Being able to recognise their own name and the letters of the alphabet is the first step in your child learning to read. Here are some really simple ways you can help your children to start to read.

Name and letter recognition - 1

Finding and making letters and numbers, and fun games with them.

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1. Use card to make flash cards with the letters of your child’s name. You could draw the letters, use thick wool to form the letters or cut them out of shiny paper or wrapping paper. Make another set of cards with pictures that begin with the same letters. Look for things around the home or when you’re out at the park.

2. Find the letters in your child’s name - using a catalogue, newspaper or junk mail search for the first letter in your child’s name. Circle the letters with a crayon or cut them out and stick them onto card or paper. When your child can easily recognise the first letter from their name, make the game more challenging by asking them to find other letters, or even words.

3. Playdough letters – roll playdough into long ‘sausages’ and form into letters.

4. Pipe cleaners can also be used to form letters.

5. Blow football - write your family’s names, including your child’s, on separate pieces of card. Each piece of card can be a ‘goal’. Using straws and screwed up pieces of paper for a football, play blow football by blowing the ‘football’ and trying to find and land on their own ‘goal’. This game can easily be made more challenging. For example: Make a “goal” for each letter of your child’s name by writing just one letter from their name on each goal. Your child can then blow the football on to each letter of his name and collect that goal when they name the sound of that letter.

Name and letter recognition - 2

Snap, I Spy, and other fun games with letters and numbers.

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1. Make a simple word search game. Use different colours for the letters of your child’s name to make it easy to spot the first time round. As they get better at spotting their name, you could try adding other simple words or writing their name in a different direction. You can produce your own or there are templates available on the internet

2. I Spy. Make a pretend magnifying glass. Save some cellophane from a card or bunch of flowers. Cut out two magnifying glass shapes from card and use the cellophane to make the glass part sandwiched between the cards.

If you have a younger child, ask them to find something blue, red, green etc. Move on to ask your child to spy something that begins with a certain letter, especially if they are familiar with the first letter of their name.

Try to use the sounds the letters make, e.g. rather than something beginning with an M - use the phonetic sound - “mmm” for Mummy.

3. Play ‘name snap’. Make a set of ‘snap cards’ by writing the names of your child, family and friends on a set of cards. Ensure that there are at least half of the cards with your child’s own name written so that they have several opportunities to recognise and ‘snap’ their own name. Shuffle the cards and deal them out to each player. Keep the cards face down in front of each player. Each player (on their turn) turns over the top card from their face-down pile and places it face-up next to their own pile of cards.

You and your child can say the name on the card. Continue to do this in turn, when someone turns over a card that matches the card on top of another player’s face up pile, the players race to be the first to say “snap!” The player who says “snap!” first wins both piles and adds them to the bottom of their face down pile. The player with the most cards, after a time limit, wins the game.

Making books - 1

What kind of book shall we make?  Making simple books is a very effective way of encouraging children to want to read and write. Children love books that are personal to them. Making books can be used to support all areas of school readiness. Home-made books can be cheap and easy to make.

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1. Zig-zag book. Fold the paper or card concertina style. Any size of paper or card can be used.

2. Simple paper or card book. Using A4 paper or card, take two or more sheets and fold in half. Staple or sew the sheets together.

3. Shaped book. Fold a piece of A4 card, draw the desired outline shape (e.g. car, spider’s web, sandcastle) on one half and cut it out. Fold at least two sheets of A4 paper in half and place inside the shaped card. Staple or sew together. Trace the outline of the shaped card onto the sheets of A4 paper and then cut out the A4 paper so that the inside pages of the book are the same shape as the outside cover. This book can be based around your child’s interest.

4. Books with “lift up flaps”
Make a simple paper or card book (as No. 2 example above).
Cut and stick, or draw, a picture into the book. To make the lift up flap cut out a piece of card that is a bit bigger than the picture you want to cover. Fold down a strip about 1cm wide along one of the edges and glue this to the page to make a flap that covers the picture.

5. Photograph book. Use a slip-in photo album to make a book with a photograph on one side and text on the other.

Making books - 2

What shall we put in the book? Making books is a very effective way of encouraging children to want to read and write. Children love books that are personal to them. Making books can be used to support all areas of school readiness. Home-made books can be cheap and easy to make.

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1. ‘All about me’ You can include:
- Name and age – your child’s birthday
- Your family – photos or drawings
- A picture of your child - photo and / or drawing
- Your pets
- Things your child likes to do best.
- Your child’s special things

2. Helping your child manage their feelings. For example:
- I’m happy when...“Daddy reads me a story” I’m cross when...“Lily takes my digger”
- I’m sad when... “Mummy goes to work” I laugh at...“Peppa Pig”

3. Routines
- Make a personalised book about your child’s own morning, mealtime or bedtime routine.

- Read a book about bedtime routines, for example, ‘Goodnight Moon’. Use the style of the story you read with your child to make your child’s own book about their own bedtime routine and where they sleep. As their first day at school approaches, you could make a book about your child’s school day routine, to get them used to what to expect.

4. Colour book
You can decide on a single colour or a different colour on each page of the book. Using a magazine, look through it together with your child and talk about the different pictures in the magazine. Let your child choose the colour pictures, cut them out and stick into the book. Encourage your child to describe the pictures and you can write their own words in the book.

5. Cookery book
This can be very simple, for example, ‘how to make a sandwich’. This can be used to support meal time routines.

6. Re-tell and illustrate a favourite story or fairy tale. Or share a story with your child and then ask them to re-tell it in their own words. Alternatively, you or your child can make your own story up about a character from the book you’ve just read These are some simple ways you can use enviromental print every day.

Environmental print

Fun ways to use the letters and numbers that are all around us in our daily lives, to help your children to learn to read. These are some simple ways you can use environmental print every day.

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1. Point out all environmental print (e.g. shop names, notices, road signs, exit, push/pull, food labels) both inside and outside the home. Talk to you child about why these words are put in these places - eg push/pull helps people know how to open the door.

2. When outside, ask your child to find the first letter of their name. This could be on street signs, shops or notices. This could progress to finding any letters in their name.

3. Play a game where your child looks out for specific logos or signs, e.g. “Can you find Spar / Post Office / Boots?”

4. On a journey, ask your child to look out for signs that they recognise and see how many they can find. For example, Shell, McDonalds, town names.

5. Take a ‘sign walk’ and talk about the print that is all around us. Take photographs of some of these signs and stick the photos onto a card. This can be used on a future walk to ‘spy’ the signs. Draw a simple map from your house to the shops or the library using the photos.

6. Play Logo Bingo. This can be made by cutting out logos, e.g. from cereal packets, tins, junk mail and sticking them onto card. Downloadable logo bingo cards are also available on the internet. You can also make snap cards by using labels and logos from tins and packets.