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How to build your child's literacy skills from Grades 3 to 6

​​​​​​This page includes tips on how to help build your child's skills in speaking, listening, reading and writing.

General tips

The first few years of reading is a wonderful time for your child. Books expose them to new ideas and new worlds, and their imagination grows.

Talk positively about reading so your child also values it. Continue to read as much as you can with your child. When they feel confident, encourage them to take over some or all of the reading. Always be patient when they are reading and try not to emphasise speed. Also, try to read as much as possible yourself to model reading to your child.

These years are a time when your child will learn more about the world. Engaging them in discussions improves their speaking skills, and helps them understand the world and their place in it.

In these years your child will also begin to write with greater confidence. The ability to write well enables your child to communicate effectively and will improve their chances of success at school and in their future careers. Encourage your child to write as often as possible, on a range of topics and interests.

Literacy can always be fun and engaging. Let your child choose books and activities matched to their interests, and always encourage a healthy dose of fun and play in all activities. This will help foster in your child a love of reading, talking and writing.

Helping your child to speak and listen

Talking to your child

As your child moves through primary school, they will speak with greater fluency and with a greater knowledge of the world.

Some tips to foster more fluent speaking include:

  • Continue to involve your child when discussing everyday activities, such as grocery shopping, gardening, cooking dinner, collecting mail from the mailbox, doing housework, and travelling in the car or bus.
  • Try to ask your child specific questions about their day. A general question like 'how was your day?' will likely get a single-word response of 'good.' Ask specific questions like 'what is the book you are reading in class about?' or 'what did you do at lunchtime today?'
  • Involve your child in your discussions about the day’s events or current events. Ask their opinion. This helps them understand different perspectives and increases their vocabulary.
  • Use simple prompts to encourage the child to expand upon responses, such as, 'What makes you say that? What happened after that? What did you think about that?'
  • Show a genuine interest in your child’s reading, writing and viewing of all types of texts. Talking about texts can create meaningful discussions and help your child see them as important.
  • Show interest in topics your child is studying at school. These can be a great springboard into discussions.
  • Encourage your child to discuss their everyday problems and feelings.
  • Use questions and discussion to explore other people’s feelings. This will help your child to develop empathy for others.
  • Use questions and discussion to broaden your child’s experience and knowledge of the world, particularly during new experiences or on outings.

Discussing news and current events

As your child gets older, they become more aware of news and current events. Discussing news and current events can enrich your child’s understanding of the world.

Questions are an effective way to encourage your child to think critically about an event and can help foster empathy. Questions also help your child to develop oral fluency when discussing social issues.

Questions you might ask when discussing a news story or current event include:

  • What do you think caused the event?
  • How do you think people will be affected?
  • Is it fair?
  • Why do you think people think that/do that?
  • Could there be another side to this news report?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • How could the problem be fixed?

Some other activities to develop your discussion:

  • Encourage children to find the good in bad or unhappy news stories by looking out for the people or organisations who are offering aid, e.g. 'Who are the helpers in this event?'
  • Read several articles together on the same issue to get different opinions. Then discuss the different opinions.
  • Have a debate on a topic, with you and your child taking different sides of the issue.
  • Download and listen to podcasts on an issue and discuss.
  • Discuss different 'What if?' scenarios. This will help develop your child’s problem-solving and imagination.

Many news items can be distressing or confusing for children. Ensure you select items that are appropriate for your child. There are some excellent podcasts and online programs that provide the news in an age-appropriate manner:

Helping your child to read

Here are some tips to encourage reading:

  • It is recommended that you continue to read together in the later primary years, even if your child is reading independently.
  • Take your child to the local library often so they can choose, borrow and renew books. Taking children to the library at the beginning of school holidays encourages weeks of independent reading.
  • Look for non-fiction books on craft or activity topics that your child enjoys. Most libraries have well-stocked sections (e.g. under the Dewey decimal number 745).
  • Encourage your child to borrow from their school library as well.
  • If your child likes an author, find another book or a series of books by the same author.
  • Encourage your child to read about their favourite author or illustrator on their website.
  • Introduce your child to reading different genres such as fantasy, science-fiction, action and adventure.
  • Introduce your child to reading different types of texts, such as poems, music lyrics, and short plays.
  • Encourage your child to read non-fiction. The newspaper or an online encyclopaedia might be a good start, but your child might also be interested in history books or autobiographies of their favourite sportsperson or celebrity.
  • Encourage your child to use a dictionary to look up words they might not understand.
  • Allow your child to play age-appropriate video games that require reading.
  • Encourage your child to join the Victorian Premiers’ Reading Challenge, which runs each year from March to September. Participating schools will register your child – otherwise, you can register your child for the Victorian Premier's Reading Challenge.
  • See also 'Creating a literacy-rich home' below.

Book chat

Book chat is an important strategy to help your child to reflect more deeply on the content and meaning of their favourite books. In the previous section, Before School to Grade 2, Literacy, book chat questions related mainly to recalling information on plot and character (see p.15). These questions are still very important to ask when your child is in primary school. As your child moves through primary school, add more questions when discussing the book you are reading together, or when discussing the book your child is reading independently.

Some further questions might include:

  • Does the main character change in the story? How does the character change?
  • If you could change the ending of this book, what would it be?
  • What do you think is the story’s main message?
  • What is your opinion about the story’s main message?
  • Can you relate the story or message to another event or issue?
  • How could other people see it differently?

