Reading outside the book

Little girl reading a book
For many children, reading is something they only associate with books. But beyond the page lies a world of words just waiting to be read. Here’s how you can strengthen children's reading skills every day.

Reading is a vital skill which underpins our daily lives. For many children reading is often associated with formal classroom activities, homework, and national curriculum tests, and does not feature in their lives as a recreational or enjoyable activity. For these children, reading can become a negative experience, and they can lose confidence in their abilities as readers.

But as a parent there’s a lot you can do to help your child paint a positive picture of themself as an autonomous reader. Supporting your child’s reading outside of books in the everyday world is a great way to help your child learn new vocabulary and recognise new words without them even realising they are reading. Try using these everyday things to encourage their reading:

Road signs

When travelling by car or bus, ask your child to call out road signs when they see them. You could even turn it into a game where they must spot as many different signs as possible. For older children, you could even ask them to help direct you by map reading.

Supermarkets

They are a great place to help your child learn practical words. The combination of visual examples and words will help consolidate their learning, and the informal setting can make words easier to remember. For older children ask them to read ingredients to you to check what is in the food you are buying.

Menus

In cafes and restaurants, ask your child to read the menu to you and if there are any specials on a board.

Safety signs

On trips to swimming pools, theme parks, and play areas, there are often safety signs displayed. Ask your child to explain what the signs say and what they mean. This is a great way to help your child become aware of safety issues when outside the home, too

Internet

Many of your child’s favourite websites and games require an element of reading in order to progress to the next page or level. This is a fun and interactive way to help your child read and follow instructions without even realising they are using their literacy skills.

General instructions

Manuals, board games, craft kits and so forth all use instructional language. Ask your child to read the instructions and explain them back to you.

Packaging

Often cereal packets and products designed for children will have special cartoons and puzzles for children to solve. This is an excellent way to get your child enjoying reading, and excited about what they are reading.