What to read with your child

Exposing children to a variety of texts in both fiction and non fiction categories will enable them to understand that all texts have a purpose. Children need to have knowledge about the purpose of an author to have a deep comprehension of the text.

littleboyWelcome to my third and final blog in the series “How to read with your child” In this blog we focus on different texts we should be exposing our children to at different ages. This exposure will help build a solid foundation for your child in knowing about text types in our world and as a result give them more opportunities to develop their understanding about reading.

It is very easy to get into the habit of just exposing your child to picture books and story based books. There are so many wonderful story books out there that offer so much to a child. Even though these are extremely important, there is a whole other genre of reading that many children are not exposed to before school. Non fiction texts or Factual texts are very important to beginning readers. These texts give information about our world and are written in a different structure compared to fiction (story) texts. We need children to be exposed to all types of texts in order to give them a solid foundation in literacy.

Another aspect of reading that will be referred to in this blog is “Environmental Print”. Environmental print is simply the print of everyday life. It could be signs, advertisements, labels or logos. For beginning readers this print can help the child understand the purpose of letters and the use of letters in words.

A description of what to read to a child of a particular age and parent tips for that age group are listed below.

Age Group : Babies to 2 years old

This is the time when a child’s language is emerging. They are experimenting with different sounds and working out how to put sounds together to make words. This is a stage of rapid growth and learning and it is essential to give a child in this stage as many opportunities to develop their communication skills as possible. A child in this age learns through play. One aspect of play is reading. Simple non fiction (fact) texts are great to read with your child. Encouraging your child to point to objects on the page (or a parent points) and naming that object will help a child learn new words. Reading simple stories that are repetitive will help develop your child’s understanding of how our language works.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

  • Spot books by Eric Hill
  • Five Little Monkey’s Jumping On The Bed by Eileen Christelow
  • Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
  • Are You My Mother? By P.D Eastman
  • That’s Not My … Books by Usborne Children’s books
  • Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • Baby’s Very First Little Book of Farm Animals - Usborne (Publisher)
  • Spot’s Fun First Words by Eric Hill
  • Babies - Baby Einstein (Publisher)

Environmental Print

  • For a child closer to 2 years old you can encourage them to find their name on objects (drink bottle, lunch box)
  • Focus on the letters of their name and the sounds they make. (Their name is important to them, therefore learning about it can be very motivating)
  • Shop names - Pointing out the names of shops to the child

Parent tips

At this age children need to be involved in a lot of conversation to develop their communication skills. This can occur successfully during reading time with your child. While reading a farm book together, try getting your child to make the sounds of the different animals when you point to them in a book. Talk to them about the animals and what things they do. For a child closer to 2 years old, point to the name of the animal (e.g. cow) on the page and tell them that it says the word “cow”. With a fiction book, encourage your child to read the book with you. You need to read the book many times for the child to remember some of the words. (especially the end word of rhyming sentences)

Age Group : 2 to 4 years old

This stage will see your child move from saying two words together (mum’s car, big ball) to complex sentences. It is another stage of rapid growth and learning. Children in this age group becoming increasingly aware of the world around them. This is an ideal time to point out all the environmental print around them. Children in this age group are interested in “why” things are the way they are, so using this thirst for knowledge with reading non fiction (fact) texts will help them make meaning of our world. They become very interested in story lines and how a problem is solved in the story. Children will begin to “pick up” how our written language works, but by pointing some features out (eg letters, words, punctuation) it will help to form the beginning stages of reading.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

2-3 year olds

  • Can I cuddle the moon by Kerry Brown
  • Koala Lou by Mem Fox
  • Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd
  • Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • Brown Bear, Brown bear, What do your see by Eric Carle and Bill Martin Jr

3 - 4 year olds

  • Who Sank the Boat by Pamela Allen
  • Belinda by Pamela Allen
  • Alexander’s outing by Pamela Allen
  • Goodnight moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • From Tadpole to Frog by David Steward
  • From Seed to Sunflower by Gerald Legg
  • From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Gerald Legg
  • From Egg to Chicken by Gerald Legg

Environmental Print

  • Reading their name in a variety of situations (finding their name tag amongst others, finding their painting with their name, their name on a piece of clothing)
  • Signs in the environment (toilet signs, carpark sign, speed limits, own street sign, number plates on cars, stop signs, crossing signs, packets on food)
  • Reading shop names (Kmart, Coles, Woolworthes, Post Office, McDonalds)

Parent tips

  • While going for a walk, encourage your child to say the names and sounds of letters on number plates
  • Don’t limit your child to reading ‘books’ (whether fiction or non fiction). At reading time choose other types of texts.
  • During reading time read a few invitations that you have received for different celebrations. Point out features like who it is addressed to?, what is the party?, where it is?, Who is it from?, What is an RSVP? When is it?
  • During reading time read a few cards that you have received for a particular occasion. (birthday, christmas, christening) Point out features like who it is addressed to?, what is their message?, who is it from? What is common in most cards?

