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Question: My four-year-old will be starting school next year. Will she be expected to be able to read

Dr Richard Woolfson's Answer:

When children start school, they differ hugely in their language skills. Some parents are reluctant to teach their child to read before setting foot in the classroom in case they don’t do this properly, some try to teach early reading skills in a systematic manner, and sometimes children spontaneously develop some reading skills in the preschool years. You’ll find that a number of your daughter’s classmates will already have basic reading skills, such as word recognition and maybe even letter recognition, while others will have not started reading at all. But all these individual differences are normal – there will be no expectation that your daughter should be able to read when she starts school.

Rather than worrying about this, however, a better strategy is to speak to the head teacher of your child’s intended school, who will explain their policy on reading, the teaching methods used and the supports parents can provide. The head teacher will also be able to advise you on useful pre-reading activities that you can engage your daughter in right now. What will be definitely be good for your child when she starts school, irrespective of school policy and procedure, is enthusiasm for books, written language and stories. If you continue nurture such a positive attitude towards reading from now until that first day, she’ll be highly motivated when it comes to learning to read in class.