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Learning to read

IMG_4043Beginning to read for themselves

Most children begin to read themselves between the ages of 4 and 7. They may have different ways of doing this. For example, some children will join in with repeated phrases or talk through the story in their own words, turning the pages and using their memory of the story or the pictures, or both, to keep the story going. Some, particularly after starting school, will focus on the words, slowly sounding them out as accurately as they can, preferring not to guess. Others will use a combination of approaches.

Focusing on the words


Names are often the first words children recognise and this interest can be built on by finding other words that begin with the same letter for example, in a book, in street signs or on screen. Using alphabet cards and word games is a useful way of developing children’s knowledge and interest.

Reading together, you can follow the words as you say them and children can join in when they are confident to do so. Focusing on the words can be helped by pointing out those words children already know, like ‘mummy’ or ‘cat’. Inviting children to find more words in the story that are the same can be helpful, too. Books with rhyme and repetition draw children’s attention to the patterns in words (eg shark, park) and to take on more of the reading for themselves.

Gaining confidence

As children’s experience grows, they will begin to read more of the print as you read less. When they get stuck on a word you can help them to work it out using the first letter/s, the story meaning and the pictures so that it makes sense. You can prompt children to guess the word and read it yourself if they struggle.

It’s important that reading is pleasurable and not a test.

Developing independence

As their fluency develops, when children come to read a word they don’t know, they can miss it out and then go back to it to see if they can work it out, or they might re-read the sentence to try to work out the unknown word.

To become more independent, children will often enjoy reading the same books again and again. This is an important route to successful reading. You can encourage them by ensuring they have books available that they are familiar with – these could be borrowed from school or the public library. Children can be encouraged to read to themselves, their siblings or their toys as well as to you and other adults in the family. 

Even when they can read for themselves, reading aloud to your child and sharing  books together will be a great way to introduce new books, enjoy favourites and to talk about the stories, ideas and vocabulary.

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