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Reading in the EYFS

It's never too early to read with a child and sharing books, stories and rhymes should be a daily part of life at your childcare setting. Here we've pulled together lots of information and ideas to help you do this.


Reading and the EYFS

Reading, along with writing, makes up literacy, one of the four specific areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Reading's Early Learning Goal is:

  • Children read and understand simple sentences. They use phonic knowledge to decode regular words and read them aloud accurately. They also read some common irregular words. They demonstrate understanding when talking with others about what they have read.

Early reading experiences

To be ready to start reading, children need to have a variety of skills in place. These early reading skills include matching, rhyming, awareness of phonics and the skills associated with language development such as listening, attention, alliteration and sound discrimination.

Download our handy activity sheets for ideas on:

If you're looking for extension ideas to help make books come to life, try our under the sea themed Pinterest board for inspiration.

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Book areas and reading environments

Children enjoy cuddling up, looking at books and listening to stories. Here are our tips on creating an inviting book area in your setting. 

Make sure the rest of your setting's environment provides children with opportunities to experience print too. For example do you have:

  • a range of reading materials throughout your setting, including outside
  • magazines in your role play area and cookery books in your home corner
  • home made instruction books in your construction area
  • meaningful labels with words and pictures displayed throughout your setting
  • props from familiar stories in your role play area so children can act out their favourite stories
  • a range of visual cues and props that can support children to understand words.

Rhymes and rhymetimes 

Did you know that if children know eight nursery rhymes by the time they're four years old, they're usually among the best readers by the time they're eight? Rhyming helps children to break words down and to hear the sounds that make up words in preparation for reading and writing. So why not sing songs and have a rhyme time with children every day? 

Try making up your own songs and rhymes. Use rhymes with actions and props to support multi-sensory learning. And draw children's attention to alliteration and rhyming words. There's loads online you can use to help you.


Stories and story sacks

Read to children and tell stories at least once a session. But don't just read! Think about your voice, gestures and facial expressions. Use silly voices to draw the children into the story. Remember to think about group size and make sure the reading material is appropriate, for example young children like books with lots of pictures.

Creating stories with children, asking them to predict what's going to happen next and helping them to make up their own endings to familiar stories, encourages them to think more critically and become more creative.

If you're looking for inspiration for creative storytelling then take a look at our Expressive arts and design in the EYFS web page. The interviews and Early Years Creative Toolkit are full of brilliant ideas. Or download our interview with Ruth Parsons, a storytelling expert and author of Harry's Hazelnut story sack, to get her tips on creating and telling stories (PDF)

You can use stories to support children's development in other areas of the EYFS too. Our Maths in the EYFS web page has an activity sheet based on The Blue Balloon story (PDF) and a booklist of stories including maths (PDF) you can download.

And what about using story sacks? Story sacks are a bag (or box!) filled with a story book and lots of things related to it that you can use to capture children's imaginations and extend their learning. Put in items that will help children retell the story or find out some new facts, for example puppets, props, games, non-fiction books and a CD.

Take a look at the story sack guide from the National Literacy Trust. Plus find out how Epsom Methodist Nursery use story sacks to engage parents (PDF).

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Making books with children

Why not help children to make their own books? It could be about absolutely anything! They could include their own drawings, photos  or pictures cut from magazines and you could help with the text. Then why not pop it in your book area for children to enjoy again and again?

To give you some ideas, here are examples with the theme Travelling Ted.

Ofsted have a good practice example showing how a childminder uses storyboards and homemade books to promote learning in the early years too.

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Working with dads, mums and carers

Emilie Buchwald said "children are made readers on the laps of their parents". We quite agree, so this series of Read with Me leaflets are full of little tips for parents of newborns to five year olds. You can use them to promote home learning along with the How parents can help with reading web page.

Pop up a poster to promote libraries (PDF) and their Pebble Penguin adventure card. Or tell parents about libraries for the under 5s.

Make sure parents know about Bookstart and the free packs of books available. They have lots of ideas and booklists online for parents too.

And if you work with any families with English as an additional language, you might like to share the quick tips available bilingually in 17 languages from the National Literacy Trust. They include sharing songs and rhymes and sharing books with your baby.

You could also ask parents to visit your setting and read to the children in their home language and to create labels you can display.

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Library cards for childminders

Every childminder can sign up for a Junior Group library card. This means you can borrow more junior items and for longer without it affecting your personal library card. Junior items are fiction and non-fiction junior books plus audio books and Read Hear books with CDs. DVDs are not included because of age restrictions on some items.

You just need to show your Ofsted registration certificate at your local library to be able to sign up.


Training

We offer all sorts of workshops around reading for childcare professionals. Check your training programme to see what's available (it changes term to term).


Contact us

If you'd like more advice or support, contact your early years sector improvement advisor, home-based childcare advisor or playwork advisor. If you're not sure who this is, get in touch with us at Surrey Early Years and Childcare Service by calling 01372 833833 or emailing eycs.admin@surreycc.gov.uk.

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Files available to download

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