The Early Years Foundation Stage Outcomes document makes it clear that, from the earliest months, that children should “...enjoy looking at books and other printed material with familiar people.”  For this to happen, children need an enthusiastic adult who will be a willing partner, enabling the child to develop a love of books which in turn will have a positive impact on their future literacy skills.

Some parents will be unaware of the value of sharing books with their baby.  As practitioners, we need to spread the message that sharing books from an early age is part of a language rich environment.  The National Literacy Trust produces a useful free guide to give to parents, including “Why reading is good for talking” and a “Top Tips” guide. Remember that some parents will have literacy difficulties but may be reluctant to share this with you; inviting your local librarian into your setting to share books and explain to parents the range of library activities they offer could be a useful starting point.

Tips for sharing books with children

  • Choose a book that is appropriate for the child’s level of development and interests. The Book Trust has a search facility which allows you to search for books according to stage and topic.
  • As much as practically possible, remove distractions, particularly background noise such as music
  • Share a book wherever the child is comfortable, this may not necessarily be in your beautifully designed book area!
  • Don’t bombard the child with lots of questions, instead comment on the pictures and allow pauses for them to comment or make sounds – sharing books should be additional talking time for the child, not just the adult.
  • Don’t read for too long, little and often is best and remember that some children who enter your setting will have very little experience of books at home so will need lots of opportunities for exploration.
  • Repetition is good, it will help children remember and understand the language they are hearing, it’s completely normal for them to request the same book again and again.
  • Have fun!

The National Literacy Trust has developed a free setting based book corner audit you can use to evaluate your provision.   Once completed, it will give you useful evaluation with many practical suggestions. Remember that the most important resource is you: without your passion and interest, even the most wonderful book can boring!

About the author

Kathryn is a specialist early years teacher and trainer who has worked with children for nearly 25 years, including 10 years as an Area SENCO. She is a licensed Tutor for ICAN Talk Boost as well as an ELKLAN Speech and Language Trainer.  She regularly writes and delivers courses for early years practitioners on all aspects of SEN.  You can follow her on Twitter @kathrynstinton2 or visit her website for more information.

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