How to help your child with reading


The very best way to help your child to read is to read with them.


 There are three important elements to reading –


1 enjoyment and wanting to read


2 reading the words (called decoding)


3 understanding what the text/pictures are about (called comprehension).


Children need all three if they are to be successful readers.


Enjoyment and wanting to read


  • Most young children are interested in books and like to listen to stories and pretend to read themselves even when they are too young.
  • Bedtime stories are really important and help children develop an interest in reading and a good imagination.
  • Once they bring a book home, 5-15 minutes reading a day is enough!
  • Read with your child – help them out with difficult words and use the pictures to help if they get stuck – this is not cheating!
  • Talk about the book – funny or interesting parts and what they liked.
  • Read lots – go to the town or school library.

Reading the words – decoding




Children are taught to read by learning the letter sounds (called phonemes) and then using this knowledge to split words up (segment) and put the letters together (blending) to read words. This is also called ‘sounding out’.


The children learn a few phonemes at a time and learn to hear the sound at the start of the word first. First we teach the children to ‘hear’ the sound, then to recognise the letter shape and finally to write it.


Some words are difficult to sound out (like the word ‘said’) and these words just need to be recognised and learnt (these are sometimes called ‘tricky words’, ‘sight vocabulary’ or ‘key words’). Some children just learn these and some children need extra practice or ‘flashcards’ to help.


Other strategies we use to help your child when they get stuck are –


  • miss the word out and then guess what would make sense – so it the sentence was ‘Mum lifted Kipper up onto the chair’ and your child was stuck on the word ‘lifted’ you could miss this word out, read the rest of the sentence and then talk about which word would make sense.


  • use clues from the sentence – what would make sense here ‘The boy was sad ……. he had lost his dog.’? The missing word could be ‘and’ or ‘because’ but ‘because’ makes more sense and the child will see it begins with a b so this must be the right word.


  • tell them! Sometimes it’s OK just to tell your child the word especially if it is a tricky word that they can’t sound out or if by stopping to work the word out they will forget what they have read before. Stopping and starting can make reading boring and if your child is having a lot of trouble with the book then it might be too hard so talk to their teacher.


Understanding the text and pictures – comprehension


Talking about the pictures


It isn’t cheating to use the pictures when reading! Looking at the pictures and talking about them is an important part of reading for young children and is the beginning of comprehension skills. Children also enjoy this and talking helps them understand more about the book and think about what they are reading rather than just reciting the words.


In some books, the pictures are more important than the words and tell the story. These books are useful because the children have to use their imagination and draw on that ‘bank’ of words and ideas in their head to imagine what might happen.


Boys and girls


Girls tend to like stories although they also like comics and non fiction but boys like –

  • stories with rhymes like The Gruffalo and Green Eggs and Ham
  • patterned or repeated language like that in The Gingerbread Man so they can join in with it
  • rude books like The Mole who Knew it was None of his Business or anything that mentions bottoms or poo!
  • ghost stories
  • joke books because they are short and they don’t have to read the whole book
  • comics (or graphic novels which are like comics except they are books)
  • non fiction. They like to find out facts, and non fiction books don’t need to be read all the way through and boys like to dip in and out of books.

The very best way to help your child to read is to read with them.