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Reading: Age 5–6 (Year 1)

Children age 5–6 will have a growing knowledge of phonics and will be building up a range of reading skills. The focus now is on developing their phonics and comprehension skills as they become confident and fluent readers.

There are a variety of simple things you can do at home to support your child’s developing reading skills.

What your child will learn

Follow the links below to find out more about learning to read, with lots of information and support:

Learning to read in Year 1

In Year 1, your child will continue to learn to read using phonics. Phonics focuses on building words from sounds. For example, once they know the individual sounds for ‘s’, ‘a’, and ‘t’, they can blend them together to form the word ‘sat’. Find out more on our Learn to read with phonics page.

By now, there will probably be a range of tricky words, such as ‘the’ and ‘said’, that your child recognises on sight. These are words in which the sounds and letters do not match with what has been taught so far.

The books that your child brings home from school will probably be levelled reading scheme books. They are carefully written to support the process of learning to read and to help children make steady progress.

Find out more about learning to read in Year 1 >

Reading comprehension in Year 1

As well as building on their phonics skills, your child will also develop their comprehension skills.

Comprehension is the ability to read or listen to a text and understand its meaning. Your child will develop their comprehension skills by reading, listening to, and talking about different stories and texts.

Find out more about reading comprehension in Year 1 >

Year 1 phonics screening check

In the summer term of Year 1, your child will sit the phonics screening check to ensure they are making good progress with their phonic skills.

They will sit with their teacher and read up 40 words in total. Your child will also be asked to read nonsense words. These are words that are phonically decodable but are not actual words (like ‘brip’ or ‘snorb’). They are included to check that your child can decode a word using phonics skills and not just their memory.

Children progress at different speeds, so if your child does not reach the expected standard does not necessarily mean there is a problem. If this happens, your child will re-sit the check next summer.

Find out more about the Year 1 phonics screening check >

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:

How to help at home

There are plenty of simple and effective ways you can help your child with reading in Year 1. Here are our top tips:

 1. Read to your child

At this age, your child will only be able to read quite simple books by themselves. You can help expand their vocabulary and their understanding of language by reading them books that they can’t read independently yet.

Be sure to keep your child engaged. You would be surprised at the difference putting on funny voices, asking the occasional question, and pointing out interesting pictures makes to your child’s enjoyment of reading!

For books to read with your child, take a look at our free eBook library.

2. Practise phonics

Phonics is the main way your child will learn to read, write, and spell at the start of primary school.

You can help your child to read using phonics by encouraging them to break any word they are unsure of into individual sounds, and then to blend those sounds together to make the word. For example, they could split and sound out the letters ‘f’, ‘r’, ‘o’, and ‘g’ to make ‘frog’. This is called blending.

Take a look at our phonics page to find out more, or watch our video for an introduction to phonics:

Video: What is phonics?

Get a definition of phonics and understand the key aspects of reading with phonics. Learn more about key terms such as ‘phonemes’, ‘blending’, and ‘tricky words’.

Copyright Oxford University Press 2020