Age Group : 4 to 6 years old

Children in this age group are usually in daycare, preschool or Kindergarten. They are getting exposed to lots of texts and environmental print in their educational setting. An educational setting can open up a whole new world to children with a variety of new and exciting texts. The home environment can support this by using lots of environmental print and reading a variety of texts during reading time. It is said that in order for a child to learn something new, they need to have 200 “hits” at it. This means that a child needs to have at least 200 different reading experiences before they are even ready to start reading. This is the important stage to ensure that they are getting a variety of quality learning experiences about reading prior to beginning “big school”. It will give them such a good start to formal education.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

  • Hunwick’s Egg by Mem Fox
  • Shoe’s from Grandpa by Mem Fox
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr Suess
  • Animalia by Graeme Base
  • Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
  • We’re going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Oxenbury

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • Books about the weather
  • Books about animals
  • Books about our body eg senses
  • Books about People eg occupations

Environmental Print

  • Reading their name in a variety of situations
  • Reading shop names
  • Reading traffic signs
  • Reading packages of groceries
  • Reading number plates
  • Reading advertisements

Parent tips

  • Don’t limit your child to reading ‘books’ (whether fiction or non fiction). At reading time choose other types of texts.
  • Get family members to send simple letters to your child. Read them during reading time. Also look at the envelope and talk about the features (stamp, address, return address)
  • Read simple poetry with your child
  • Make a poster with your child using information about a text they are reading. You can write most of the words. Include labels and diagrams as this is a very important aspect of texts. Explain to your child how to read them.
  • Do activities about the fiction (story) books that you read. Do a craft activity, Draw a picture of the main character, role play the story, change the story to have a different ending. These activities will help a child comprehend the story and help with sequencing events.
  • Use labels around your house to increase the “environmental print”

Age Group : 6 to 8 years old

Children in this age group attend primary school  and are in the infant grades. These are the most important years in your child’s education as they lay the foundation of learning for the next 13 years of schooling. Even though the children attend school, there is still so much that the parents can do at home to give their child the best opportunity to reach their potential. Children receive levelled reading books as their home reader from school. A lot of parents focus on the reading level of the book rather then what reading strategies their child is or is not using. (See my previous blog for more detail about reading strategies) The reading book that comes home should be “easy” for your child. Its purpose is to encourage your child to read with fluency and expression. The readers (reading books) that come home will be from both fiction and non fiction genres. They may include information reports, letters, stories, recounts and poetry.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

  • Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr Seuss
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Suess
  • Alexander and the very horrible, no good, very bad day by Judith Voirst
  • The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Early chapter books

  • 1 - Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne
  • 2 - Cam Jansen by David A. Adler
  • 3 - Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol
  • 4 - Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
  • 5 - Humphrey by Betty G. Birney
  • 6 - Geronimo Stilton (Scholastic Corporation)
  • 7 - Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
  • 8 - Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
  • 9 - Frankly Frannie by AJ Stern
  • 10 - The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron
  • 11 - Agatha: Girl of Mystery
  • 12 - Keena Ford by Melissa Thomson
  • 13 - Clementine by Sara Pennypacker
  • 14 - Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Allison McGhee,
  • 15 - Roald Dahl Stories

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • Books about transport
  • Books about landmarks
  • Books about planets
  • Books about history

Environmental print

  • Reading words from a word wall (wall full of words in a classroom)
  • Reading words on signs, diagrams, labels
  • Reading words around them to help them with spelling them

Parent tips

  • Get your child to read instructions of how to do something e.g. how to put together something or reading a recipe
  • Get your child to make their own books. This will allow you to know if your child has a great understanding of how a book work. (Eg A factual book about a particular animal. Does it have a contents page?, page numbers, title, author, glossary)
  • Visit your local library often and borrow a variety of books
  • Encourage your child to read anything they write to you.
  • Share a chapter book with your child. Read a chapter a night during reading time.

