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Comprehension in Year 4 (age 8–9)

Comprehension is the ability to read a text and understand its meaning. In Year 4, your child will grow ever more confident as an independent reader. They will develop their comprehension skills and build the habits that make a confident and enthusiastic reader.

Read on to discover the National Curriculum expectations for comprehension in Year 4, and to find out how you can support your child at home.

What your child will learn

In Year 4 (age 8–9), your child will build on what they learned in Year 3 by working towards these expectations:

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 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 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.

How to help at home

There are lots of ways you can help your Year 4 child with comprehension. Here are our top ideas.

1. Keep reading to your child

By this age, it is tempting to leave your child to get on with their own reading. But reading a book read to them (rather than watching a story on TV or as a film) is still so important.

Reading to your child can help to develop their language skills and comprehension. Hearing a story also gives children access to books that they can’t yet read independently, such as longer novels.

2. Listen to your child read

By Year 4, your child will probably have free choice of the book that they read as their home-school reader. Even though they are likely to be an independent reader it’s still important to listen to them read. This way you can help them with unfamiliar words and talk together to make sure that they understand the book.

3. 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.

4. Read for a purpose

As well as reading for pure pleasure, in Year 4 your child is likely to need to read for particular purposes too. They 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.

5. 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