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Reading: Age 10–11 (Year 6)

By Year 6, your child will hopefully be reading independently at home and school for lots of different reasons. Some children may still be reluctant to read adventurously and can get stuck on one author, series, or type of book. Having favourites is great, but Year 6 is also a good time to push the boundaries and read new genres and forms.

In May, your child will take their Key Stage 2 SATs. The tests include maths and English sections, as well as a reading test. To find out about the SATs and how you can help your child prepare, visit our Key Stage 2 SATs page.

It’s important at this age that your child is encouraged to develop a love of reading. This will help to build a strong foundation for learning when they go to secondary school and for later life. Read on to find out how your child will read at school and how you can help at home.

What your child will learn

 Find out how your child will be learning to read in Year 6 (age 10–11):

Understand root words, prefixes, and suffixes

A root word is a word that can stand on its own without prefixes or suffixes.

A prefix is a group of letters that is added to the beginning of a word. This makes a new word. For example, the prefix un- changes words so they mean the opposite. For example, ‘happy’ becomes ‘unhappy’. In this example, ‘happy’ is the ‘root word’.

A suffix is a group of letters that is added to the end of a word.  For example, the suffix –ness turns a word into a noun. For example, ‘happy’ becomes ‘happiness’.

Your child will use their knowledge of root words, prefixes, and suffixes to work out the meaning of words. They will understand how prefixes and suffixes can change meaning.

Read and talk about a wide range of fiction, poetry, plays, and non-fiction

During Year 6, your child will read and listen to a wide range of books, poems, and stories at school. This will help them develop a feel for the types of things that they like to read. By reading widely, they will get to know many different types of language and writing.

Your child will also become more familiar with using reference books such as dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Recommend books to friends

A key part of becoming a reader is being able to talk about the books you like and why you enjoyed them. In Year 6, your child will be encouraged to do this by making recommendations to their friends.

Talk about and compare themes in books

By Year 6, your child will have read a large and growing number of books. This means that they can begin to compare the books they read, thinking about similarities and differences.

At school, they will learn to think about themes in different books and make links between them. For example, they could compare two main characters, or talk about how two different authors approach a similar scene in different ways.

Learn a range of poetry by heart and read poems and playscripts aloud

Your child will study poems or play scripts in Year 6, and will have the chance to perform them to an audience. This helps them learn to read aloud with expression and shows the teacher that they understand the text.

Your child will also be expected to read aloud from their reading books, and will also learn some poems by heart so they can recite them aloud.

Check that the text makes sense to them

As an independent reader in Year 6, your child will be encouraged to check whether what they are reading makes sense to them. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s important they don’t just read on to try and finish the book.

They will be taught to re-read and to think about or look up the meaning of a word. Your child will also be encouraged to use the other words and phrases to work out the meaning.

Read between the lines and use evidence from the text to justify thinking

Sometimes the information in a text is very clear (for example, ‘It was raining’) and easy to understood. However, texts are often a bit more complicated and may require inference to properly understand.

Inference is where some information is left for the reader to read between the lines. They need to make sense of details that are not stated clearly. For example:

Instead of ‘It was raining’, the text might say, ‘Ally shook the water from her umbrella and carefully balanced her soaking coat on the radiator’.

Being able to make inferences is a key skill for comprehension so this is a focus for reading in Year 6.

Predict what might happen next

In Year 6, your child will continue to make predictions about the texts they read. This could mean predicting what might happen next in the story or what a character might say or do. These predictions are a good way to check understanding.

Identify how the language, structure, and presentation of a text adds to its meaning

As children reach the end of primary school, the focus on reading moves towards not just being able to read, but also to thinking about the choices a writer has made.

Your child will read a wide range of texts and will discuss how the words a writer has chosen, the way the text is organised, and how the words are presented all create a particular effect. This might be how an author makes a particular scene funny or how another author shares information clearly.

Talk about how authors use language

‘Figurative language’ describes figures of speech such as metaphors and similes, that go beyond the literal meanings of words. For example:

‘The hills were smothered in a cloak of white’ rather than ‘the hills were covered in snow’.

Figurative language might add some sparkle to a piece of writing or help the reader to think differently about an idea. In Year 6, your child will learn about figurative language and the effect it can have on a reader.

Tell the difference between fact and opinion

In Year 6, your child will read a range of types of non-fiction writing, including books, letters, adverts, newspapers, and so on. They will learn to find and use the information in non-fiction writing.

As part of this, they will learn that some information is the writer’s opinion, while other elements are facts, and they will be able to tell the difference between the two.

Talk about books, building on their own and others' ideas

Reading lessons in Year 6 will give your child the chance to talk about the books that they read. They will show their understanding and learn that different people hold different opinions about the things that they read.

