Reading can happen anywhere and everywhere. We read signs, recipes, information on packets and tins, bus timetables and menus. A love of words and language can be encouraged by reading books together.
Sit your child on your lap or cuddle up together in a comfy quiet spot to read the book. The book might be one you have picked or a favourite that your child has chosen. If it is a new book let your child explore it before you start to read together. Show your child the book, letting them hold and feel it, turning it over in their hands. As they explore the book, talk about the different parts and how best to hold it.
That’s the front cover of the book. The front of the book is where the story begins. The cover on the outside tells us what the story is about.
After a little while your child will be ready for you to read the story. You will know when they are ready to start from the clues they give you.
If reading a favourite book your child will probably want to dive straight in by reading the story or telling you what will happen. They will probably be able to tell you what happens, how it ends and who the main characters are.
If this is a new book, explore together what the book might be about and what will happen.
There is a dog on the front cover. Do you think this story is about a dog?
Let your child guide you. Some days they might just want to listen to you read the story. Other days they will want to talk about the different parts of the story. Little people sometimes just want to look at the pictures, pointing out parts of the picture they really like.
Materials you will need
- Junk mail
- Recipe books
Skills this activity improves
Why does this matter?
Reading together helps children to learn about the world, hear new language and develop concepts of print.
By reading books with an adult, children develop an understanding of the different types of text or writing around them and how it is organised. They will hear the language of books such as cover, front, author, illustration or ending. Understanding the language of books will help them to navigate a wide range of books, including fiction and non-fiction.
Children begin to see that books can have words and pictures just like a poster or the breakfast cereal box. They will also learn that the way these are organised and presented makes them a book, instead of a poster or a letter to a friend.
As children interact with the book they are developing an understanding of how a story is organised. There is a beginning, a middle and an end. If it is fictional, the story will be about a main character. Sometimes other characters will come into the story but they are not the main focus.
What does this lead to?
As your child grows older, understanding the different ways language can be presented will help them to make decisions on how to organise or record their thinking.
By reading stories children experience that the picture, image or design gives greater meaning to the words on the page. Usually the image will connect to those words and lead the reader to the next part of the story. The image helps the reader to understand how they should feel during the story. The colours that are used or the facial expressions shown might be there to help create a happy feeling or a sad tone.
Language to use
- Front cover, back cover, title, illustration, author
- Words, pictures
- Punctuation, capital letter, full stop, question mark
- Question, sentence
Questions to use
- What do you think this story is about?
- What is on the cover of this book?
- What could we call this book?
- Who might be in this book?
- What is happening in this picture?
- How might the story end?
- You might also like to take a look at the activities Exploring junk mail and Make your own books.
- When a child enjoys a story they will want to read it again and again. This is great as it will help them to join in with reading the story.
- Sometimes children will not want you to read all the words of the story and just want you to talk about what they see on each page. This is great too as it is the beginning of understanding how pictures add meaning to the story.
- Give your child access to a wide range of books that include fiction and non-fiction. Take a trip to the local library to find new and interesting books.
- Remember to read to your child in your home language.
- Create a story box at home. When it is time for a story and a cuddle, get your child to select the story from the box. Ask them which one they selected and why.
- Does your child have an interest such as butterflies or skeletons? If they do, create a resource box just for that. Put books, posters, magazines or models in the box for them to play with.
- Borrow stories that have a CD from the library so your child can read and listen on their own.
Variation by age
Birth to two year olds
- Make a ‘feely’ bag with different things from the story. Ask your child to feel for the different objects as you read the story.
- Make a bingo game with some of the characters from the book.
- Create a cosy reading corner for a quiet snuggle. This could be cushions in the corner, a spot on the couch or a tent that only fits one person.
- Make a book about your own family using photos.
Three to five year olds
- Create storytelling stones for your favourite story.
- Copy pictures out of the story to create snap cards or memory cards.
- Make a 'feely' bag with things from the story. Ask your child to feel for the different objects as you read the story.
- Make a book about your own family using photos.
- Make pop-stick puppets of the characters in the story. Your child could help to tell the story using the puppets.