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Reading in Reception (age 4–5)

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In Reception, schools in England follow the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Reading skills

You'll probably hear about different methods of teaching and practising reading such as:


In Reception, children begin to learn to read using 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. 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.

Find out more about phonics.


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.

The teaching of reading

In Reception, the teaching and practice of reading begins to be teacher-led, through whole class sessions or group or guided reading . Individual reading practice might be with the teacher, teaching assistant or a parent helper.

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.

Reading schemes (Reading programmes)

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, such as the Oxford Reading Tree. Some schools use only one reading scheme for the first few years and others use more than one. Most schemes are very phonic-based at the beginning.

Take home 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.

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 your child to learn about the structure and language of stories and gets them used to handling books. Some reading schemes introduce characters, e.g. Biff, Chip and Floppy, that children can relate to and talk about as they learn to read.

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