First Reading for Four Year Old

19 Replies



A question for all of you teachers out there, or parents in a similar position to myself. I have a four year old son who is currently in Maternelle and is progressing well. However, he really wants to learn to read and write, so he and are doing basic letters and sounds, using the Jolly Phonics books and Flash Cards. As he's become very keen to be able to read his books by himself, I can see him mastering his letters and sounds and possibly basic words very quickly. Can anyone recommend any First Reader books that would help him get to the next level. I had a quick look on but without seeing them I don't really have much of an idea of what to buy. Alternatively, if anyone has a child who has grown out of any of these books I'd certainly be keen to buy them from you. Many thanks for your help.Nicky

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sjb-396032 1164310887

I would recommend the "Petit Ours Brun" series, you will find them in most supermarkets and they use this series in Maternelle.

Good reading.

Olsmum 1164311964

Sorry I forgot to mention the one important factor in this. I'm teaching him to read in English not French. I think I need to leave the French to the professionals. So if there are any English books you can recommend I would be most grateful.


LB1973-395146 1164312304


I also have a four year old but i have been told by numerous people english and french not to even attempt to teach him to read in english as this will only confuse him for when he starts reading in french.

Kindest regards

clo-388365 1164313728

My 4 and 6 year olds also showed an interest in reading at a young age. I would avoid the Jolly phonics as they do not teach phonics in French school, they learn the alphabet as it is. I taught both my girls the English alphabet as we know it, and not the phonetic sounds. As for reading, both of mine are also learning to read in English, I feel it is important also. The Oxford Reading Tree is an excellent system, using the same characters and words in all their books, it is stories about Chip, Biff and Kipper the dog. It links in with The Magic Key television programme, which you can also find on the BBC website Education for children I think. The first range of books begins with very short stories, repeating words, for example "look, me, mum, at, I, see" etc. The books can be bought in stages and they are colour coded and numbered for easy reference. You might find them on Amazon, I have found them on who also deliver free. From experience they are excellent and come with guideline notes how to teach your child to read. I have also some french books for beginners, the T'Choupi range, available in Carrefour, but as yet have not found a french system as good as or as similar as the Oxford Reading Tree. I hope this helps, happy reading.

Olsmum 1164315047

Thanks very much. I'll have a look on I feel that if he has expressed an interest and wants to read his own books then I shouldn't stop him. As it is he is very much of the opinion that French is for school and English is for home, so I'm not too concerned at the moment if it will affect his French.


driver-391131 1164318288

you can't beat Dr seuss- fox in socks/the cat in the hat etc. although the stories are longer than most, kids love the rhymes and soon get the hang of the tongue twisters although it can take some time to master them!

James-382784 1164320715

Yes, ORT is an excellent reading scheme and a firm favourite with the children. What is good, is that new stories, with more modern content, are frequently added to the range, so your child is kept up to date with contemporary language. Another enjoyable First Reader option is the good old Ladybird selection, at a reasonable price too.

James & Judith ~ resident 35 (between Dol and Combourg)

janes-394036 1164320984

Hi LB1973

I don't know who these numerous people are who told you not to teach your child to read in English as it would only confuse him when he came to learn to read in French, but this is not my experience at all, nor that of any of my friends with children of this age, nor is it advised by any of the books I have read on language, education or bilingualism.

I started to teach my son to read in English when he was about 4. He sailed through learning to read in French when they started teaching him at school about 2 years later. Bilingual children learn how to keep the two languages separate (although there is often some intereference). The same is true of learning to read in two languages. Any confusion your child may experience when he starts to learn to read French will be momentary and temporary.

You should realise also that it takes far longer to learn to read in English than it does in French - just because the relationship between sound and letter combinations is much more varied and complex - and consequently children need to start to learn to read earlier in English than they do in French.

My experience of parents whose children are being taught in the French system and who decide to leave learning to read in English until later is that the child finds it discouraging because it is so much harder. Some give up.

I know it's not always easy to teach your own child. We plugged away at it - sometimes stopping for a couple of months when necessary - but it's worth it. Your child will be bi-literate as well as bilingual.

dirty girty 1164322490

Hi - just to re-iterate another poster earlier, the Oxford Reading Tree books are fantastic. My son used these in the UK to learn to read and when he arrived in France at age 5 the teachers here were amazed at how well he could read.

