How can I help my child’s reading skills?

Sharing stories and books helps children of all ages develop language skills and understand the world.


Let your child take the lead

Let your child choose the books they want to read. If they find choosing tricky, offer them a small selection to pick from.

When reading together, 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. Try not to do all the talking or storytelling yourself.

Take your time looking at pictures. Take pauses so your child can enjoy the story at their own pace.

Let them steer the conversation about what they’ve enjoyed. Notice which pictures they point at. Or if they’re older, encourage them to share what they’re enthusiastic about. Then talk about it together.

Bring the story to life

If your child is young, prompt 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 also be a way to increase a child’s interest.

Chat about the story later on to see how much you can remember together. This can help your child 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 using questions to help your child learn. Ask “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.

Create opportunities to read as a family, whatever you child’s age. This might be newspapers at the weekend or a favourite family book. Or, if your child isn’t keen to read together, encourage them to make space for the type of reading they enjoy. This could be news, blogs, or comics.

Share favourites

Sometimes children pick the same books to share over and over again – and that’s OK. It can even help them recognise words and improve their understanding.

Re-reading a book also lets children join in by telling you what happens next. Try to make it fun by asking them lots of questions.

Bookstart packs

The Book Trust provides free books as part of its 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’s centre or nursery.

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This advice was written by our experienced Parent Talk coaches. Parent Talk is a free online service for parents and carers, provided by the charity Action for Children. For more advice, message our parenting coaches with our online chat.

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