EYFS Reading FAQ

Learning how to read in the EYFS

What is the EYFS?

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is the statutory framework that sets the standards that all Early Years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It promotes teaching and learning to ensure children are ready for school and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life. The revised, simpler framework for the EYFS was published on 27 March 2012, and started being implemented in early years settings and schools from September 2012.

Click here to download the EYFS framework information for parents (pdf).

What is phonics? Is there more than one way to teach phonics?

Phonics is a way of teaching children to learn to read quickly and skillfully. Phonics instruction essentially teaches children the 40 + sounds that individual letters (e.g. s, a, t, p, i) and combinations of individual letters make (ch, ck, sh, or). As children learn the phonemes/sounds (there are approximately 44 of them), they also learn how to blend these sounds together to make/read words.

Although phonic schemes do vary a little (e.g. they may vary slightly in the order of the sounds taught), but generally they all teach children the same thing – they teach the letter sounds (phonemes), how to blend phonemes to make words and high frequency words.

Click here to download Information for parents – Phonics by the DfES.

What schemes do schools use to teach phonics?

The government has recommended that schools use a good synthetic phonics approach to teach children to read. Although there are quite a few commercially available phonic schemes, such as Jolly Phonics, Read Write Inc (Ruth Miskin), which some schools have opted to use – many schools use ‘Letters and Sounds’, the DfES published scheme in 2007.

What is Letters and Sounds? 

Letters and Sounds is the name of the government published phonics programme (Department for Education and Skills in 2007). The resource teaches reading by developing children’s phonic knowledge and skills. The detailed and systematic programme starts at age three (early years foundation stage), and has the aim of children becoming fluent readers by age seven (end of Key Stage 1). There are 6 phases.

Click here to download Letters and Sounds – Phonic information for parents and carers with children in Reception

Click here to go to the Letters and Sounds Website

Can I teach my child to read before my child starts school?

Yes, although this is very much up to you and the extent to which  your child is ready and motivated to learn how to read. Some children are ready to learn before Reception, and some are not. The main reasons for this are that there is a huge range of ability with children. Plus in the early years, age differences between the oldest and youngest in the class, also makes a difference. For example, a September born child is almost a whole year older than an August born child – yet both children are in the same class. September born children are often able to do more, simply because they are older.

How do I know my child is ready for the Nursery Reading pack?

Although this pack is targeted at the nursery aged child (age 3-4), some able children can access this pack earlier and very much enjoy using the materials. You will know your child best, so be guided by your knowledge of how they play, interact and have learned so far. Remember if you do happen to buy the pack early and you find your child is not interested, keep it and try again when he/she is a little older – it won’t be wasted!

How do I know when my child is ready for the Reception Phonics Pack?

Although this pack is targeted at the Reception aged child (age 4-5), and this is when the majority of children will use it, some able children can access this pack earlier and are able to respond enthusiastically to phonics instruction. Be guided by your child. You could also try using the reading readiness checklist (link below) to help you decide.

Click here to download the phonics readiness assessment

How much time does a parent need to invest in supporting children to learn to read using the Home School Connect packs?

Nursery Aged Child (age 3-4)

Sound Discrimination and Alphabet familiarisation work might be worked upon for short 5-10 minute periods (maybe twice a week or more depending upon parental time). Little and often is best.

Although not supplied within the packs, picture books should be read aloud to children every day if possible (bedtime is a good time for this).

Click here to view some recommended picture books for the EYFS age range.

Reception Aged Child (age 4-5)

At least twice a week for approximately 15 minutes to:

  • Teach letter sounds/phonemes
  • Make/read words using sounds
  • Teach approx 5 high frequency words a week

Although not supplied in the pack, picture books should be read aloud to children every day if possible (bedtime is a good time for this).

It is also ideal for children to read a levelled reading scheme book every day, matched to your child’s reading level (typically at this age children start with wordless books, then move onto reading stage 1/1+. Towards the end of Reception, children functioning at age appropriate levels are usually on stage 2 or 3. It is advisable however, to be aware that there is some variation in the different schemes. This is therefore a somewhat crude indicator.

Click here to find out more about helping your child to read aloud, reading scheme books, book bands etc.

If you feel you need more reading scheme books than your child’s school can supply in a week (usually 5-7 scheme books a week is logistically difficult for any school to supply),  find out more about renting reading scheme books for a monthly fee at www.readingchest.co.uk. In Reception, children can make rapid reading progress at home from combining phonics learning with reading one scheme book a day or something close to that frequency. Parents can receive £5 off their first months Readingchest subscription fee by quoting HSC at the time of joining.

Are there any benefits in my child learning to read as soon as they are ready?

