How to provide excellent opportunities for early reading


25th January 2023

How to provide excellent opportunities for early reading

‘The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.’ Dr Seuss

Reading influences every aspect of our daily lives. With our reading confidence determined at an early age, effectively teaching this key skill to EYFS children can significantly impact their future. The question for primary teachers is, how do you enable each child in your class to become a confident reader? In this blog, EYFS expert Gill Quantrell explores how to provide excellent opportunities for early reading.

How to provide excellent opportunities for early reading

The importance of reading 

It is universally recognised that children who read for enjoyment develop a rich vocabulary and have increased general knowledge and understanding of other cultures. Being a competent reader also supports children in accessing learning across the whole curriculum. The Reading Agency researched the benefits of reading. They found ‘that reading for pleasure can promote better health and wellbeing, aids in building social connections and relationships with others and is associated with a range of factors that help increase the chances of social mobility.’

The DfE and Ofsted both highlight the importance of early reading. The DfE document The Reading Framework: Teaching the foundations of Literacy gives guidance on the teaching of early reading and is aligned with the expectations in the national curriculum, the EYFS statutory framework and Ofsted’s inspection framework. The new Ofsted strategy 2022-27 reinforces this and states, ‘A good early education, particularly in reading, sets the foundation for later success.’

Research shows that regularly reading to children plays a crucial part in their learning to read. In her book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, Maryanne Wolf explores how emerging pre-readers learn essential pre-literacy skills when sharing stories with adults. Reading quality stories to children not only introduces them to a wide range of vocabulary but supports their communication and language skills. The natural conversations that arise when sharing books also develop children’s understanding and comprehension skills and can foster a love of reading later in life.

What does this look like in practice?

Every EYFS class is unique, and there is no one right way of teaching reading. Getting this right for you, your children, and your school can be a big challenge. Whatever your approach to early years teaching, phonics and reading need a high priority to embed a culture where books, vocabulary and reading take top priority. In Reception, short, focused, daily phonics sessions are crucial in developing these reading skills, but supporting children to become independent readers who love reading is undoubtedly our goal.

Making the most of story time

It is essential to make story time a special part of the day and show that you value this experience. Carefully select stories you would like the children to listen to throughout the year and ensure they provide opportunities for the children to associate with the characters or offer new perspectives on life. Take time throughout the day to build excitement and anticipation around storytime so that children are eager to listen. You could display the storytime book somewhere prominent or provide choices of books for children to vote on.

Children love to listen to stories multiple times, so you can use this to your advantage. Once the children are familiar with a story, subsequent readings can allow time to explore vocabulary, join in with the story and develop comprehension. After sharing the story, ensure the children have access to the book so they can read and retell the story independently.

Other ideas for promoting reading

Here are some practical ideas to consider:

  • Base learning and activities around stories and non-fiction books, for example, stories such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Jasper’s Beanstalk by Nick Butterworth can be shared before planting seeds and watching them grow. The children can compare their experiences with those of the story characters. The stories Handa’s Hen and Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Brown can be used to support learning in maths.
  • Have baskets of books around the classroom linked to the children’s interests or the topics you are teaching.
  • Make small, cosy spaces for children to read alone, with friends or with adults.
  • Provide puppets and soft toys for the children to read to as they retell stories.
  • Carefully select books to read to the class to ensure they have an excellent ‘reading diet’ over the year. Including various stories, non-fiction books, poems and rhymes, and check that the books provide children the opportunity to relate to the characters and storylines as well as introduce them to new experiences.
  • Use a variety of questioning techniques to develop children’s comprehension skills. For example, ask children questions about the books they read or that you share, clarify what different words mean, summarise what they have heard or read and predict what might happen.
  • Put together story sacks for the children to use in their play. They could include the book and some small-world toys to act out the story.
  • Make storytimes special. Demonstrate how much you love reading.
  • Make time for children with additional needs or gaps in their vocabulary to listen to the story in a small group or one-to-one first.
  • Have a voting station for the storytime book so that children can choose the book they want to share.
  • Instead of bringing in sweets to share with the class on their birthday, the children could donate a book for their class. You could add a special sticker to the book to show it is from them. If they are unable to bring a book from home, you could have a selection they can choose from.
  • Consider setting up a story exchange for parents.

In summary

Reading needs to be highly valued in the early years to ensure that children can foster a love of books at an early age. A strong synthetic and systematic phonics programme is essential to teach the mechanics of reading in Reception. However, it is crucial that staff and parents understand the early stages of reading development so they can make story time a priority. When children are given regular opportunities to share their stories with adults at school and home, their language, communication and comprehension skills can naturally develop and bolster their phonics learning. The practical ideas in this blog are designed to help you weave these opportunities into your daily planning and build a connection between home and school so that everyone can be, quite literally, on the same page.

For the Maestro user

As part of your EYFS offer, Maestro provides:

  • A broad range of EYFS curriculum projects built around quality stories and non-fiction books
  • Story packs for each project
  • A carefully selected mix of stories from traditional tales, old favourites and modern stories linked throughout curriculum projects
  • Suggestions on how to create exciting reading areas for your provision
  • Enhanced provision ideas to encourage children to share books and make up their own stories
  • Resources to help create story sacks
  • Advice for practitioners on how to develop children’s comprehension when sharing stories

Check out our new story packs!

This collection of stories provides opportunities for children to associate with the characters or help them understand the lives, experiences and perspectives of others. Each story pack follows a structure so children can hear the story multiple times and build their understanding as they listen. We aim to provide children with a bank of quality stories they love so they can revisit and retell them independently. The story packs are fully resourced and provide teacher information to guide practitioners through each stage.

Developing a language-rich environment to support early years
  • Expert advice
  • Tailored to you
  • At a time to suit you

Helping schools to transform the lives of children through powerful curriculum and meaningful assessment

Book a demo
Request A demo with our staff

Enter your details to download

    Download your file below

    You can download your file by clicking the button below.

    Download file
    Reviews Book a Demo Reviews

    We are in a much better place with CM than with our old curriculum. We will be making it more bespoke in the second year.

    Conrad Fox – Headteacher, Hunmanby Primary School, England


    I have used Cornerstones from its first launch. The product has been refined over time as it is driven by feedback from schools and teachers delivering the content. The company is also responsive to a school's needs.

    Lindsey Wain – Deputy headteacher, Hartburn Primary School, England


    Maestro is a real time saver, particularly for leadership teams and subject leaders. There is a wealth of information and resources which can be used and adapted by creative skills teachers. The way the curriculum is mapped is excellent and was commented on in a very recent Ofsted inspection.

    Charlotte Gibbins – Thurlstone Primary School, England


    I have recommended and told many other schools and school staff about it. I would always though suggest that they need to ensure it is right for their school setting and the needs of their staff and pupils.

    Kathryn – Teacher, Langton Primary School


    It has been a revelation. Staff are finding their way through it and if we have any questions, the support from Cornerstones is amazing. We always get answers to our questions. It is now our one-stop-shop for curriculum with linked up thinking and approach through an intuitive and user-friendly system.

    Moira Cross – Executive head, Dordon Primary School