As parents, we obviously want our children to do well in school and thus, many are seeking ways to support their learning at home. After covering the basics of phonics and how schools teach reading in our last blog, we are now showing you practical tips and activities to help your children learn to read.
What’s the best time to start with phonics?
It’s never to early to make a start– and it’s never too late, either! There are things you can do at home to help your child with phonics and reading, whatever their age.
Babies and toddlers
Even if your child is very young, you can set them up for a lifelong love of reading! Babies and young toddlers are too little to start reading words, but here are some activities that will really help them when they start learning to read.
- Read to them! Even tiny babies enjoy snuggling up and listening to your voice as you tell them a story or share a picture book. As your baby gets older, you’ll be amazed how much fun they get out of sharing books together. And it’s the perfect way to broaden their knowledge of language, setting them up for an easier start with reading later on.
- Sing songs – babies and toddlers enjoy listening to you singing songs and nursery rhymes, and they’ll soon be able to join in. It’s a great way to start training their ears to listen out for rhymes and sounds in words.
- Let them handle and explore books, turn the pages and look at the pictures. For very young babies and toddlers, this might just mean chewing the pages – so it’s worth investing in some robust board books and bath books that can cope with this!
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Preschool and nursery
- Keep on reading together – there are some wonderful books for sharing with this age group, and the more you read to your child, the more they’ll enjoy books and want to read them for themselves.
- Keep on singing songs and nursery rhymes, too – and encourage your child to join in! You can play games with songs and rhymes, like sometimes leaving out a rhyming word and seeing if your child can say it for you. This helps to tune your child’s ear into the sounds of words.
- Go on a ‘sound walk’ – see how many different sounds you can hear when you’re out and about. Can your child hear some soft sounds, like leaves rustling, or birds singing? Can they hear loud sounds, like car engines or dogs barking? How many of the sounds can they copy? See if they can make the same sounds louder or softer, too.
- Play games with patterns of sounds – make some high and low sounds, or loud and soft sounds, and see if your child can copy you. Encourage them to make up a pattern for you to copy, too!
- Play a clapping game and see if your child can hear and copy your rhythm. Can they clap a rhythm for you to copy? See how fast you can go, and then how slow you can go!
- Listen to music together, and encourage your child to sing, clap or play along with instruments.
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Reception and Year 1
- Make time to listen to your child read the books they bring home from school. Try to pick a time when they’re not tired, hungry or distracted, and keep reading sessions short – it’s better to do several short sessions throughout the week than to put all your efforts into one massive, tiring session!
- Be guided by your child – if they’re not enjoying it, stop and try again another time.
- Lots of children find reading difficult at first. Give your child lots of praise for good efforts as well as for successful reading.
- Remind your child to use their phonics to help them sound out and blend words they don’t know. You can show them how to do it if they forget, by breaking the word down into sounds and then blending them together, like this: h-u-t, hut, f-oo-t, foot, t-r-ai-n, train, ea-ch, each, wh-i-s-p-er, whisper. If they get stuck, just tell them the word and move on.
- Talk about the book they’re reading – encourage them to predict what might happen next, talk about how the characters might be feeling, or sum up the main information on a page of a non-fiction book. Add your own ideas and opinions about the book too. All of this will help your child become a better reader!
- Keep on reading other books to your child – sharing stories and non-fiction books with you will help them see that books are fun, and it’s also a great way of increasing their knowledge of language, vocabulary and comprehension skills.
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Year 2 and beyond
- Give your child lots of practise with reading. Keep going with the books they get from school, and encourage them to read as widely as possible – libraries are a great source of reading material for hungry young readers! Encourage your child to read anything that sparks their interest – at this stage, pretty much all reading is good reading.
- If your child isn’t yet completely confident with phonics, don’t worry – lots of children need to keep practising their phonic skills through Year 2 and beyond. Remind them to keep using their phonics to sound out and blend words they don’t know. You can show them how to do this if necessary – splitting words down into their sounds and blending them together like this: w-ea-th-er, weather, a-c-ti-on, action, c-i-t-y, city. Don’t forget to praise your child for trying hard, as well as for successful reading.
- Even if your child’s reading independently now, keep on listening to them read from time to time. Your child will enjoy showing you how well they can read, and they will still get lots of benefit from talking with you about the story or non-fiction, making predictions and sharing opinions about it.
- Keep reading to your child too! Even independent young readers love the fun and cosiness of sharing a story at bedtime or reading a fascinating non-fiction book together. It’s really good for them, as well – chatting about the book with you will increase their comprehension skills and broaden their knowledge of language still further. This is a great foundation for all the learning they’ll be doing in junior school, secondary school and beyond!
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Whatever age your child is, there’s plenty you can do to encourage and help them with their reading! And don’t forget that the specially tailored book deliveries from The Bear Can Read can really help as well. Our monthly book subscription for kids contains a selection of books at just the right reading level for your child, as well as fun worksheets to increase their reading and phonics skills. And there’s plenty of guidance for you in the box, too, so you’ll never be short of ideas for helping them learn to read! Find out how it works here.