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A little reading goes a long way


Between the ages of four and seven years old, most children learn to read. Even when they can read, you should still try to read to them as often as possible. Sharing stories with a grown-up will teach them new words and encourage them to become better readers.

Children develop their reading skills in different ways. Some may want to get every word exactly right while other children will race to the end of a story. Other children may read hesitantly. Try to respond to your child's needs and let them read at their own pace.

If they get stuck, encourage them to use all the available information and everything they know to make a guess. They should look at the pictures and remember what has happened in the story. Their ability to predict and guess accurately will gradually improve.

You can also help by doing the following:   

  • Make the most of books your child brings home from school. Read them, or parts of them, yourself and talk about them with your child. 
  • Check your child is really following what they're reading by asking them to tell you the story in their own words - who's it about? What happens? 
  • Allow your child to re-read favourite and familiar stories, or to hear you re-read them. Knowing a familiar book will help them notice more about the words on the page and they will start to recognise the patterns in new words and stories. 
  • Listen to stories learned by heart and encourage your child to re-tell them in their own words, or even act them out. Encourage this. 
  • Buy books as presents instead of toys. 
  • Set up a special place for books from the library or their own books.

Some more ideas to help your child to read when you haven't got a book. 

  • At breakfast time
    Look at the words on cereal packets, milk and fruit juice cartons. Get them to see how many words they can make out of the letters.
  • Going to the shops
    Some shops still have a sign over the door that says what they sell. Can your child put the words together with what's in the window (hairdressers, shoes, and so on)?
  • Look in the papers
    If your child recognises a famous face (e.g. a footballer or a TV star) it will make them want to try to read the story. 
  • In the streets
    You'll see advertising posters and place names. 
  • In the shops
    Your child can help you find things in the supermarket by reading out what's in the aisles. 
  • Videos
    Video boxes usually tell you the story. Get your child to read what's on the box as well as just watching the film. 
  • On a bus or train trip
    Place names on the front of the bus or train, posters on the bus or tube. Even the ticket is worth reading to a child.
  • Look at holiday brochures together
    Help your child read about other places. 
  • Unpacking the shopping
    Your child can read the words on your groceries while helping you put things away. 
  • Some CDs and tapes have song words printed on them
    Your child will probably find it easier to follow words if they hear them at the same time.

You can help by doing the following: 

  • Whenever youre reading together, make sure your child feels OK and is comfortable. 
  • Use books with pictures, and later, with pictures and words. Picture books help children match the pictures to the words. Don't cover up the pictures to make your child 'read properly'. 
  • Write titles under pictures to show them that words belong to things. You can also stick labels on things at home or when they're older get them to do it themselves. Start with simple words.

Related Links:

Family Reading Campaign - hints and tips for parents on how to encourage your child to enjoy books [External Site] Opens in new window

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