Helping your child to write

As your child moves through primary school, they will begin writing longer creative pieces, writing in different genres, and exploring non-fiction and persuasive writing.

Some general tips to help with your child’s writing in these years include:

  • Continue to encourage them to write for everyday skills. This includes writing recipes, family messages, shopping lists and greeting cards.
  • Try to find a quiet time or place for your child to write. A flat surface such as a table, bench top or tray is helpful.
  • Provide stationery, such as coloured pens and pencils, and different coloured paper.
  • It is always helpful to discuss the writing topic with your child before they start to write. This will give your child ideas and confidence to start writing.
  • After discussing the topic your child is writing about, you may want to write down a few arguments or story plot points to help them. They can then expand on these points.
  • Encourage your child to write creatively in different genres, such as fantasy, realism, and adventure.
  • Encourage your child to write different types of literary texts such as poems, short plays or film scripts.
  • Use a book your child has read as a springboard into creative writing.
  • Persuasive writing will become a focus at school, particularly in high school. Encourage your child to write down their opinions and ideas about specific issues.
  • Encourage your child to edit their work for mistakes before they show you. They should also make sure the writing makes sense. Getting your child to read their work out loud is a good technique to find mistakes in writing.
  • Using a dictionary helps with spelling mistakes.
  • Using a thesaurus helps to expand your child’s vocabulary.

Some fun activities might include:

  • Use scrap paper to make your own books. Staple pages together and write stories, riddles, jokes or instructions to create a home-made mini book library
  • Encourage your child to keep a diary where they record their feelings and experiences.
  • Write a review of a book or film. Encourage your child to have an opinion about the relative good and bad points, and how the film could be improved.
  • Create ‘found poetry.’ Pick 20 random lines and phrases from books or poems and arrange these lines into a new poem. It can be fun to discuss the different possibilities of joining different lines and the changes in meaning these create.
  • Give your child a topic that has two clear sides, such as 'Homework should be banned.' Ask your child to write a few paragraphs outlining their arguments for and against.
  • If your child has recently finished a novel or film, ask them to write creatively in response to it. They might write an alternative ending, a short sequel, or write a series of diary entries from a character’s perspective.

Digital writing and creating

We now live in a world full of digital technology. To give your child the best chance of success in literacy, it is important that your child becomes comfortable with technology and can use various technologies to share their ideas and show their creativity.

Some activities your child might do include:

  • Create a website with a specific interest in mind, such as a hobby, a sports team, or a historical event that interests them.
  • Write a blog on a hobby or interest.
  • Write a short film script and then shoot the film using a mobile phone, tablet or video recorder. Use editing software to edit the film and create titles.
  • Write a radio script and then record the script using a mobile phone, tablet, or digital voice recorder.
  • Write a short story and record it using a mobile phone, tablet, or voice recorder. Find digital film score music or sound effects to create mood and suspense.
  • Write emails or instant messages to family members.
  • Use presentation or slide software to create presentations for the family about a recent family holiday, or about something of personal interest.
  • Create a short film, using an app such as The Little Lunch App by the Australian Children’s Television Foundation:

Family projects

Take the opportunity to involve the whole family in reading and writing.

Some family projects could include:

  • Email friends or family members.
  • Write messages together on your social networking sites to communicate with family and friends.
  • Read a book series together.
  • Read together the instructions for a new household item to find out how it works.
  • Record family events or travel experiences in a journal or on an online blog.
  • Write plays and perform them for family and friends.
  • Write a film script together and make the film.
  • Read, select and collect news articles, and create an album about, for example, a sporting team, favourite animal, or leisure activity.
  • Solve crosswords, word puzzles, brain-teasers, and quizzes.
  • Combine family brains to try and solve a daily Wordle. There are child-friendly versions available online such as Wordle for Kids.
  • Browse libraries and bookshops together. Search for cheap books in charity stores and at garage sales.
  • Prepare for an outing together, including reading public transport timetables, maps, and information brochures.

Creating a literacy-rich home

Creating a literacy-rich home gives your child every opportunity to engage in reading, writing, speaking and listening. This kind of environment encourages your child to see these skills as an important and normal part of every day.

Here are some tips to create a literate home:

  • Lots of books. With lots of books, your child will see reading as a normal activity and will always have something new to read.
  • Create a language-rich bedroom and home for your child, with alphabet and word posters, and labels.
  • Organise a bookshelf to display your child’s books.
  • Create a comfortable space for your child to read, perhaps with cushions and blankets, to encourage your child to see reading as a relaxing and fun activity.
  • Provide writing materials and a writing desk. Having different pens and pencils, and a place to write, encourages your child to write more often. Creating a special ‘writing box’ to store your child’s pens and pencils helps your child see writing as an important activity.
  • Collect props for imaginative play, and materials for craft projects. These can form the basis for practising speaking and writing.
  • Set aside a time each week for ‘family reading time’ when every family member is reading, either individually or together.
  • Regularly discuss what your child is reading or writing.
  • Very importantly, read yourself. One of the most important ways to get your child reading is to model reading for your child. Children are encouraged to read – and to see reading as a normal part of the day – if they see their parents reading often. Siblings, grandparents, and other relevant persons in a child’s life can also be reading role models.