Age Group : 8 to 10 years old

Children of this age are beginning to read harder texts on more complex topics. The fiction books they read have more complicated story plots as well as many sub plots. Some children can sound like they are reading quite well but they actually have low levels of comprehension (understanding what they have read). It is important that we do not rush children onto harder books without having the comprehension to match. Asking lots of questions and having lots of conversation about the book can really improve a child’s comprehension. A lot of children read chapter books at this stage but sharing a picture book with harder themes can have many benefits. Discussing themes and issues with your child that appear in a picture book of chapter book helps their knowledge and understanding of the world. At this stage children need to have lots of experiences with factual texts to become efficient at locating the correct information. This will help their research skills for projects they are working on for all subjects.

Recommended Fiction (story) texts for age group

  • Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr Suess
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  • The True story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
  • Prince Cinders by Babette Cole
  • An Ordinary Day by Libby Gleeson

Chapter books

  • The Croc Ate My Homework by Stephan Pastis
  • Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce
  • Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja by Marcus Emerson
  • Timmy Failure by Stephan Pastis
  • Wayside School by Louis Sachar
  • The Alice Stories: Our Australian Girl by Davina Bell
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Specky Magee by Felice Arena and Garry Lyon
  • Give Peas a Chance by Morris Gleitzman
  • Our Australian Girl: Lina at the Games (Book 3) by Sally Rippin and Lucia Masciullo
  • Do You Dare? Bushranger’s Boys 1841 by Alison Lloyd

Recommended Non Fiction (Fact) texts for age group

  • Websites
  • Newspaper articles
  • Encyclopaedias (online)
  • Dictionary

Parent tips

  • Have a copy of a chapter book for yourself and your child (Borrow copies from the library) Read one chapter. (Take turns at reading paragraphs or read the chapter in your heads) At the end of the chapter have a discussion about what was read. Ask some questions to your child starting with the word “Why”
  • If a particular theme or issue comes up in a text, discuss with your child and then do something proactive about it. (Eg Refugees - Donate clothing or money to an organisation that helps refugees in Australia). Be as creative as you can.
  • Help your child highlight the important information from a website about a topic. Discuss why some facts are important and others are there to give more information about the topic.

The best gift you can give your child is a variety of experiences. It is wonderful to read about different aspects of our world, but for a child to experience these things first hand is remarkable. This will help them build their own connections and will help them to bring their own experiences into their reading. Share your love of reading with your child. Show them how we can be taken into another world with a story or learn some fascinating facts with a non fiction text.

I have really enjoyed writing this series of blogs about “How to read with your child”. I hope it has given you a lot of insight into the skill of reading and possible ideas to do with your child.

My next series will be about “Mathematics and young children” My first blog will be about the stages of counting. I am sure this will interest a lot of people.

Keep liking and sharing. I am so thankful for all your support.

Until next time ……

Kelly Pisani

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How to read to your young child - Reading Strategies

Teaching children about reading strategies is equipping them with tools to solve reading problems. Using reading strategies effectively will help children become confident, fluent and expressive readers who develop a love of reading.

children readingWelcome to my second blog in the series “How to read to your young child” This blog outlines the strategies (or tools) that children need, to decode (work out) words that they are unsure about while reading. All these strategies need to be developed to enable the child to become an efficient reader.

In my experience, most parents tend to focus on one or two strategies to help their child work out a word. These are usually “Sound it out” or just tell the child what the word is straight away. Unfortunately neither one is helpful to the child!!

Why we never say “Sound it out” to a child

“Sound it out” was a familiar statement used by many teachers and parents in the 70’s, 80’s and even 90’s. It requires the child to look at each letter in a word and say the corresponding sound. The English language is a complicated one. There are many spelling rules that we follow; however, there are many exceptions to these rules. It is a phonetically irregular language that doesn’t always follow the expected pattern.

Consider the word ‘rough’ - How would a child sound this word out? If they did, it would sound completely different to what the word really is. Then there is the other problem of letter patterns changing their sound from word to word. If you think of the ‘sound chunk’ ough; does it have the same sound in the following words; thought, dough, through, drought?

“Sounding it out” really confuses beginning readers and struggling readers. It is not a successful strategy in working out unknown words.

Why we do not tell the child the word straight away

Usually if a child cannot “sound an unknown word out” the parent resorts to telling them the word. This really limits a child’s ability and offers them no alternatives to problem solve the word for themselves. What happens if you were not there? Would the child have any idea as to how they could work out the word?

Now let’s look at the reading strategies that will benefit your child. I like to think of these as tools for your child’s reading toolbox. Each tool has a different purpose and when used correctly can help a child solve an unknown word successfully.

