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Supporting reading at Reception (Age 4-5)

If you have a child in Reception (in England) or Primary 1 (in Scotland), you might have heard a bit about the phonics they’re learning at school. Your child will probably come home with sounds to learn and simple reading books to practise. These will likely be part of the phonics system that they’re learning at school.

At school, your child will also be doing other activities to support their reading, such as learning traditional tales and songs, acting out stories, or talking about the books they hear read to them.

How to help at home

There are many simple ways in which you can support your child.

Play rhyme and sound games

These simple word games will help practise beginning and end sounds (without them noticing):

  • Play ‘I spy’ as you walk to school.
  • Play ‘Into the pot’: with your child, pretend to be putting items that rhyme in a pot, such as a bat, a hat, a cat you could even have a real pot (but not a real cat!).
  • Begin at the end: Say a word to your child, such as ‘top’. Can they say a word that starts with last sound of your word, for example pen? You would then say a word beginning with nnn, such as nut. This will help them to listen closely to beginning and end sounds.
  • Odd one out: Say four words, such as cat, bat, bird. Ask your child to help you spot the word that doesn’t rhyme.
  • Say four words such as cat, bat, bird, bath and ask your child to spot the word that starts with a different sound.
  • Play simple phonics word games based on the sounds your child is learning that week at school. Start off using just the speech sounds and then immediately say the word. For example, you could say, ‘At the shop I will buy a /m/ /a/ /p/ map, a /b/ /e/ /d/ bed and a /d/ /u/ /ck/ duck. Next, just say the sound (such as /t/ /o/ /p/ and ask your child to say the word.

Listen to your child read every day

Your child probably brings home books to read. Although your child might seem unenthusiastic, or you’re sure you’ve read that book one hundred times before, try to find time to hear them read every day. It can seem like an uphill struggle on some days and particularly when your child is struggling or reluctant, but if you can read every day, your child will really reap the benefits. Think about how all those five minute increments add up over the year. Try to make it short and fun – and filled with praise.

If your child gets stuck on a word, remind them to say the letter sounds individually (find out how to do this here) then blend them together. If your child still can’t work out the word, then tell them what it is and move on. Don’t be surprised if they struggle to read a word that they read successfully earlier in the week – that is quite usual when learning to read. Also, don’t worry if you feel that they have read the book every day for a week. Repetition will build confidence and move words and sounds into your child’s deep memory.

Read to your child every day

Learning to read can be hard work for many children (and frustrating for parents supporting them), so it’s important to keep apart some special time for enjoying books without the stress of reading. As well as being a fun and cosy time, you child will benefit from listening to books and stories that they can’t read themselves. This might include non-fiction books about things they are interested in or longer stories with more adventurous vocabulary. For ideas of books to read with your child, visit our free eBook library.

Activity: Jack and the Beanstalk

Practise graphemes and phonemes.

Activity: Billy Goats Gruff


Practise word endings.

image of children clustered around a tablet reading

Free eBook Library

Find a huge selection of free eBooks to encourage your child to read and support their reading journey in our library. Take a look >