My other son did not go to school in the UK as he was only just turned three when we arrived herem and I was advised not to try to teach him because it would confuse him. I have been using the same books that my eldest son used in English to try to teach him to read in English, but must admit that at nearly 7, his French reading is much much better than his English because that is what he is wanting to read in as they do it at school! I wish I had started him at 3 or 4, but you live and learn I suppose.

If your son is wanting to start reading I would go for it. As long as you explain that there is a difference in the English which you do at home, and French which he will do at school, he should understand it and accept it.

If you like, I can send you the reference numbers of the ones I have so that you could order them.

janes-394036 1164361387

Hi - Even if you start teaching them to read early there are times when it can be really hard - so don't despair!! I can only say that if you can persevere, they will thank you eventually. We found it very difficult trying to find a balance between doing enough so that our son could see that he was progressing and not overdoing it so that he was completely put off.

All children are different but things that really helped us were the fact that many of his favourite series of books came out first in English then six months later in French - Harry Potter for example - and doing lots of English bedtime reading to him.


Sharonlep 1164362552

Hi All

What a really interesting topic. I only have to add that I agree with the Oxford books (Biff and Chip) and Dr Seuss for English reading. If you are interested in buying any French books, just so that your son can flick through them, or for a later date, then I would suggest the "Camille" books. They're quite small books so easy to get through. Our two have found them very funny. (Camille is a giraffe and we bought all our books in LeClerc.)

If anyone is struggling to teach their children English then I would suggest buying the electronic reading books or looking on a web site called [] My son is dyslexic and I used this site often to find things that would make it easier for him to understand how to spell and read in English. The best books we've bought from this site have been [1.] The Little Pocketbook of Reading and Spelling Reminders and [2.] The little quiz books which come with a remote control handset. They also provide lots of software to use on your computer. We really liked the Handwriting package which allowed you to write a piece of text that it woud then convert into cursive writing that your child could copy over. (Think that you can do this on most modern word packages now though?)

Not sure if they deliver to France but if they don't then you'd have to get them delivered to a friend or relative in the UK and arrange to get them from them. Well worth it though.


mickeymouse-391122 1164370318

Having been a reading recovery and special needs assistant in the uk I can recommend Oxford reading tree and also Banana books which I know you can order through Amazon. They are colour coded but use a different system to ORT ,I think green is possibly the first but you can check that out. They are excellent when the child has a grasp of the first 100 high frequency words. There are many brilliant websites where you can download free activities for all of the curriculum in the UK. One of the best is COCKCROFT'S LITERACY RESOURCES Its not just literacy.

A fantastic resource for all the primary years.

Type in free resources for primary schools uk and you will find lots of help, there are also interactive phonic games that you can download or play, I'll try and find the link if you are interested. Have fun.

mickeymouse-391122 1164371276

Just remebered the other site is brilliant for interactive games. Also type in phonic games into a google search and you will find even more. Happy surfing. Please feel free to e mail me if I can be of any help as teaching reading was my job for 12 years. Most of all just read with and to your child and have fun.

mickeymouse-391122 1164371417

oops not a very good advert for a teacher I always told the children to check their work...........guess who didn't? Remembered (must write it out 100 times!)

Mrs Moustoir-384979 1164371464

My daughter was four when she started school in France. We spent three years in Brittany and all the time she was learning French at school, we helped her read in English at home. Like others, we used the Magic Key books and TV programmes as well as Ladybird etc.

We returned to the UK last September when she was 7 and she's coped really well with the UK national curriculum. The only thing she struggled with was going to school on Wednesdays and her handwriting! She writes in that beautiful curly French way - with a fountain pen (a real triumph as she's a leftie) but was a bit slower than the scrawls of her classmates. Her work was beautifully presented but she couldn't write quickly enough for her teacher.

Olsmum 1164372130

Thanks to everyone who has taken the trouble to respond. We're definitely going to get some of the books that have been recommended and I can't wait to have a look on some of the websites. My son will love that because he thinks the answer to everything is on the internet. Can't imagine where he's got that idea from (lol).


Olsmum 1164375255

Hi Jenni just to let you know that I have replied to your PM.

And also to the other people who PM'd me, I have replied to all.


Jenni-391404 1164376971

Nicky, it's not arrived! Your messages just seem to disapear into cyber ether! Try again maybe?

Olsmum 1164378173

Sent another one Jenni directly to your PM, hope you got it.


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