Tips to encourage young readers

Tips to encourage young readers

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.

How can you educate children through gardening?

How can you educate children through gardening?

Technological advances mean that children are spending more time indoors. However, it’s still vital that we inform them of the enjoyment that can be found outdoors….and you don’t have to go far! It doesn’t matter if it’s summer or winter, there are plenty of opportunities to get children out into the fresh air.

Play bark suppliers, Compost Direct, have come up with some tips for childcare providers on how to educate children through gardening.

Early years development

Playing in the garden is a great way to develop the early years skills in younger children. Messy play aids their sensory and cognitive development, while allowing them to have fun. Research shows that there are many advantages to messy play and that this form of activity, albeit unstructured, can help a child develop immensely. It’s possible to do this in the garden by using water, sand and mud. You must break down the usual rules that may face a child, including being solely restricted to a play mat. You should encourage them to draw shapes using a range of child-friendly tools. This aids the development of finger and arm muscles which can help when it comes to tasks such as holding a pen.

The garden also exposes a child to many new textures. It allows them to get used to handling solid objects and if you let children be around mud, they will also get used to softer materials which in turn will help them compare and understand new textures.

General learning

If the weather allows, why not complete tasks outside? Children often spend all day behind a desk when they’re at school, so change the environment and head outdoors wherever possible. A gazebo or table and chairs can be a great investment. Eighty-five percent of teachers stated that teaching lessons outdoors led to a positive behavioural impact, while 92% of pupils also said they preferred lessons that were held outdoors.

About healthy eating

According to studies, if a child embarks on the ‘grow your own veg’ journey, they are more likely to eat fresh fruit and veg later in life. This means that getting kids outside can improve their diet. A selection of simple fruit and veg you can grow include strawberries, cabbage, potatoes and radishes. Select a size of patch you can use and ask the children to keep an eye on what is growing.

Jobs for little helpers

Children love to be in charge, don’t they? Give them some responsibility and set them tasks to carry out each day. Doing this should see them become excited to spend time in the garden.

An easy task could be to get them to grow a sunflower. They would have to check daily how it’s progressing, and it can also help their maths skills as they can measure the growth. Often, a sunflower will grow to be taller than the child, so this will also keep them entertained.

Source: here | Credit: Jamie Roberts – copywriter at Mediaworks

National Apprenticeship Week

National Apprenticeship Week

The 12th annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW2019) – which runs from 4th to 8th March 2019 – is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate ‘all things apprenticeships’ and how they benefit not only individuals and employers, but communities and our economy as a whole.

It’s a chance to shout about all that is great regarding apprentices and their training providers!

The week brings together everyone who is passionate about apprenticeships to encourage more young people to choose this path as a first step (and often fast-track) to a great career, and for companies to promote growth and personal development.

In a bid to challenge outdated attitudes towards apprenticeships, this year’s theme of ‘blazing a trail’ and ‘fire it up’ recognises and embraces the new changes that apprenticeships can bring: for employers “blazing a trail” to new markets; apprentices to new career opportunities; and for colleges and training providers raising the skills levels for everyone. It aims to raise awareness of the benefits and huge variety of apprenticeship options available for people of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds.

There are so many advantages of hiring apprentices in your childcare setting. You can watch them grow and progress as you mould them into your own style of practitioners, helping you meet and secure your future employment needs.

There are lots of ways to get involved!

  • The NAW2019 events map allows you to search for events happening near you during the most exciting week in the apprenticeships’ calendar. You can also submit your event to be featured too!
  • Keep staff in your setting motivated to continue their learning – talk to them about the benefits that further training can offer them. Parenta offers Level 2 Team Leading, Level 3 and 4 Management and Level 5 Childcare Leadership as work-based apprenticeships, in addition to the Level 2 and Level 3 Childcare. Help your staff and learners know their options and realise their earning power!
  • Encourage your apprentices to get involved with the Young Apprentice Ambassador Network (YAAN) to talk about the benefits of apprenticeships in their local area and give them invaluable skills for the workplace.
  • Encourage your apprentices to sign up for a NUS Apprentice Extra discount card. Not only will they receive loads of discounts at hundreds of shops, they will also receive emails on how they can give feedback and help shape the future of apprenticeships.
  • Ask your Parenta assessor how you can best support your learners in their early career journey.

