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Reading: Age 8–9 (Year 4)

In Year 4, your child will be developing into an increasingly fluent reader. The focus will now be on building comprehension, but it is still important that children use their phonics skills to tackle new words.

There are a variety of simple things you can do at home to support your child’s developing reading skills. Read on to find out how your child will learn to 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 4 (age 8–9):

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 more common exception words (tricky words)

Some words are trickier to sound out than others. This is usually because the sounds and letters do not match with what has been taught so far, or they are not spelt in a way that can be figured out using phonics. In other words, they are not decodable. The National Curriculum calls these ‘common exception words’, but they are often called tricky words in schools.

Your child is likely to meet words like these (for example, ‘said’ and ‘the’) in the books they read. Children are often taught to recognise these words by sight. Some schools send home lists of tricky words so that children can learn them off by heart.

Read a wide range of books and retell stories orally

In Year 4, your child will read and listen to many different books including fairy tales, myths, and legends. Retelling these stories helps your child to learn story language and to practise speaking to an audience.

You can find lots of books to read aloud with your child on our free eBook library.

Perform poems and play scripts

Your child will study poems or play scripts in Year 4, 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.

Talk about interesting words and phrases

Your child will talk about the language used in the different books they read. They will explore why the author has chosen certain words and to think about why particular words and phrases work well. This is useful for building their understanding of the texts they read. It is also useful when they come to write themselves.

Check that the text makes sense to them

In Year 4, your child will be encouraged to become an independent reader, checking 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. They will be able to talk to you about their understanding of what they are reading.

Read between the lines and justify thinking with evidence from the text

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 4.

Predict what might happen next

In Year 4, your child will be taught to make predictions about the texts they read. This could mean predicting what will happen next in the story or what a character might say or do. These predictions are a good way to check understanding.

Talk about books and poems

Reading lessons in Year 4 give your child a chance to talk about the books that they read and that are read to them. In these discussions, children show their understanding and learn that different people have different opinions about the things that they read.

Your child might talk about books as part of a small group or with the whole class. As well as developing their comprehension skills, these lessons are useful practise for taking turns and listening to what others say.

Use dictionaries to check the meaning of words

In Year 4, your child will learn to use dictionaries to check the meaning of words they have read.

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 4. Here are our top tips.

1. Listen to your child reading and read to your child

At this age, your child might prefer to read independently and it’s tempting to leave them to it. But listening to them read is still a worthwhile thing to do. This way, you can help your child with any unfamiliar words and can talk to them about the book to make sure that they understand.

Reading to them is still important too. Reading to your child means that they will be able to hear books they might not yet be able to read themselves. Sharing and talking about books is also a lovely way to spend time together!

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

2. Value your child’s choices

It’s really important to value your child’s choices, even when a book looks too easy or too difficult. Children can often read books that initially appear to be too difficult (especially if it is a topic that interests them).

That said, you will probably need to guide them through tricky words, pictures, ideas, or even the layout of an information book. At this age, children will often have strong enough word-reading skills to read most books they choose, but that doesn’t mean that they can always understand the text.

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

3. Open up the world of reading

Help your child to read widely. Books, magazines, websites, and apps all show how reading can help you to follow your interests and get involved. Show your child websites, books, and magazines that link to their hobbies – whether it’s swimming, football, dance, music, art, or something else entirely.

Always check that any websites children access are safe, and monitor their use of them.

4. Make a word bookmark

Using a piece of paper as a bookmark, encourage your child to jot down words they don’t understand. They can do this when they read on their own or if you’re reading together and they don’t want to stop. After reading, try looking up the words together in a dictionary and talk about what they mean.

5. Read for a purpose

As well as reading for pleasure, your child is likely to need to read for particular purposes in Year 4. They will read to find information, to learn about something, or to answer questions. Practising this can be useful for success at school.

Your child may be asked to investigate a topic or find answers to questions set in class. You can help them with their research skills by talking about where to look to find the answers, although you may need to remind them to look in books and use the library as well as the internet. Children can struggle with information overload so they need your help to ‘search and sift’ both sites and information to make decisions.

6. Don’t give up!

As your child reads read more difficult books, there might be times when they struggle and may be reluctant to continue. You can help them through those patches by reading a bit with them to get them started or hooked into the next chapter. Always balance this with sensitivity and valuing their choice – it’s got to be fun!

Copyright Oxford University Press 2020