How can I help my child’s reading skills?

Sharing stories and books helps young children develop reading and language skills. These tips from I CAN make reading fun and relaxing for you both.

Young girl reading something

Let your child take the lead

  • Let your child choose the book. Try to keep books on a shelf they can easily see and reach. If they find choosing tricky, offer them a small selection to pick from.
  • Pick a comfy spot and check you can both see the book at the same time. Let your child help to hold the book or turn the pages.
  • Take your time looking at pictures. Take pauses so your child can enjoy the story at their own pace.
  • Let them steer the conversation: try not to do all the talking or storytelling yourself. Notice which pictures they point to, then talk about them together.

Bring the story to life

  • Fire their imagination by talking about things in the story that they recognise: “Yes, it’s a cat. We saw a cat when we were walking.”
  • Using hand puppets can be a fun way to increase a child’s interest while you’re reading books and stories together.
  • Chat about the story later on to see how much you can remember together. This is a great way for children to practise recalling new words and experiences.

Go beyond books

  • Don’t feel you have to stick to books – any type of reading is good. Try comics, magazines, road signs, or instructions on packets.
  • Try asking your child “What do you think will happen next?” in everyday situations. This helps them develop their imagination and problem-solving skills.
  • If English isn’t your first language, remember to talk to your child in your own language, too. This encourages their fluency in both languages.
  • Allow children to interrupt and ask questions. Listen to their thoughts and ideas – this can lead to some great discussions.
  • Reading aloud to older children is just as important, even if they can already read to themselves.

Share favourites as often as you like

Sometimes children pick the same books to share over and over again – and that’s OK. Re-reading a book lets children join in by telling you what happens next. Make looking at books fun!

Bookstart packs

The Book Trust provide free books as part of their Bookstart packs (Bookstart Baby for 0-12 months and Bookstart Treasure for three to four years.) They’re available from your health visitor, library, children centre or nursery.

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