Reading at school
Reading is one of the most important things your child will learn to do at school. Being able to read and developing a love of books and reading can have a hugely positive impact on your child’s education, as well as bringing them lots of enjoyment.
Reading in Reception
There are two elements to learning to read in Reception that your child will develop during their first year at school: phonics and comprehension. All of the teaching and activities around reading that the school puts in place will be aimed at supporting one of these elements.
In England, children are taught to read the words on the page using phonics. Phonics is an approach to reading that focuses on building words from sounds. A sound might be represented by a letter (such as ‘s’ or ‘m’) or a group of letters (like ‘ch’ or ‘igh’). In Reception, children will start by learning the letters and the sounds they make, and how to put them together to read simple words. For example, once they know the individual sounds for ‘s’, ‘a’ and ‘t’ they can blend them together to form the word ‘sat’. We have a useful audio guide to phonics on our Phonics made easy page.
Good comprehension skills are vital in reading as they help children understand the meaning of the words, as well as supporting their vocabulary and knowledge of the world. In Reception, it is likely that children will be able to understand books and stories that are much more complicated than the books they can read by themselves, so most comprehension teaching will focus on children listening to books that are read to them and then talking about them.
Books at school
The books your child reads at school and brings home to read with you will depend on whether the school uses a reading scheme or not. Reading schemes, like the Oxford Reading Tree, are structured, levelled sets of books that grow gradually more challenging over time. Children begin reading on a particular book band or level and once they are ready, they move up to the next book level. There are many reading schemes available to schools and some schools use one exclusively, while others use books drawn from more than one. Most schemes are very phonic-based at the beginning.
A common approach to reading in Reception is to send two books home each week – one from a reading scheme for your child to read to you and one chosen by the child for you to read aloud to them. Whether your child’s school uses a reading scheme or not, asking your child’s teacher for more information about the books they’re using will help you better support your child’s reading at home.
If your school uses levelled books, try not to compare the book level your child is on with those of their classmates. We wouldn’t expect all children to be the same height when they start school, so neither should we expect them to read at the same level straightaway. If you’re concerned about the progress your child is making, make an appointment to talk to the teacher about it. Above all, your child needs to know that you value their efforts. Children learn to read gradually over time, not suddenly over night and it can take lots of practice and support from parents and teachers to become fluent. Remember to praise your child whatever level they are at.
- Make the time: Life is busy, but even ten minutes of reading with your child each day is one of the best ways you can support their education and help them to become a strong reader.
- Take turns to read: Often you’ll want to listen to your child read aloud – reading to an adult is the most important thing children in the early stages of learning to read can do to develop their reading. But don’t stop reading aloud to them. It’s a great way of building their understanding, showing them what expressive reading sounds like and letting them enjoy a story.
- Make reading relevant: Just like adults, if a book is about something that interests your child, they’ll be more likely to want to read it. Look at fiction, non-fiction, comics and children’s newspapers to show your child how reading allows us to explore our interests and the world.
- Talk about the book: Asking your child questions or asking for their opinion can be an important way of helping them to think about what they’re reading. As a rule, open questions that begin with ‘how’ and ‘why’ tend to be more engaging rather than simple recall questions (‘How do you think Winnie is feeling on this page?’ might work better than ‘What is Winnie afraid of?’).
- Pay attention to the language: When reading we can often take children’s understanding of words or phrases for granted. By checking they’re following, explaining the meaning or even looking up unfamiliar words and phrases together, you can widen your child’s vocabulary and support them to make wider sense of the story.
- Enjoy reading time: Making time to read with your child can have great educational benefits, but it can also be ten minutes of respite from hectic family life to curl up, read and talk together. By all means ask questions and discuss vocabulary, but don’t be afraid to lose yourselves in a good story too.
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