Talk about what they have read in presentations and debates

As well as discussing what they read in groups and as a class, children in Year 6 will learn to present information in presentations and debates. They might be encouraged to use notes to help them.

Year 6 reading test

In Year 6, children’s reading is assessed by a national assessment test (commonly called SATs) and also by a teacher assessment.

Year 6 reading test

There is one paper in the reading test, worth 50 marks. The paper will cover a selection of texts between 1500 and 2300 words in total, and will include fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Children will be given a reading booklet and a separate answer booklet containing comprehension questions about each text. The test will last one hour.

There will be a mixture of question types including 1-mark, 2-mark and 3-mark questions. In some questions, your child will need to choose an answer (selected responses) by ticking, drawing lines, or circling. For some, they will need to write their own answer (short or extended constructed responses). The length of the answer expected will be shown by the space given for the answer.

Find out more about the Key Stage 2 SATs reading test >

Teacher assessment

Over the course of the year, teachers will use the reading that children do in school to inform their teacher assessment. Teachers will assess your child’s word reading and their comprehension.

Common reading issues

Lots of parents worry about their children’s reading. Fortunately, help is at hand!

Some children can read the words quite well – it’s just that they don’t want to. We call this group of children reluctant readersFor some other children, it is difficult to remember common words or the sounds of the letters from one day to the next. Reading is a slow and painful struggle, distressing for your child and for you. These children can be called struggling readers.

Read our expert advice on how to support your child with common reading issues:

If you are concerned about your child’s reading progress, then pop into school to talk to their teacher. Lots of people can help with reading issues, like teachers, librarians, and booksellers.

How to help at home

There are plenty of simple and effective ways you can help your child with reading in Year 6. Here are our top tips.

1. Read a wide variety of books

Encourage your child to choose texts with a variety of formats and layouts. Lots of children have favourite authors and genres, but it can be helpful to expand into new types of books every so often – and be sure not to neglect non-fiction texts, such as magazine articles, brochures, adverts, newspaper columns, signs, and notices.

Showing your child lots of kinds of texts will give them experience reading in a real-world context, and will also prepare them for national assessments where they are expected to engage with a wide variety of text types. Make sure you talk together about how the texts are presented – the writing will look different depending on what type of text it is from.

Your child may now be reading more independently, but reading to your child can still be useful, especially if the books you read are a bit above their current reading level. Take a look at our free eBook library for ideas for older readers. 

Our free eBook library has lots of books perfect for older readers.

2. … but value your child’s choices too!

Your child might want to read something that everyone is reading at school, an old favourite they’ve read a hundred times before, or something you wouldn’t pick yourself: another book about ponies or the biography of a footballer you’ve never heard of. Giving your child free choice of the book is a great way of building excitement about reading.

If your child tends to want to read the same books over and over again, it can be difficult to balance encouraging your child to read outside the box with letting them choose their own books. The best course is to aim for a mix of old favourites and exciting new ideas. Don’t tell your child they can’t read a book they have read several times before – but do be sure to point out new titles that might appeal.

4. Listen to audiobooks

Listening to an audiobook together can work well (even better when it is played from the hallowed tablet or smart phone). This could be curled up at bedtime, but it could also be in the car or at home while you’re getting ready for school. Take a look at the free audiobooks on our eBook library for inspiration.

5. Carry on reading aloud

Your child may already be a fluent reader, but there are still lots of advantages to reading aloud to your child. Reading to your child gives them the chance to listen to books that they might not be able to read independently. This includes books that are too long for their current level of reading stamina, books with tricky vocabulary, or books that introduce concepts that benefit from discussion with an adult.

It also gives you lots of chances to talk about books with your child, and safeguards some shared time together. Read more about reading aloud to older children in James Clements’ blog post, Carry on reading aloud.

If your child is a reluctant reader, try meeting them halfway. Perhaps you read a page to them and then they read a page to you. Or, you read one chapter, then they read the next few to themselves, and then you read another.

6. Use pictures to talk about stories

For younger children, pictures provide an excellent opportunity to practise comprehension skills. This can also be true of children as they grow older and become more confident readers.

Talking about what is happening in a picture, what the characters might be thinking, or what might happen next. You might use a photo or picture on its own, or an illustration from a picture book, non-fiction book, or comic strip. Many popular books for children feature illustrations as part of the story.

7. Read between the lines

Talking about stories, poems, and information books can help your child understand books in different ways. It’s not just about what’s happened or who did what. Talk about what a book means to your child and whether they think there are any less obvious meanings that the author wants us to spot.

Copyright Oxford University Press 2020