Helping your child learn to Read

"Reading is the skill." Lemov

Helping you child learn to read is perhaps the most tasks we as teachers, and you as parents, can perform. It opens the gateway to all other learning and is one of Blackhorse Primary School's key learning aims.

On this page you will find our 7 'top tips' for making your child a Champion Reader'.

Tip 1: Read at Home

At Blackhorse primary school we use the Oxford Reading Tree as our main reading scheme. A reading scheme is a range of specially written titles (both fiction and non-fiction) which complement the phonics teaching which the children receive daily and help the children gradually learn to read. Click here for more information on how the children move through the book bands.

The single most valuable activity that you can do to help your child to learn to read is to read at home with your child every evening or at least 4 times per week. This, beyond all else, will make your child a good reader. They will, of course, be practising at school as well but that individual practise time (only 10-20 minutes daily) is what makes all the difference.


Remember the following rules for reading at home:

1. Agree a time in the day when it's 'reading time' - then stick to it. This will prevent any arguments. For younger children this is likely to be earlier in the evening than older children.

2. Agree a length of time - 10-20 minutes is a sensible length of time.

3. Read together. Very young children will need to to do most of the reading when they first start school, but even children in Years 3-4 benefit from you reading alternate pages, modelling what good reading sounds like. Older children should read most of the book themselves, but you can help by explaining tricky words  (more on this later).

4. Point to the word or use a clear ruler. This helps your child keep their place (and is especially important for children with dyslexia). 

Tip 2: Reading with younger children

When reading at home with younger children (especially Reception and Year 1) it is important to remember a few simple rules. This short video shows you how to get the most from reading with younger children at home:

Tip 3: Encourage your child to use phonics (letter sounds & blends)

The very first step children need to take in learning to read is to understand the 'Letters & Sounds' of the English language. It might be tempting to teach your child the names of the letters before they start at school, but it's actually better to teach them the sounds.

When listening to your child read try to encourage them to sound out the word. Of course, this is not possible for all words (especially in the English language) but children can attempt most words if they know the letter and blend sounds that they make. 

At Blackhorse Primary school, all children have a daily 'Synthetic Phonics' Lesson which starts by teaching them the letter sounds, then the sounds letters make when put together, and finally the exceptions which are so common in the English language. 

Below is a short video showing how phonics are taught. For more information about how we teach phonics and how you can help teach your child this vital skill, see the 'Helping your child with Phonics' section of the parents' page.

Tip 4: Learn to sight read 'Tricky Words'.

There are some words in the English language which you can't sound out (at school and in homework these are often know as the 'Tricky words'). For these words your child needs to use a variety of other skills, starting with 'sight reading' (learning to recognise the word as a whole instead of trying to break it down into its individual sounds).

Children are given a variety of 'tricky words' to sight learn each week and helping your child to do this will have a big impact on their ability to read. The video below provides some good ideas on how to do this:

Tip 5: Teach your child what the words mean.

Once your child is able to decode the words that they are reading correctly, many parents make the mistake of assuming that their chid understands what the words they are reading actually mean. Children often learn to read words without understanding them and it is therefore important that you check regularly that your child understands the vocabulary within a book. 

A good way of helping your child make sense of a new book is to discuss with them before hand the meaning of new (or technical) words that will appear in the book. Likewise, explaining expressions or 'turns of phrase' to a child is very important. For example, where a text refers to a character 'flashing his teeth at the teacher' as adults we understand what the author means, but a child won't so be sure to stop and explain such expressions to them.

5: Teach your child to 'read the punctuation'.

Once your child can decode (or read) the words of the English language it is important that they begin to become fluent readers by reading the punctuation which gives a sentence its meaning. This is best done by encouraging your child to read aloud.

First, read a section of the text to them, showing them how it should be read. Tell your child that they should pause and take a breath whenever they see a full stop and that they should pause for 'half a breath' when they see a comma. 

Next, encourage them to read it back to you. For some children this will be enough and they will naturally pick up on the punctuation cues as they read. However, many children will need to read through the page once in a fairly 'monotone' voice (without expression) as they are reading it for the first time. A good way to get your child to read with expression is to ask them to read the same extract for a second time, focusing on expression. 

Tip 7: Teach your child comprehend what they are reading

The whole aim of reading is to read with understanding. When reading with your child, encourage them to think about the main points, characters or plot of the book. Ask questions like:

- Why is [the character] doing/ saying/ feeling like that?

- How do you feel reading this part of the story? Why?

- What do you think will happen next?

Where possible, encourage your child to give examples from the story or text to justify their opinions.


What if my child gets behind with their reading?

Some children need a little help with their reading at different times in their primary education. If this is the case, they might work with one of the school's 4 specially trained 'Reading Assistants'. These Assistants will work with your child 1-to-1 on improving their reading for 10-15 minutes every day until they have caught up. If you are concerned about your child's reading please make an appointment to see their class teacher.