How to help your child at home with Reading and Writing

This guide helps parents and carers understand how children progress in English at each National Curriculum level. Also included are ideas for what you can do with your child to support the development of their speaking and listening, reading and writing at home and help them make progress.

At all levels, learning English is about learning to use language to express, explore and communicate our thoughts ideas and feelings with others. We do this through speaking, listening, reading and writing and getting better at English means making progress in each of these areas.

Children do not usually make progress at the same rate in speaking, listening, reading and writing. In their early years, for example, most children are better speakers and listeners than readers and writers. This is important as early skills with spoken language underpin the development of reading and writing. However, speaking, listening, reading and writing are closely interrelated. So, for example, effective speakers and writers take account of their listeners and readers because they are hoping to interest or influence them. Talking to your child is crucial in helping children to make progress in all aspects of English. Questioning, prompting, responding (whether the focus is on reading, writing, speaking or listening) are all important in helping your child to build on what they can already do.

Here are a number of suggestions as to how you can help your child to make further progress at whatever level they are working.

They all rely on talking with your child in a relaxed, informal way and making their language learning part of everyday life.

What does your child need to help them make progress?

Speaking and listening

Ensure that:

– They have plenty of opportunities for talk.

– You listen to them with attention, and respond.

– They hear and listen to sustained talk by others.

Encourage them to speak at length, by:

– Helping them take a long turn in a conversation.

– Prompting them to help them keep going.

– Asking them to tell you about some event in detail or explain to you how

something works.

Help them understand how speakers help listeners, by:

– Using repetition and different voices for different characters when

telling a story.

– Encouraging them to think about how to organise what they want to say.

– Changing their pace.

Encourage them to notice and talk about:

– Interesting/unusual words.

– Some of the different ways people speak.


Ensure they have:

– Access to books, magazines and newspapers from home, school and library.

– Somewhere quiet to read.

– Time to read regularly.

– Opportunity to see you as a reader – reading, choosing books, going to the library, talking about what you read.

Read to them and take turns with them in reading a section each of the text, supporting and prompting their reading in positive ways.

Talk with them about the books they read:

– Their favourite part or character and your favourite part.

– How the illustrations support the story.

– Their favourite author.

– What makes a book different from (or similar to) others they have read.

Talk about the meaning of what they have read. Ask them, for example, to explain:

– How they know that X is the villain or Y the heroine.

– Why they like or dislike a particular character.

– What will happen next?

– A character’s actions or motives.


Ensure they have:

– Opportunities to write at home.

– Pencils, pens, crayons, but also card or folded paper to make booklets.

– Opportunities to see you as a writer, for example, writing emails or lists.

Read and talk about their writing:

– Ask them to read their writing aloud to you.

– Respond to the writing and praise what you like.

– Ask them to explain why they wrote the particular sections they did.

Help them with planning their writing:

– Ask them to talk through their ideas with you before they write.

– Prompt them to include more detail, sequence clearly and vary the pace.

Help them to think about the person who will read their writing:

– Do they want the reader to like the main character?

– Should they include some clues about the ending?

– Does the writing build up to a climax?


What you can do at home to help your child make progress

Speaking and listening

Talk with them about their ideas for example: when painting or modelling, ask them to retell simple stories in their own words. 

Encourage their play in different roles listen together to stories on CDs, radio or television.

Encourage them to develop their ideas by taking longer turns, adding detail and thinking about how ideas connect play listening and guessing games where they have to listen and ask questions, for example, ‘I spy’, ‘20 questions’


Read books together, reading a section in turn, and talk about:

– What happened?

– How do the pictures support the story?

– Which parts did they like best?

Encourage them to choose books independently.

Encourage them to decode unfamiliar words independently, but prompt them if they lose the gist of what they’re reading.

Engage with what they read by asking them to:

– Predict what will happen next in a story

– Describe their response when they know what does happen

– Explain why a character behaves as they do

– Point to particular parts of a text that they like

– Talk about what a text suggests or implies.

Encourage them to read a range of texts, for example, fiction and information books, comics and poems.


Encourage writing in play and what they do, for example, lists for shopping, record the results for their favourite sports team engage with their writing through:

– Saying what you liked in it

– Asking where their ideas have come from

– Asking them to show you where a sentence begins and ends help them to organise and sequence their writing by asking them to talk about their ideas or to draw a sequence of simple pictures to show how the main events in a story might be organised.

Talk with them about how they might improve or rephrase sections, for example, by including more descriptive detail or using connectives (such as ‘and’, ‘but’) to combine sentences.