St Nicolas CE Primary School

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Oxford Owl
A website which helps parents support their children with reading and maths. Over 260 free eBooks. Some good videos including ‘Top 10 tips for helping struggling readers’.

Oxford Owl Website

A Handbook for Parents of Early Readers

What is Reading?

‘Reading, like thinking, is very complex. When you think, all you have to do is produce responses from within you. When you read you have to produce responses which interpret what the author wrote, you have to try match your thinking to his.’ Marie Clay 1991

And this can only happen once a child has effectively learned to decode a text!

We teach reading through a balanced literacy programme, using a variety of approaches and materials.

We introduce and practise skills and strategies within a meaningful context. Activities are used to reinforce skills which are then always applied to context, to the complete reading picture.

Concepts around print are developed early:

  •       Working from the front to the back of a book
  •       Reading left to write through a word and across a page
  •       One to one matching
  •       Punctuation
  •       Capital and lower case letters
  •       Cover and illustrations

To be independent readers, children need to use a range of reading cues:

Visual cues – these enable children to identify letters, and their associated sounds (phonics) either on sight or by using these to problem solve.

Semantic cues – these enable children to use meaning to support problem solving. Whilst emerging as readers, this is likely to involve them using the pictures.

Syntactic cues – children use their inherent knowledge of correct grammatical structures to predict what would sound right.

When listening to my child read, what to do if…

…a word is misread or missed out…?

  • If it is an isolated case and the sentence retains meaning, leave it.
  • If it happens often, point it out at the end of the page, perhaps reading it as they have said it and see if they notice that it doesn’t match

…my child won’t concentrate…?

  • Check there are no distractions, or other more inviting activities on offer
  • Share reading with your child, maybe reading a page each.

…my child stops at a word…?

You could try several approaches (not in any order)

  • Prompt them to look at the letters
  • Prompt them to look at the pictures or think about what is happening in the story
  • Prompt them to try the sentence again
  • Prompt them to read on to the end of the sentence and then try again thinking about what would fit
  • Encourage them to have a go

If they are really stuck, tell them so they don’t lose the flow.

…my child is not reading clearly…they are plodding through with no expression…?

  • Share the reading with them, reading with expression yourself and encouraging them to do the same.
  • Notice punctuation and how we can use this to guide expression
  • Bring the story to life when retelling it after reading

…the book has been memorised…?

Don’t worry, this is part of learning to read. Children build confidence and can read with fluency and expression. They work on early reading behaviours, such as direction, build high frequency word recognition, and develop visual matching.

How to help…


  • Matching games: pairs, snap, bingo, etc
  • Words games: I-Spy, Can you see? Where is?
  • Odd one out
  • Follow the line, making a pattern 


  • About events
  • Read stories
  • Sing rhymes and songs


  • To your child talking
  • To questions asked
  • To opinions given


  • Share books, flap books, picture books
  • Use local library, book shops, charity shops
  • Read letters, postcards, signs, instructions, labels, etc
  • Share comics, joke books, computer, television

How can I Help?

Over time, your child will start to bring home a reading book to practise their reading. Children are taught to read at school, but a small amount of daily practise at home has a massive impact on the progress and development of reading.

Hearing children read can be divided into

3 parts…

Warm Up: Get comfortable, look at the front cover, what can children see, link it to their own experiences (inc. other books)

Reading: Read through the story

Reflection: Response to what has been read, relating it to experience, other books. Talk about characters, enjoyable bits and interesting sections. Give your opinions, too.

Before your child is ready to read he/she will spend time developing these skills:

  • Recognising letters and seeing the difference between letters
  • Understanding the purpose of books. This will include the child ‘reading’ aloud, making up the words or memorizing them, and taking pleasure in sharing books with adults or elders
  • Awareness of the direction of writing and direction of pages across a whole book
  • Being able to sequence a story or events
  • Link a story to their own life experiences
  • Begin to predict what might happen
  • Develop awareness of the connections between print and speech


  • Read stories to your child. This gives your child an example of good reading and enables them to enjoy more advanced texts
  • Children make best progress in learning to read when they have these opportunities at home and at school
  • Reading should be fun and enjoyable for you both!