Hints & Tips


Looking at words and pictures and telling stories together can help your little one make leaps in their learning.

There are loads of really easy things you can do in the first few years so your child has all the speaking and listening skills they’ll need to be ready for reading later on, and you have some fun, creating imaginative stories together at the same time! Here are our top tips:

  • When talking with your child or looking at books together, help them to focus on what you are saying: Turn off the TV, the radio or the mobile. Removing distractions helps your child
  • Get down to the child’s level or bring them up to yours. This helps get their attention. Young children find it difficult to listen while they are doing something else.
  • Say their name first to help them stop and listen. Make sure your child can see your face when you are talking together. The gestures and facial expressions help give clues about what you’re saying. For example, a smile, a ‘thumbs up’.
  • It’s important to talk at the right level for your child. If your child is mainly using one word sentences, use one or two words sentences with them. An example is ‘Find shoes’ when looking at a story page with a picture of shoes.
  • If your child uses longer sentences to talk, use longer sentences with them. Ask ‘Find the man with the black hair’‘, or ‘Where is the rabbit jumping?’
  • Conversations are more than questions and answers. When you talk to your child, try to comment on what they say and do. In the park, say something like “I love going down slides”. Then wait to hear what your child says next.
  • When sharing stories together, comment on what your child shows an interest in. Repeat back to your child what you know they meant, even if they didn’t say it quite right. This helps encourage them to keep trying.
  • Children need time to plan what they are going to say. Say something to your child then wait for them to put their thoughts together before answering. Always show your child that you are listening. This shows them that you are interested and like talking with them.

Top Tips

Book Start’s top tips for sharing books with your child

Book Start gives some fun tips on the different ways to share stories with your child

Book Trust’s guide to reading with your child

Research proves that children who enjoy reading do better at school in all subjects. Reading together increases literacy skills and helps to build a strong and loving relationship with your child.

Top Tips from Talking Point to help your child learn skills for talking

The way you talk and play with your baby can make a real difference to how they develop and learn. Try a few simple ideas to make a significant contribution to your baby’s communication skills.

The Communication Trust’s tips for parents during TV time

A 10 point plan with Raa Raa the Noisy Lion for parents with preschoolers at TV time

Words for life top tips



Information on encouraging your baby to develop language skills ranging from common questions, specialist advice and engaging with play.

Oxford Owl top tips

Top tips to make sure your child gets off to a good start, gains independence and enjoys reading, including a great top tips video from ‘The Gruffalo’ author Julia Donaldson, and fab storyteller videos

Useful websites

These websites are a great place to start to get all the info you need to help get your little ones ready to read…

Ladybird: Looking for a great story to share at bedtime, or nursery rhymes to sing along with? Visit Ladybird.com to find the perfect book, get helpful advice, download free activities and enter fantastic competitions.

Bookstart: Free books for your baby and toddler, book recommendations, reading tips, activities and events. Children are never too young to start loving books.

Talking point: The first stop for information on children’s communication, containing hints and tips, resources and a progress checker.

Words for Life: Everything parents need to help their children develop vital communication and literacy skills from birth to age eleven, including development milestones, tips, downloadable resources and competitions.

Summer Reading Challenge: Sign up to the Challenge at your local library for free during the summer. Children can use the website to log books they’ve read, find new books, take part in competitions and play games. For children aged 4-11.

Find My Library: Find your local library for access to free books and more!

I CAN: Tips, activities, videos and resources for parents that are easy to find and use.

World Book Day: Packed with teaching resources, information, ideas and inspiration as well as amazing competitions, you’ll find everything here to encourage and celebrate reading for pleasure for all ages, all year round!

Check your child’s progress

Worried about your child’s progress? Want to know what the normal milestones are? Take a look at the links below.

Early language progress checker

Check on the progress of your child’s language development with this helpful checker, written by speech and language therapists and based on typical development milestones.

Quick look table from the Communication Trust

This quick guide, from the Communications Trust’s Small Talk booklet, shows the basics children should be doing at each age – what they should be saying and understanding and how they should be taking part and interacting with others.

What to expect, when?

A useful reference booklet to know what to look for in your child’s first five years and a prompt to explore new things together, developed by the Department for Education and 4Children

Taking and reading milestones from Words for Life

Select different age groups to find out milestones your baby might reach and fun ways to help them develop.

Milestones for baby-3 year olds (link: http://www.wordsforlife.org.uk/baby/milestones)

Milestones for 3-5 year olds (link: http://www.wordsforlife.org.uk/3-5/milestones)


Useful contacts

I CAN’s Local Service Finder

Find local services that help support speech and language development

Find a reading group in your area

Find the nearest Chatterbooks children’s reading group near you on The Reading Agency’s Reading Groups for Everyone website

Useful Organisations

A list of key organisations from Book Trust