Hi! My name is Miss McLaughlin, I am an Early Years teacher, Preschool Lead and Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) coordinator, at Prestolee Primary School, Bolton. I am immersed in the importance and value of early reading. At school we share this passion and work together to ensure our school provides many opportunities for children to hear stories and become passionate and keen readers. I’ve written this post to share some ideas which you’re welcome to share with parents to support early years reading at home.

Without question, my favourite part of being an educator is reading stories to children. There is no better feeling than reading to a child and seeing their face light up as they become engrossed in the words I am reading. As a PSHE lead, I promote the use of stories to support children to express their own feelings, show empathy for characters, cultivate their interests and begin to develop an understanding of different cultures.

As an early years teacher, the majority of our learning is based around stories. I am an advocate for a print rich environment and ensure that books and reading opportunities are in every area of my classroom. I use stories as the main tool when planning learning experiences and believe that learning comes to life when it is based on a book!

Why is early reading so important?

The greatest gift you can give children is to read to them from a very early age giving them encouragement and sharing in their enjoyment of reading. Hearing children read and reading to them every day, increases their exposure to language, develops their general knowledge and allows them to have a better understanding of other cultures. A parent is a child’s first teacher, reading to a baby or a small child gives them comfort and develops bonds. Through hearing stories, children are exposed to a wide range of words. This helps them build their own vocabulary and improve their understanding, which is vital as they start to read. It is important for them to understand how stories work too. Even if your child doesn’t understand every word, they’ll hear new sounds, words and phrases which they can then try out and copy what they have heard.

How can reading progress be maintained at this time?

The best thing any parent or carer can do is read regularly with their child and allow time for them to explore different types of books and print, this could include their levelled reading books from school, stories, recipes, newspaper articles, or magazines. It is so important to model reading to develop fluency, expression and keep a love of books alive. There are currently so many resources available to support your child with reading at home, my advice would be to use them! Always complete your child’s home learning activities set by your school and communicate when possible with their teacher.

What can parents do?

As children start to read, you can play an important role in helping to keep them interested in books. Find out what interests them, help them to find books that will be engaging and fun and spend time reading the books they bring home from school together. Remember you are your child’s first role model and if you love reading so will they. When reading with your child, be interested! Be an Actor! If it’s a frightening book, look scared. If it’s a funny book, laugh. Most importantly if they are trying their best, give lots of praise.

As your child gets older and becomes a confident, fluent reader they still need to read aloud to help them develop expression and use punctuation correctly. They will benefit from talking about the book - forming opinions, summarising, and guessing what might happen next. They can review the stories they read, discuss possible changes the author could have made, discuss character interaction and changes in emotions during the story. They also need to be encouraged to read different kinds of texts. My best advice is that you don’t have to be an expert, and there’s no magic in supporting children’s reading, just lots of patience, time and affection!

Some top tips for reading at home

  • Make reading a pleasure
  • Always praise your child’s efforts
  • If there are pictures in the book, talk about them before reading the pages
  • Talk about what may happen in the story
  • Stop when they have had enough
  • Try and bring stories to life using voices and expression
  • Short and often reading sessions are better than one big session a week
  • Read labels, captions on items around the house
  • Repeat a bank of the same stories on a regular basis so children become familiar