Research shows that helping your child to be a confident and fluent reader is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their child’s education. For a reluctant or nervous reader, the best approach is to read a little and often.

Continue working on phonics

Almost all primary schools use the phonics approach to teach reading. Phonics is simply the system of relationships between letters and sounds in a language. When your child learns that the letter B has the sound of /b/ and that “tion” sounds like /shun/, they are learning phonics. There are numerous resources in bookshops and online to explain the phonics system in more detail.

If you notice your son/daughter regularly stumbles over a particular type of word, spend some time breaking the word down into its phonemes (e.g. at-ten-tion = at-ten-shun) and then challenge them to think of as many other words that follow that pattern as they can.

Ask students to read small pieces of text first

Rather than starting with a long text, begin by encouraging your son or daughter to read useful information that they encounter in their daily lives. For example, ask them to read the cooking instructions to you from the back of a packet or ask them to find out what time something is on by reading the television guide.

Find something that interests them

Some people prefer reading non-fiction, so provide books which explore your son or daughter’s interests, such as books and magazines about a particular sport or hobby. Biographies an also be a popular choice for many people. If your child shows an interest in someone, see if you can borrow a copy of their biography from the local library. We are all more likely to continue reading if we are interested in the subject matter.

Books which have been adapted into films are often very popular and students enjoy knowing what will happen before the film is released. Conversely, it can help a child to follow the plot of a novel if they have already seen the film.

Share a book

While many secondary school students no longer want to snuggle up and read with their parents, it can be enjoyable to read the same book at the same time. A great way to encourage a teenager to read is to read the same book at the same time so that you can talk about the characters and events.

Useful Websites

Guardian: How to teach ... phonics

Sounds-Write First Rate Phonics

Helpful ideas offered by parents

We asked parents to tell us how they help their child to improve their reading and writing at home. You may find some useful ideas below:

  • “When we come across a new word we do not understand, we look it up and try to use it in a sentence – often a silly one to make learning fun.”
  • “My daughter will usually choose to read above other activities. This I’m sure is probably due to the fact she sees other members of the family reading (fiction/non-fiction, magazines, newspapers, internet articles), compiling correspondence and checking their grammar on a daily basis.”
  • “As a family, we have made great use of narrative in audio format, by encouraging our children to listen to audio stories and sharing them together”
  • “We subscribe to factual documents, including First News (children’s weekly newspaper) and Kids National Geographic, which are excellent source - material for children to read.”
  • “We all love reading in our house and I think that Dad, as a reader, who probably reads the most out of the four of us, is a very strong role-model for our teenage son.”
  • “It is a struggle to get my son to read any fiction, but he does read the Sunday paper and has a monthly sports magazine that he looks forward to reading.”
  • “My son reads the news on the BBC website most days.”
  • “Maybe set a book to be read during a two week period and have a synopsis written at the end of the two weeks, in school.”
  • “I have noticed that my son who reads more has a much better grasp of English and use of language and a much wider vocabulary. Reading has inspired his imagination in his own writing, which has improved enormously.”
  • “My son said he wished they still had spelling tests. His spelling is not as good as it was when he joined the school.”
  • “Having a Kindle is a really great incentive to read with books immediately available to download.”
  • “A great way to learn new words is often just to see them in context, and not in isolation.”
  • “The more children read, the more they will eventually work out the meaning of words for themselves.”
  • “The more children read the more they will learn, the more they learn, the more they will succeed in school and in life.”
  • “My thirteen year old son needs a lot of ‘persuading’ to read every day. Like any teenager, he would rather be gaming on the computer. We realised it was therefore down to us as parents to change this – new house rules on their way! Watch this space!”
  • “My daughter loves to read and write. We share our ideas and thoughts about novels most days.”
  • “I encourage her to read and write in different ways as much as possible.”
  • “I encourage my daughter to use a dictionary to look up meanings of words.”
  • “We regret that we stopped reading bedtime stories with our child too early in their life. We firmly believe if we had continued, we would have helped their skills and enthusiasm. This has been demonstrated in our second child.”
  • “Reading subconsciously provides writing and spelling skills.”
  • “Since handwriting his homework, my son seems to be getting on better with it.”
  • “My daughter loves reading. Her reading has definitely influenced her writing in terms of technical construction and imagination.”
  • “Having a newspaper delivered has been extremely helpful as my son will actually read it while he has breakfast.”