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How to Best Read a Book to a Four or Five Year Old

1. Read often and make it interesting and enjoyable

While some of this content may seem simplistic I've included everything because as readers we forget how much we take for granted and may not mention.

There are many skills and knowledge a child needs prior to being able to learn to read themselves. As a reader you may take many of them for granted so I've listed them specifically.

I have listed some of these below to assist you as you read so you can incidentally draw your child's attention to specific points which will make reading much easier for them once they start themselves.

While some points are obvious to established readers, they're not to a beginning reader.

I'll begin with the outside of a book and while it may be obvious at the start I don't want to assume any knowledge or leave anything out and I'm sure by the end of this page you'll be surprised at how much as a reader you take for granted.

Concepts of Print

2. Discuss and Predict: The front of a book is called the Front Cover and the back the Back Cover.

You can discuss the picture on the cover and encourage your child to predict what they think the story might be about.


You can also introduce the words Title and Author and discuss what they mean.

Finding an author they like can make locating other books they might like easier.

For example: One of the author's writing I'm particularly fond of is Julia Donaldson.

'Room on the Broom,' 'The Gruffalo' and 'Sharing a Shell' are some of my favourites because of her humour, use of rhythmical language and use of rhyme in some of them.


I feel they are great for helping children to hear word families. e.g. room, broom, cat, hat, spat, etc

You can identify examples of rhyming words once you've read the story... Initially see if your child can hear the two words that sound the same e.g. (cat, dog, rat, ) or (ball, fall, me)

As they get better introduce a variable like having two of the words beginning with the same sound

e.g. (cat, rat, call) or (small, tall, sit)

From here you can identify other rhymes in songs, poems, nursery rhymes and stories.

Books need to face the right way up to be successfully read in English and images help highlight which way is up.

Inside the Front Cover is a Title Page that usually contains the same text as the Front Cover

and this highlights the name of the author and illustrator.

3. Starting Position: ​​As you read to your child show them where you expect to start your story.

See if they can tell you where to start on subsequent pages or books.

Some books are more difficult to work out as the text may be in a single line across the bottom of a page or sometimes it may be midway on a page.

You'll need to discuss the concept of where the TOP OF THE TEXT is as opposed to the top of a page, as they may be two different things.


4. ​Show with your finger how you follow a line as you read and how you return to the beginning of the next line


Take particular care to show that you begin at the beginning of the next line to continue with the story.


Where there's split text, it needs to be highlighted that you complete all of the text on one page before progressing onto the next.


The Importance of Prediction when Reading


Predicting what's going to happen next is a great skill to encourage in your child because when they begin reading  themselves


Images give clues to what the text might be about.

If you're reading with your child ask them what they think might happen next before you turn the page. Then once you turn the page ask them if they want to change their mind. You can read the text and see if your guess was what the author chose.

You can also look at alternative stories within stories, as one day your child will be writing their own stories and there's no 'one story line' that is the only correct one.

And it's important to note that you want your child to look at the pictures when beginning to read as it shows they're attempting to make sense of the text if they can't work it out from the words alone.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER WHEN READING IS IT'S FUN so only cover one concept at a time. Discuss concepts of print sometimes and do it incidentally.


Repeat the information from time to time and build upon it slowly.

Remember: You're creating an attitude to reading for life.

When we put a group of words together that tell us something, we call that a sentence.

A sentence can be made up of just one word through to many words. It usually tells us only one thing at a time unless it has a joining word (or conjunction) in it. e.g.: and, but, because, so, then, etc

When we've finished telling one thing we use a full stop to show we've finished.


I sometimes used to read children's stories who didn't use full stops correctly and I would read them as they had written them and I would go blue in the face as the text continued on and on and they would start to laugh.


Full stops are important because they provide someone with an opportunity to pause, take a breath and think.


They say to a reader 'I've finished what I have to say.'

The example of the train above provides a clear example of obvious return sweep before progressing onto the next page.

However the double page example written in the middle could be less obvious if it were to continue and meander across the page.

Sometimes text can split across differing levels, but even then, it's always left page first, from top to bottom, and then right page, top to bottom.

And another important point to highlight incidentally is showing that writing is made up of a collection of letters that put together make up words that mean something.

You could say something like, 'I wonder what these three letters might say if I put them together?'

M     U     M

You can show simple examples of words that can be sounded out easily and show them how you sound them out.

e.g.  C   A   T  roll the sounds together into one word CAT.

Always use the sound a letter makes not its name when you are attempting to illustrate how sounding words out works. Letter names do not show children how to sound.




For example C (See) A (Ay) T (Tee) phonetically makes Seeaytee when you use letter names to join together.


But sounds C A T produce cat.

You want your child to be exposed to the joy books bring and the rich vocabulary they provide.


You have years to expose your children to how text works so it doesn't all have to be done quickly.


Pay particular attention to the page below on The Importance of Proximal Development to guide you. It shows you the pitfalls of exposing children to information that's too hard for them to understand.

For more information on learning to read go to the links below:

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The Importance of Proximal Developme
I Love Reading
Fun Phonics
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Sleep Routines
How to Get your child to sleep.
Boundaries Help Raise Good Kids
Setting Boundaries
Why Natural Consequences?
The Value of Natural Consequences
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