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Develop your child's literacy skills in the early years

Dad reading with son
Supporting kids’ literacy skills at home is a key factor in helping them to become accomplished readers with broad vocabularies. Get started today!

We all know that reading to your child is important, but what else can you do to support their literacy skills? We have teamed up with the National Literacy Trust to bring you tips for supporting your child's early years literacy learning.

Literacy tips for parents: 0-3 years

  • Even if it seems too early to start reading at this age, it is important to start sharing stories. Your child will appreciate the pictures and will enjoy hearing the sound of your voice.
  • Repetition is key at this age, as it helps to build children’s language.
  • Try books that are fun to play with, too, for example squishy books, those that make noises and ones with flaps and other interesting things to touch.
Activity idea: Make a scrapbook about your child, full of pictures and words. Read the words with your child and get them to say what else should be in their story.

Literacy tips for parents: 3-5 years

  • Encouraging your child’s familiarity with books will put them at a great advantage when they start school. Let them turn the pages and pretend to read. Follow the words with your finger, and get them to engage with the story by asking them to guess what happens next and describe the pictures.
  • Make the story come alive by use funny voices, toys and actions.
  • Don’t expect to read with your child for longer than about 10 minutes, as they are likely to get bored easily.
Activity idea: Play the nonsense game. Cut out pictures from catalogues or magazines of objects that all begin with the same letter, plus a few that don't. Write down the names of the objects and get your child to match the picture to the name. Can they make a nonsense sentence with their words?

Literacy tips for parents: 5-8 years

  • Encourage your child to read to you. Follow the words with your finger and sound out the words (c-a-t: cat).
  • Praise your child for trying hard at their reading. Reassure them that it's okay to make mistakes.
  • Point out all the words around you: labels on food, on street signs, on advertising billboards. Model the words and get your child to repeat.
Activity idea: Find your family's top five reads. Ask everyone in your family to name their favourite reads – it could be a book, magazine, comic or newspaper. Involve grandparents, cousins, friends, and neighbours.

Chat, play and read to support learning

A 2019 survey suggests that around 100,000 children under 5 have never practised learning at home. The Department for Education's ‘Chat, Play and Read’ campaign suggests ways that parents spending quality time chatting, playing and reading with their kids before they start school can help them develop the skills they need to get off to a great start in primary education.

Small Talk, a website from the National Literacy Trust, helps parents turn the everyday activities they're already doing with their child into new opportunities to fill their child’s world with words.

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