Useful handles and hashtags for NAW2019:

  • #fireitup
  • #blazeatrail
  • @fireitup_apps
  • @apprenticeships

Useful resources:

Parenta is the UK’s largest vocational training provider within the early years sector, offering apprenticeships at all levels. With 20 years’ experience in the industry, we work in partnership with thousands of settings, supporting them with upskilling their existing staff, as well as recruiting new apprentices to start their career in childcare.

Ask us about our free recruitment service and for advice to help you invest in tomorrow’s generation of childcarers. Our experienced team will be able to advise you on ‘all things apprenticeships’ – from legislation changes to funding, contribution, minimum wage and off-the-job training.

Supporting children to process their emotions now and in the future

Supporting children to process their emotions now and in the future

Everything a child consistently hears, sees and feels creates a blueprint for how they view themselves, the world and their place within it. The programming that we receive throughout our early years acts like a ‘default setting’ that subconsciously controls how we respond to the world around us.

Only 5% of what we do is conscious, meaning that 95% of the time we are on autopilot, with the majority of our actions, reactions and decisions being guided by our subconscious mind, which is made up of belief systems that we acquire throughout our formative years.

It’s therefore crucial that we look at the consistent messages that our actions and words are giving to children in our care. Our intentions are always from the right place. However, the subconscious mind takes on the literal messages it is receiving. Even though our hearts are in the right place, these literal messages can actually have the opposite effect of what was intended.

An example of this is a family who want to mould a little winner and instil a growth mindset in their child. They might say things like: “We are winners. If we come second, we may as well come last” or “Failure isn’t an option – we are going to win!”. They might also only ever reward their child when they come first. Here, their hearts are in the right place and they are clearly trying to plant positive thoughts into their child. However, the literal message that is being given is that failure is not an option. By programming a child with this belief, their subconscious mind is going to view failure as something to avoid. This actually creates the opposite of a winning mindset, because failure is a part of success. In order to reach our brilliance, we have to step out of our comfort zone. However, by doing this, we also risk failing. If a child’s subconscious mind is programmed to avoid failure, they are most likely never going to fully reach their potential, because 95% of what they do is silently guided by a belief that prevents them from being in situations where they can fail. They might also become a perfectionist or cope badly with failure, which will impact on their resilience and again, prevent them from soaring to great heights.

It works the same way for how children process their thoughts and feelings, therefore it is crucial that we look at the programming that is being given to children through our words and actions. If we want children to process their emotions in a balanced way when they are older, we need to make sure that the literal messages they receive when they are younger are conducive to this happening. It’s best to look at how we want our children to function as teenagers and then ask ourselves if what we are doing now is teaching them to respond in the same way.

We want teenagers to:

  • Know that we are there to support them and to help them with any problems they have
  • Know that their feelings are important
  • Know that no problem is too big or small and that we will help them to work through things no matter what
  • Come to us, rather than isolate themselves

The list goes on. However, if we want children to do all of these things when they are teenagers, we need to programme them with beliefs that facilitate these actions when they are younger.

I have a three- and five-year-old and at times their reactions can be so hard to navigate. They go into meltdown over the smallest things. However, it is also important to remember that problems are relative. Cast your mind back to your 14-year-old self. The problems you had then will seem trivial now. However, you will remember your emotions being big and painful. This is because as we get older, our problems get bigger. However, the emotion that we feel in relation to those problems is pretty consistent. It is the same with toddlers. They might lose it over being given a red pen instead of a blue pen. However, this problem to them is huge and painful. A three-year-old’s problem through the eyes of an adult, will always seem trivial. However, it’s important to remember that problems are relative and the emotion a toddler feels in that moment will be the same as the emotion we felt at 14 when our friend blanked us, or the emotion we feel in our thirties when something goes wrong in life. If we want teenagers to know that their feelings are important, we need to consistently teach children this when they are younger. It can be so easy to say things like “It’s not the end of the world”, but to them, it is. I have to remind myself constantly that although whatever my children are losing it over is not a big deal to me, it is to them, and it’s important that I acknowledge that and help them to find a solution.

