Development overview

This summary looks back at the reading progress children have made through phases one to six. Learn what they’re expected to recognise, spell and be able to say at this stage and what they need to become successful readers.

Phase six reading expectations

Many children will be reading longer and less familiar texts independently, with increasing fluency. The shift from learning to read to reading to learn takes place and children are reading to get information and for pleasure. However, they still need to learn some rare grapheme-phoneme correspondences (GPCs) and be able to use them accurately in their reading.

Issues and challenges

Some children may be less fluent and confident readers. This is often because their recognition of graphemes consisting of two or more letters is not automatic enough. These children might still try to use phonics (sounding out each letter individually) and then attempt to blend the sounds (e.g. /c/-/h/-/a/-/r/-/g/-/e/ instead of /ch/-/ar/-/ge/).

This is often misunderstood as an overuse of phonics rather than misuse. As a result, many teachers might suggest that children use alternative strategies to read unfamiliar words. Instead, help them to become familiar with and graphemes of two or more letters.

Increasing automatic reading

As children find that they can decode words quickly and independently, they will read more and more. As a result the number of words they can read automatically builds up. Increasing the pace of reading is an important objective. Encourage children to read aloud as well as silently.

Pronouncing polysyllabic words

Knowing where to place the stress in polysyllabic words can be problematic. If the child has come up with their own interpretation of the word, (e.g. by giving all the vowels their full value) seeing the context of the sentence will often help them understand where they went wrong. The child then rechecks this against the letters. Working through the word in this way will make it easier for it to be read more automatically in future.

Increasing familiarity with words

In phase six, many children will be able to read texts of several hundred words fluently at their first attempt. Those children who are less fluent can benefit from rereading shorter texts several times. This is not so they can memorise texts, but to help them become familiar with the words that cause them to stumble.

Building their own strategies

To become successful readers, children must understand what they read. They need to learn a range of comprehension strategies and should be encouraged to reflect upon their own understanding and learning. This starts at the earliest stages and improves as children develop their fluency. Children need to be taught to go beyond literal interpretation and recall, to explore the greater complexities of texts through inference and deduction. Over time they need to develop self-regulated comprehension strategies to incorporate these elements:

  • activating prior knowledge
  • clarifying meanings – with a focus on vocabulary work
  • generating questions, interrogating the text
  • constructing mental images during reading
  • summarising

Reading non-fiction

Many of the texts children read at this stage will be story books that can help them develop an understanding of the author's ideas, plot development and characterisation. It is important that children are also provided with opportunities to read a range of non-fiction texts, which require a different set of strategies. The use of a contents page, index and glossary makes additional demands on young readers as they search for relevant information.

Reading poems

When children read simple poems, they learn to adapt to and explore the effects of poetic language. Poems help them to develop their understanding of rhythm, rhyme and alliteration.

Silent reading and gaining stamina

From an early stage, children need to be encouraged to read with phrasing and fluency and to take account of punctuation to aid meaning. Much of the reading now will be silent and children will be gaining reading stamina as they attempt longer texts.

Independent reading

As children read with growing independence, they will engage with and respond to texts. They will select texts, be able to justify their choices and will begin to critically evaluate them. It is important that children continue to have opportunities to listen to experienced readers reading aloud and that they develop a love of reading.