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Helping your child at home

Why is reading so important?

Enjoying books and reading stories from a very early age is crucial in the development of children. It helps with their ability to understand words, use their imagination and develop their speech, as well as being something they really enjoy.


Teachers and parents play a huge part in the development of reading skills in young children. The more children experience books the more they will gain the interest and passion for them. Reading offers so much more than just quiet time in a cosy corner. It helps to develop spelling, listening, writing, literacy and social skills.

Young children need to be able to experience books; they need to be able to understand and enjoy stories, books, rhymes and songs and listen and respond to them with curiosity and enjoyment.

This will promote the value and pleasure of reading and encourage an interest in reading throughout school and in later life.


Even from a very young age child love books. It provides the opportunity to learn through touching and feeling different textures, along with experiences different actions.

There are some great early years books with pop up pages, lift-the-flap pages, noisy pages and different textured pictures to really get babies and toddlers engaged with books.

Children develop more rapidly during the first five years of their lives than at any other time. That's why they are called the foundation years – the building blocks for life! Throughout these important first years if they attend a nursery, pre-school or primary school, their progress will be monitored.


Below is a guide, set by early years’ foundation, to explain the various stages children are monitored and milestones they might reach in terms of literacy.

8-20 months

A child should have an interest in holding and looking at books by this age. It is important they can hold books so they can see what is going on whilst listening to you read the stories. They can learn what books are and play with pages.

16-26 months

By this age most children can identify their favourite books and stories they want to see and hear. They can recognise and mimic actions from their favourite songs and stories. Encourage this by always letting them join in with storytelling and songs, let them point to things they can recognise or make the sounds of things in the book.

22-36 months

By the age of three, children should be able to fill in missing gaps in stories and songs that they have heard repetitively. They have their favourite books and songs and they can help to tell the tale. By pausing during a story they know well you give them the opportunity to fill in the gaps and add more words to their vocabulary.

30-50 months

By four, children should be able to recognise the story being read to them, they can help with telling the story and can anticipate the end of the story. They should be able to join in with rhymes and be able to recognise words that start with the same sound such as ‘big boat’. They should also be able to recognise words that mean something to them, such as their own name or mummy, favourite shops and places.

They can sit and listen for longer and can hold the book correctly and turn pages by themselves.

40-60 months

By the age of five, a child is expected to be able to remember and speak words that rhyme like cat and hat and sat. Their imaginations and vocabulary mean they are able to tell their own made up stories and can make up their own songs. Story time doesn’t mean you just read to them – it’s far more interactive.

They can understand and read simple sentences and they use their phonics knowledge to sound out words to read them accurately. They can also demonstrate a real understanding of what has been read or said to them.


Reading At School

Children usually start school between 4-5 years old. By this time, it is likely they will be able to recognise letters, understand words and have fairly good listening skills and be able to deal with the changes in routine.

A typical school day in reception does feature some routine and structure, however, it still involves quite a lot of free play/ exploration.


To encourage reading, class 1 usually has story time which involves children sitting together on the classroom carpet. Group reading and reading out loud helps to boost confidence in children and encourages interest and interaction.

A fun group task is to read and act out the book together. Children will bounce off each other and shine. Imaginations run wild in young children and role play can also help make reading fun. Play/ exploration is the best form of learning in early years as it develops a whole host of communication, reading and language skills.



Reading with your child is vital. Research shows that it's the single most important thing you can do to help your child's education. It's best to read little and often, so try to put aside some time for it every day.

Think of ways to make reading fun - you want your child to learn how pleasurable books can be. If you're both enjoying talking about the content of a particular page, linger over it for as long as you like.

Books aren't just about reading the words on the page, they can also present new ideas and topics for you and your child to discuss.

Tips for helping your child to enjoy books:

  • Encourage your child to pretend to 'read' a book before he or she can read words.
  • Visit the library as often as possible - take out CDs and DVDs as well as books.
  • Schedule a regular time for reading - perhaps when you get home from school or just before bed.
  • Buy dual-language books if English isn’t your family’s first language - you can talk about books and stories, and develop a love for them, in any language.
  • Look for books on topics that you know your child is interested in - maybe dragons, insects, cookery or a certain sport.
  • Make sure that children’s books are easily accessible in different rooms around your house.


Helping your child with maths

Maths workbook © 'Andrzej Tokarski -'

As with reading, try to make maths as much fun as possible - games, puzzles and jigsaws are a great way to start. It's also important to show how we use maths skills in our everyday lives and to involve your child in this.

Identifying problems and solving them can also help your child develop maths skills. If you see him or her puzzling over something, talk about the problem and try to work out the solution together.

Don't shy away from maths if you didn’t like it at school. Try to find new ways to enjoy the subject with your child.

Tips for helping your child to enjoy maths:

  • Point out the different shapes to be found around your home.
  • Take your child shopping and talk about the quantities of anything you buy.
  • Let your child handle money and work out how much things cost.
  • Look together for numbers on street signs and car registration plates.


Homework at primary school

Homework reinforces what your child is learning in school. It also gives you a chance to become involved in the learning process.

In Key Stage 1 (Reception to Year 2) reading is the most important homework. Your child may always have a book from the classroom library in his or her bag - try to read the book together every night. You’ll probably be asked to fill in a ‘reading record’ about your child’s progress with reading.

The time your child spends on homework is less important than his or her understanding of it. But the following is a rough guide to the amount of time he or she should be spending on homework at primary school:

Years 1 and 2 60 minutes a week
Years 3 and 4 90 minutes a week
Years 5 and 6 30 minutes a day or equivalent over two/three evenings or at the weekend

Primary school children are sometimes asked to talk to their families about what they learned in school on a particular day. This can be the most valuable homework of all, especially if you show interest and play an active role by asking your child questions about their day.


Tips for good homework habits

  • Do find a quiet place at home (with a small amount of background noise as schools are not quiet places!) to use as a homework area. It needs a flat surface, a good light source and the right equipment eg pens, pencils, ruler, scissors, glue.
  • Do be aware of modern teaching methods, eg in long division.
  • Do plan a homework timetable and agree on when your child will do their homework.
  • Do allow your child to have something nutritional to eat before starting on homework.
  • Do discuss any homework tasks with your child and how it connects with what they are studying at school.
  • Do turn off the TV - but you could have music on if they find it helpful.
  • Don't give your child the answer in order to get a task finished. Instead, explain how to look up information or find a word in a dictionary.
  • Don't teach your child methods you used at school. It could confuse them.
  • Don't let homework become a chore. Keep it fun and make it a special time that you both look forward to.