Strategy Number 1: Look at the picture

Encourage your child to look at the picture to help them work out what the text might be. In simple books, the texts match the pictures exactly. As the books get more complex, the pictures still relate to the text but they do not always show everything that is written in the text.

blue sheep

Text relating very strongly to the picture – excerpt taken from “Where is the Green Sheep” by Mem Fox




This is one of the first strategies that your child should become an expert at. Many parents tell me that they cover the picture when their child reads so the child doesn’t “cheat” by looking at the picture. Looking at the picture is a very efficient problem solving strategy for beginning readers. If a child is reading and gets stuck on a word, tell them to look at the picture carefully and try reading the sentence again.

Tip for parents: Do a picture walk through the book with the child before reading the text. This means you talk about each picture with your child and you may focus your child on a particular aspect of the picture that will come up in the text. This will emphasise to your child the importance of pictures in a book.

Strategy Number 2: Get your mouth ready

This strategy is another great one for beginning readers. Using this strategy with the strategy of looking at the pictures will help your child think of a word that makes sense in the sentence. Getting your child to make the initial sound with their mouth will help the word “pop” out if they are reading in a smooth reading voice.

For example if the sentence is “A sheep lives on a farm” and your child is stuck on the word ‘farm’, encourage them to make the first sound of the word (f) with their mouth and it may just come out if they are listening to what they are reading. If they have stopped reading, give them the instruction to get their mouth in position to make the first sound and then tell them to have another go at the sentence and this time try not to stop.

Tip for parents: Encourage your child to read like they talk. A lot of children resort to a “robot type” reading which stops the child from understanding what they are reading as it is very disjointed. You want them to read, like they are talking so when they come to a word they don’t know and they get their mouth ready to make the first sound, it will usually just come out.

Strategy Number 3: Does it make sense?

The main goal of reading is for the child to comprehend (understand) what he/she is reading. They constantly need to be reminded that if they read something that doesn’t sound right, that they need to have another go at reading it. Parents can help with this by asking them if what they read made sense. By the parent repeating what the child said , they will be able to hear that what they said does not make sense. This is a strategy that develops over time as their reading ability improves.

Tip for parents: Record your child reading on your phone, iPad or any other recording device. Let your child watch it and ask them to comment on what they did well and what they could do better. Children love watching themselves and this can be a powerful tool to teach them how important it is to listen to how they read while they read.

Strategy Number 4: Sound chunks

This is a strategy used to help the child look at the entire word to see if they can use any prior knowledge they have about the sounds that letters make together or prefixes (letters added to the beginning of a word e.g. un, dis, in) or suffixes (letters added to the end of words e.g. ed, ing, less) Parents can help the child locate these in an unknown word.

Parents tip: Always try to get the child to come up with the word by asking the right questions. This will lead them to ask their own questions to themselves while reading if this is a common practice that you do with them. For example “Do you notice anything at the end of the word? ”

Strategy Number 5 : Little words in a big word

A lot of words in our language are made up of smaller words. Children can look for known words in a larger word to help them work out the entire word. Using this strategy with the “Does it make sense” strategy can help your child  work out a word.

Parents Tip: The child needs to have a good knowledge of sight words (words that are rote learnt by sight) to be efficient at this strategy. Practice sight words often with your child and encourage them to find them in texts that they are reading. Examples of sight words are; I, am, in, on, look, like, here, there, is, it,

Above all, reading needs to be enjoyable. If you find that your child is struggling on every second or third word, the book is too hard for them. We want children to be challenged but also experience a sense of accomplishment. Too often I hear about the arguments family’s experience to get their child to want to read each night (or day). Give your children time to develop their reading. Pushing harder books onto them too early will do more damage than good.

When a child finishes reading a book make sure you praise them for using some strategies to work out unknown words. Flick back to the page or pages that they worked out a word on and show them what they did again. Emphasis how proud you are of them that they are working out words independently.

If your child has tried to work out the word by using different strategies and they were unsuccessful, the parent can say the word and ask the child to reread that sentence.

Thank you for taking the time to read my second blog from the series “How to read to your young child”. I will be finishing off this series next week with my blog “What to read with your young child”

If you liked this blog and found it informative and useful please share it with your friends and family. I look forward to hearing any thoughts or comments that you have.

Until next time …….

Kelly Pisani

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How to read with your young child - Print concepts

Reading a book with your little one is a time honoured tradition that many households continue today. Sharing a book can open your child’s mind to imaginative worlds or help them discover facts about something in our world. 

readingAs a primary school teacher, I am often asked many questions about the best strategies to use when listening to a child read or about what aspects to focus on when reading to a child. There is a lot of information about learning to read so I thought I would break it up into three blogs in a series titled “How to read with your young child”. This is the first blog of the series focusing on Print concepts.

