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.

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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 at the expected level are able to:

  • Say a sound for each letter in the alphabet and at least 10 digraphs; -
  • Read words consistent with their phonic knowledge by sound-blending; -
  • Read aloud simple sentences and books that are consistent with their phonic knowledge, including some common exception words.

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.

Book areas and reading environments

Children enjoy cuddling up, looking at books and listening to stories. Create an inviting book area but 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.

  • Download the BookTrust rhymetime top tips including how to overcome common fears and worries about leading a rhymetime.
  • Listen to a rhymetime at a library (it has the song words too).
  • Search on the BookTrust website for free rhyme sheets.
  • Read the learning about children's poetry and books leaflet from BookTrust (aimed at trainee teachers).

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. BookTrust has film clips of how to read to children.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

Need advice?

If you'd like more advice or support get in touch with your area Early Years Educational Effectiveness Team:

Make sure you check out the Surrey Forum dedicated to childcare professionals in Surrey on the national EYFS Forum. We have an EYFS learning and development section where we post best practice ideas and you can get peer support.

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