Helping young children discover the joy of reading is one of the great pleasures of being an early years practitioner. Sharing stories, discovering letters and learning the alphabet and phonics are the first steps in helping each child on the path to becoming a competent and independent reader.

March 7th is World Book Day, when all over the globe, people will celebrate their favourite books and literary characters by dressing up, reading new books and passing on stories. But what can you do in your own setting to help encourage children to read? We’ve listed a few things here to help you.

Have a dedicated story-time and reading corner

Make sure you have dedicated time set aside for listening to stories and learning reading basics – e.g. story-times, a dedicated space for books and areas that children can retire to, to read undisturbed. Teaching the alphabet and phonics also comes under the remit of the EYFS.

Show that reading is a part of everyday life

Try to make reading an essential part of the children’s everyday lives by letting them read a variety of things: this could be street names, road signs, book covers, posters and menus for example. Model good reading yourself by pointing out new words and spelling things out.

Set up a book club

Book clubs give people a chance to share their ideas about a particular book or article and to learn about new books. It’s a great way to not only encourage reading, but to help with comprehension and self-expression too and you’ll be surprised at how much children can say about things they’ve read.

Have a book of the week/month

One easy way to encourage more reading is to have a book of the week/month. You can incorporate some craft activities into this by making a display in a corner of your setting, and getting the children to draw certain characters or situations from your chosen book to display.

Explore different genres

We are all different, so why not encourage your young readers to firstly read books on a genre that they enjoy, and secondly, try something new. We’ve created a table of book genres that might interest some of your children, but you could always add some genres of your own.

Start a lending library or book swap

Books can be expensive, so think about setting up a lending library in your setting. Ask the children to bring in any books that they no longer read or like, and to leave for others to borrow and enjoy.

Run a competition or reading challenge

Everyone likes a challenge, so consider running a reading challenge in which children are encouraged to read different things over a certain period of time. Local libraries often hold reading challenges over the long summer holidays, giving out badges or bookmarks to those who complete the challenge, and you could offer something similar in your setting to your oldest children. It doesn’t have to be whole books, but could be a series of words, phrases or letters.

Encourage children to write/tell their own stories

Reading about different topics can stimulate young minds and inspire new ideas. You can help their creativity by asking questions about books they’ve read (or listened to) and help them explore alternative endings or what they think could happen next in the characters’ lives.

Get the parents on side – encourage bedtime reading

Encouraging reading in your setting is one thing, but getting the parents of your children to help and continue reading at home, is another. You could produce an information sheet with tips to help them encourage reading, which could include many of the items on this list for starters.

Use technology to help – e-readers

Get your children off their tablets and into some books – that’s usually the advice we expect to see to encourage reading! Equally, you can help encourage young readers by using specially-designed apps and services to teach reading skills. There are some great e-readers which can help children begin their journey to independent reader status, by reading words aloud that the children get stuck on, or that they’ve not seen before.

Choose age-appropriate books

Help students access reading by making sure that you have plenty of age-appropriate books in your library. Age-appropriate means that not only are topics relevant to a young person’s understanding of the world, but also that the balance between words and pictures is fitting, and the text size is large enough.

Encourage acting-out and dressing up!

Everyone loves dressing up, so you could easily invite your children to dress up as their favourite character to celebrate World Book Day. Be prepared for lots of Postman Pats, Fireman Sams, fairies, princes and princesses – and don’t forget to get your staff to dress up too!

Visit your local library

What better way to encourage children to read than taking them on a visit to your local library? You could research times when they have ‘parent and toddler’s’ reading sessions or story-times.

Sing songs and nursery rhymes showing the words as you go

Think about other ways that you can help children read – you could find some karaoke words to nursery rhymes on YouTube for example, that will highlight the words of your favourite songs and rhymes as you sing along.

Whatever you do, find time to encourage this most basic communication skill and you will be opening the minds of your young people to a whole world of opportunity and wonder.

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