In order for children to read they need to know how a book works. This is what teachers call “Print Concepts”. Most children are expected to know about some of these concepts prior to starting school, while others are developed through Kindergarten and Year 1. In NSW schools, children are tested on their knowledge of Print Concepts at the beginning of Kindergarten, end of Kindergarten, Year 1 and at any other point for “at risk” readers (children not meeting benchmarks). It is important for parents to have a good understanding about Print Concepts in order to help develop their child’s understanding of them. Most parents refer to print concepts while reading to their child without even realising it.

For children aged 2 to 7 years old it is important to articulate the print concepts every time you read to your child. Talking about how a book works, engages your child in a conversation with you, which will help deepen their understanding of reading.

Below is a list of the print concepts that children should understand in the early phases of learning to read.

1. Can locate the front of the book

This is a fairly simple one but children only become confident with this if they have lots and lots of experiences with books. They need to watch you locate the front as well as pointing it out to you while they are handling the book.

Ideas to try for this concept

  • Hand the child the book in different ways and see if they can turn the book into the right position ready to read
  • Ask the child to point to the front of the book, the back of the book and the spine of the book
  • Ask the child where the name of the book is (title)
  • Ask the child what does an author do and what an illustrator does. See if they can locate the names on the front cover, if not, show them
  • Ask the child to open the book to where the story begins

2. Knows the difference between a picture and words

This is another basic concept that needs to be known before a child can learn to read. They need to understand the idea of the print carrying the message and the picture supporting the print.

Ideas to try for this concept

  • Ask the child to point to the picture and describe what is happening in the picture
  • Point out interesting parts of the picture that is written about in the print
  • Focus the child’s attention on the words and explain that we read the words on a page
  • Ask the child where they (or a parent) would start reading from (as long as they point to any text, they understand this concept)

3. The direction of reading

Children who have had a lot of exposure to books would already understand that the text is what is being read. The next concept would be to understand where we start reading from and which direction we read in.

Ideas to try for this concept

  • A parent points out which page they would read first (left, then right) A parent could ask the child this question before they start reading. eg Can you point to the page that I read first
  • If there is more than one block of text on the page, a parent could ask the child what words do I read first? (top then bottom)
  • The parent points out what word they read first and use their finger to show the direction that they will be reading on the first line (child can copy by running their finger under the first line of text from left to right)
  • The parent points out what happens when they finish reading the first line (sweep around to the start of the next line) Again the child can copy with their finger showing the return sweep.
  • Ask the child what happens when you have read both pages (turn the page and start with the left page again)

4. The difference between a letter and a word

Many parents are overjoyed when their child can read a word from a flash card or read a word written by itself on a piece of paper or on a whiteboard. This is a big achievement but what is even better, is if they can point out this word in context (within a sentence or story). Reading is a complicated skill and children rely on adults to be clear about literacy to help them develop their own meaning. We need to guide them in understanding that letters make sounds and putting letters together make words and putting words together make sentences. This is a concept that takes a while to understand.

Ideas to try for this concept

  • A parent points out a letter in a word. They ask questions like: Do you know what the name of this letter is? Do you know what sound this letter makes?
  • A parent points out a word in a sentence. They ask questions like: How many words are in this sentence? How many words are on this page?
  • Child points to the first word, last word, a word starting with a particular letter
  • Give the child two cards and ask them to use them as curtains that open (pull cards apart from each other) and close (put the cards next to each other) to show a letter in a word and a word in a sentence.

5. One to One Correspondence

Children need to learn that each word on the page represents each word that is read. The child needs to be able to point to each word when the corresponding word is read by their parent or themselves.

Ideas to try for this concept

  • Get the child to point with their index finger under each word that is read
  • Get the child to use a pointer or pencil under each word that is read

6. Understanding of simple punctuation

Children need to see that there are other aspects of text that help the reader to read. The use of punctuation helps the reader, read fluently and with expression

Ideas to try for this concept

  • A parent can point to the full stop and tell the child why we use full stops (to indicate the end of a sentence)
  • A parent can point to a question mark and tell the child why we use a question mark. (to indicate a question has been asked)
  • A parent can point to a exclamation mark and tell the child why we use an exclamation mark ( to emphasise something)
  • A parent can point to speech marks/quotation marks and tell the child why use speech marks (to indicate a character is talking)

The main focus of teaching your child to read is having lots and lots of conversation about it. Not only are you reading the text but also teaching your child how a book works.

I hope you have found this first blog in the series “How to read with your young child” useful and informative. The next blog will be about Strategies to help your child work out an unknown word while reading.

Thank you for taking the time to read my first blog. I look forward to hearing any thoughts or comments that you have.

Until next time …….

Kelly Pisani

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