Now I’m not sat here on my high horse professing to be perfect! I am far from it. We all have bad days, make mistakes and sometimes react in ways we shouldn’t. If we do, this is a great opportunity to teach children about taking responsibility and saying sorry. Modelling perfection is not great as it creates the same ‘fear of failure’ belief that I talked about earlier. The key word here is ‘consistency’ because it is the consistent messages that will create a default setting for our little ones. It’s important to have strong boundaries and to teach children about consequences. However, it is also important to look at how we are we doing this and to make sure that the literal messages are creating a blueprint for how we want children to act in the future.

 About the author

Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.

I’m killing the baddies!

I’m killing the baddies!

There is something rather shocking about hearing a three- or four-year-old shouting, “Die, die!” or “I’m gonna kill you!” Yet, these cries are regularly heard within our early childhood settings. When we are faced with notions of killing and death, how should we respond?

Death is difficult for children to understand. It is an abstract idea and one which is hard for many adults to grasp. Theorists1 consider the concept of death to be made up of five main components:

  • Inevitability – we will all die one day
  • Universality – death applies to all living things
  • Irreversibility – it is permanent
  • Cessation – when we die, our normal physical functions will cease
  • Causality – it is a product of cause and effect

Pre-school-aged children are unable to understand the ‘dead-ness of dead’ and children generally understand more about this concept as they grow older. For example, five-year-olds can understand that death is inevitable and irreversible, six- to seven-year-olds can understand about universality and cessation but children might not understand the causality component until they are nearly 10 years old1. This fits with the idea that children learn in different ways and at different rates, making it difficult to generalise about their levels of understanding. It is generally accepted that the older the child, the better their understanding of death. In the light of this, we cannot assume that young children fully grasp what words like ‘kill’, ‘dead’ and ‘die’ mean, and therefore we must not be concerned if children are using them in their play.

Some educators may feel that talking about death is one thing, but killing is a whole different matter because killing is about deliberately ending a life. However killing and death cannot be separated from each other and the narrative of killing is commonly observed within our children’s play. As educators, we can use their play as an opportunity to explore these difficult concepts.

When children engage in superhero play, they are playing with the concepts of killing and death, winning and losing, goodies and baddies, good versus evil and so on. With a few exceptions, most superheroes fight evil and serve the purpose of good, however, since some children are experts on the backstories of superheroes, be wary of generalising that ‘all superheroes don’t kill people’ because this is not technically true and you may stand to be corrected!


Some ideas of how to appropriately support children in thinking about death include:

  • Have an ethos of permission within the setting so that words like ‘kill’, ‘dead’ and ‘die’ are not banned from your vocabulary, but instead, prompt discussion
  • Engage in socio-dramatic play in which children role-play events from their lives
  • Read stories and books which include death or deal with bereavement and grief
  • Provide opportunities for children to make up their own stories (e.g. helicopter stories)
  • Use puppets and role-play to prompt discussion
    Introduce children to the idea of life-cycles, for example, butterflies
  • Raise some chicks from eggs, butterflies from caterpillars, or look after a class/setting pet
  • Think about changes over time in the natural world e.g. growth and decay
  • Share some memories about a special person that you know who has died, and reminisce about the good times you shared together
  • Answer any questions about death as honestly as possible remembering that it’s OK to say, “I don’t know!”
  • Use correct language: dead, death, dying, died, buried etc

Death is somewhat of a taboo subject with young children, however we need to talk to them in developmentally-appropriate ways to help them to gain an understanding of this difficult concept: the context of superheroes can provide a useful introduction to this subject. We have a responsibility to support children to recognise death as the final part of the life-cycle in order for them to grow into well-adjusted adults, who understand that death is a part of life.

Remember that playing at killing the baddies, is indeed play and is not fully understood in terms of the dead-ness of dead. So we can use this play as an opportunity to support children to develop their understanding of death.


1 – Panagiotaki, G., Hopkins, M., Nobes, G., Ward, E., & Griffiths, D. (2018). Children’s and adults’ understanding of death: Cognitive, parental, and experiential influences. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 166, 96.

Further reading
Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company
Slaughter, V. (2005). Young children’s understanding of death. Australian Psychologist, 40(3), 179–186
Stickney, D. (1982). Waterbugs and dragonflies – explaining death to children. USA: The Pilgrim Press


About the author

Tamsin GTamsin Grimmer photo2rimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.

Tamsin has written two books – Observing and Developing Schematic Behaviour in Young Children and School Readiness and the Characteristics of Effective Learning.

You can contact Tamsin via Twitter @tamsingrimmer, her Facebook pagewebsite or email

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