Tips for helping your beginning reader

Many four year olds start to show an interest in reading. Once they have figured out that the little squiggles on the page mean something (i.e. having print awareness), their curiosity grows and they may tell you “I want to read”.  Then what? You may want to start whipping out sight word flashcards or sign your children up to reading apps like ‘Reading Eggs’. But here are three things any parent can do that will boost their child’s readiness for reading and set them up for literacy success in years to come. All three tips are based what research tells us are the foundational skills in reading, demonstrated by the Reading Rope (Scarborough, 2001).

Download or stream the audio blog
Reading Rope

1. Keep reading language rich stories

It may be tempting to find simple repetitive reader texts (e.g. “I like to play with dolls, I like to play with trains, I like to play with trucks.”) but to be a good reader, you need strong language comprehension skills. If you see the Reading Rope above, language comprehension consists of using background knowledge, vocabulary knowledge, knowledge of language structures, verbal reasoning skills and literacy knowledge.

Sharing a story book that has a strong story structure and sophisticated vocabulary provides the perfect stimulus for you and your child to have conversations (i.e. Be a RichREADER) about the book that will develop ALL of those language skills listed above.

So while your child may be able to start reading very simple texts, don’t abandon reading out aloud to them. If you are finding that picture books are too easy for them, maybe start reading simple chapter books with them.


If you are struggling to find the good picture books that will enrich your child’s language abilities, you will find we’ve done the hard work for you with our book boxes.

2. Develop phonological awareness skills

Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and identify and say the separate parts of words such as rhymes, and letter sounds. Phonological awareness has been shown in numerous studies to be one of the best predictors of initial reading progress. You will see this in the Word Recognition section of the Reading Rope as it is about knowing how sounds are put together or taken apart to make words.

Phonemic awareness is sub-skill of phonological awareness. It is the ability to identify, say and manipulate the smallest sounds in words (phonemes).

Beginning readers must understand the words are made up of individual sounds, rather than a single sound stream. For example, knowing that the word ‘string’ is made up for five sounds ‘s-t-r-i-ng’.

Children with good phonemic awareness tend to read more easily.

Here are some simple ways to develop phonological awareness:

  • Help your child to clap out the syllables in a word e.g. pancake –> pan-cake. To make it even harder, see if they can delete one syllable in the word e.g., ‘Q: Now say pancake without the pan. A: cake’
  • Tell your child about sounds in words e.g. I can hear that the word ‘ball’ has a /b/ sound at the beginning. To make it even harder, see if they can think of another word that has the /b/ sound at the beginning.
  • Ask your child to guess the word you are saying by blending sounds together e.g. ‘What is this word – “s-u-n” = sun!”

For more ideas on phonological awareness skills, check out our SoundPLAY blog post and the Five from Five website.

Every book box provides fun ways to work on phonological awareness skills in an engaging play-based SoundPLAY activity.

 3. Explore letter/sound relationships

Young readers need to know the difference between letter and sound and the correspondence that exists between the two.  For example, knowing that ‘s’ the letter name is ‘es’ but the sound it represents is /sss/. This is referring to the Decoding part on the Reading Rope.

You can point this out to your child any time you are reading, especially if they already know letter names. You could say “In this word ‘fish’ the ‘f’ represents a /fff/ sound.

Understanding the difference between letter and sound will help your child when they learn more complex letter/sound relationships e.g. the long vowel sound in ‘sour’ is represented by three letter ‘o’, u’ and ‘r’.

Your beginning readers need far more than sight words and alphabetic knowledge to be a successful reader.

Remember, our book boxes provide themed books and activities that will keep your little one interested, occupied and learning. Check out all the different boxes you can get on the Shop page.