.
Older readers 7-11 year olds
Reading and Comprehension:
- Children will be reading widely: stories, plays, poetry and information. They will increasingly be using their reading for learning across a range of subjects and topics but they will be encouraged to read a range of authors and to be adventurous in their choices.
- Children continue to draw on their own reading experiences (the language and stories they know) and will start comparing these with new reading and real life experiences too. This helps them to make sense of new ideas and to understand and respond too.
Writing and spelling, punctuation and grammar
- They should be practising and gaining confidence now in using grammar and punctuation correctly most of the time, and in writing creatively and effectively for different purposes. They’ll be learning about spelling patterns and rules too.
Speaking and listening
- Talk remains critically important for underpinning good reading, writing and language development. You’ll notice that children use talk in lots of different ways: to discuss, to critique, to ask questions, share opinions and make presentations.
Reading books at school
Reading schemes and wider reading
- As children become more confident, they’ll be selecting less from levelled reading schemes and more from the sort of books you find in high street bookshops. These both play an important part in building reading stamina and opening children up to many different styles of writing. See Find a Book.
- Even in the junior years there are levelled reading schemes that are aimed at moving older readers on and giving them controlled practice in reading.
- Levelling allows a teacher to work out what book is right for each child at each stage. Some schools will use National Curriculum levels as well as age/year groups; others might use colour coding systems such as book bands or reading scheme levels or stages. As your child reaches fluency and independence, age guidance may be more helpful as a guide to what is likely to be of interest and age appropriate.
Home/School links and homework
It is vital that there is communication between you and your child’s school. It's really important to:
- Find out how you can help beyond supporting your child with homework (reading to learn) and encouraging your child to read as widely as possible for leisure.
- Attend school meetings to hear about how the school is preparing your child for the challenges of the standardised assessment tests or end of primary school assessments and for transition to secondary school.
Assessment and progress
- Children continue to be assessed informally throughout the junior years and this helps to inform the teachers’ planning so that they can support each child in the class. In the last year of the primary school, children usually sit a more formal standardised assessment task or end of primary school test in mathematics; reading; grammar, punctuation and spelling in order to check their progress in preparation for secondary school.
- There will also be teacher assessments of maths, reading, writing and science.
- There will be open evenings or parent-teacher consultation meetings where you will have the opportunity to talk to your child’s teacher about their progress but don’t wait for this if you have urgent concerns.
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