Yes. If your child can read, this is likely to give your child high self-esteem and confidence to learn in school. All children like to be good at things. Secondly, reading opens up the rest of the curriculum for your child. If your child can read, they are likely to access and enjoy the other curriculum subjects.

The ability to read will help your child to learn how to write. This is because your child is already familiar with the alphabet and how letter sounds/phonemes blend to make words.

If my child can read before starting school, won’t my child be bored in Reception?

No. Schools have a duty to teach children of all ability levels. There will be some children that start reception at higher levels of reading and others that are still learning to discriminate between sounds. The class teacher will make sure that work is set to your child’s ability – they will do this in literacy and all other subjects too. This planning and setting of work according to the child’s ability is called ‘differentiation’.

Finally, your child will spend most of the day experiencing a broad and balanced curriculum. Reading is just one element of literacy (there is also speaking & listening and writing) and in school, literacy usually happens once a day for 1 hour. Reading is also one area amongst many covered by the EYFS curriculum.

When do schools start teaching my child to read?

In nursery, children learn to discriminate between sounds, gain some alphabet awareness and begin to hear how sounds blend to make up words . This is mostly done orally and the emphasis is on speaking and listening.

In Reception, the more formal aspects of learning to read are introduced. The synthetic phonics method is used to teach children the 40+ sounds/phonemes and they are taught how to make/read words by blending the sounds. In addition, children will start to learn the 100 high frequency words.

Schools will also focus on meaning and understanding text. This is achieved through guided reading (a small group of 4-6 children read a book together with the teacher and discuss the text) and shared reading (the teacher models the reading of a text to the whole class and then pupils discuss the text together as a class).

What are the main activities children could engage in at home to learn how to read?

HSC recommends that parents engage in five key activities at home to help children learn how to read. Children need to do the following in conjunction with another:

  1. Experience lots of picture books being read aloud to them (mirrors shared reading in schools).
  2. Learn the 44 sounds/phonemes
  3. Learn to blend the sounds to make/read words
  4. Learn the high frequency words
  5. Read a levelled reading scheme book, matched to their current reading stage/book band (e.g. Oxford Reading Tree).

The HSC Reception Phonics pack shows parents the simple step by step approach of  how to engage in these 5 types of reading activities to teach/reinforce reading at home.

What are reading scheme books? Why should my child read these?

Reading schemes are graded/levelled reading books that schools usually supply to children at the early stages of learning to read. The books start off from stage/book band 1 and go right upto bookband 16 (which according to Oxford Reading Tree for example, would be expected at the end of year 6, age 10/11).

Reading scheme books are very different from picture books you can buy in shops or borrow from the library. The books are carefully written at each level so that children can learn to read gradually and are not put off by having to read books that are too hard. Familiar characters and exciting themes are used to engage young readers. Some of the more recent schemes include words that correspond to the phonics phases children learn at school. This means that books include words that focus on particular letter sounds/phonemes and also the high frequency words associated with a phonics phase, such as in Letters and Sounds. Each new stage or book band within a reading scheme therefore introduces a new set of sounds and practises the skills and knowledge learned in previous levels. One scheme that corresponds to the Letters and Sounds phases is Floppy’s Phonics.

Should my child also read other books (non-reading scheme books) when learning to read?

Yes. It may be trickier to find books that match your child’s exact reading level, but if your child shows an interest in reading ‘real books’ (as they are often termed), then encourage this. You may find your child shows a greater interest in reading non-scheme picture books once they have reached stage 3/yellow book band.

How do I select the right books to read aloud to my child?

Click here to view HSC recommended picture book titles for the EYFS years

Isn’t it the schools responsibility to teach my child to read?

Yes. However with your support, your child will make faster reading progress. A few children are already readers before they start Reception, largely due to parental input.

I’m not a teacher, how can I help my child learn to read when I don’t know how or what to do?

Use this website to find out about how your child learns to read in school. The packs come with a comprehensive guide that explains everything simply right from the beginning so that a parent does not need specialist knowledge to help their child learn to read at home. Watch the online videos to make things even clearer. Once you know how, its simple!

How can I help my child to understand what he/she is reading and also what I read out to him/her?

When sharing a book with your child try asking the following questions and be sure to discuss the book with your child:

What do you think the book is going to be about?

What does the title of the book or picture on the cover tell us about the story inside?

Who wrote the book and who drew the pictures/illustrations?

Ask what certain words mean (inside the book)

Ask why questions such as why did a particular thing happen? Why did the character act in that way or feel the way they did?

At the end of the book, ask your child what they liked or disliked about the book. Talk about any common theme/s or significant factors.

The HSC EYFS reading guide has further (more detailed) guidance on developing listening comprehension in children aged 3-5.