Reading in the Early Years

As parents, you are your child’s most influential teacher with an important part to play in helping your child to learn to read. In Reception, your child will be taught phonics, a method of learning to read words. Your child is taught to sound out the letters in words and then blend them together to read the word. For example: c-a-n = can. We use the letter sound, not the letter name. For example: muh (as in mat) not em Please remind your child to use the ‘pure sound – m not muh. They can then start to read words by blending individual sounds together to make words. Alongside learning to decode the words on the page, your child will also learn comprehension skills. This helps them to make sense of what the words say and what the text means. Together, these skills will help your child on their way to becoming a keen and confident reader.

How to help at home

There are lots of ways you can help your child with reading in Reception. Here are our top ideas.

1. Play rhyming games

Say ‘into the pot goes’ while pretending to place objects that rhyme into a pot i.e. a bat, a hat, a cat, a mat. Do this with your child and then see if they can do it independently. You can turn this into a game by throwing in words that don’t rhyme and asking your child to catch these ones out. For example, a cat, a hat, a bird – this last word shouldn’t go in the pot!

2. Play phonics word games

  • Play simple phonics word games based on the sounds your child is learning and has learned at school. Start off using just the speech sounds and then immediately say the word. For example, you could say ‘At the shop I will buy a /m/ /a/ /p/ – map, a /b/ /e/ /d/ – bed, a /d/ /u/ /ck/ – duck.’ Then, trying just saying the sounds and asking your child to work out and say the whole word.

  • Hide tricky worlds around the house – can your child find the word and try to read it?

  • Use magnetic letters on your fridge or a whiteboard to make the words at home.

  • Go on a ‘Word Hunt’ – what words or sounds can your child find in your house or in your local area?

  • Explore a new type of reading material – newspaper, comic, recipe card, poem, non fiction book, list.

  • Play a word game – try Phonics Play or ICT game

3. Say the sounds right

In all games and activities, make sure you pronounce speech sounds clearly. Try to make them as short as possible – for example, the letter m has a short /m/ sound, not a continuous /mmmmmmm/ sound. Try not to add an extra sound onto the speech sound either (for example, the sound is /m/ and not /m-uh/).

4. Listen to your child read

In Reception, your child will start bringing home books to read. Try to find time to hear them read every day. It could be on the sofa, at bedtime or before school. Be sure to be patient and don’t forget to be impressed! If your child gets stuck on a word, remind them to say the letter sounds individually and then blend them together quickly to hear the word. If your child still can’t work out the word, then tell them what it is and move on.

5. Read to your child

Learning to read can be hard work for many children, so it’s important to keep enjoying books together. Your child will also benefit from listening to books and stories that they can’t read themselves yet. This might include non-fiction books about things they are interested in or longer stories with more adventurous vocabulary.