Learning and Development

How we used reading to boost early talk

  • How we used reading to boost early talk

Sharing stories and rhymes can do wonders for children’s communication and language skills says Emma Davis…

Raring to read

Reading and singing are a huge part of our play and learning at Busy Bees. Knowing and understanding the link between communication and language development and reading, we wanted to have a real push on promoting the benefits of books as a way to encourage talk.

Children need to hear words in order to acquire them and use them in speech. Regularly reading stories and rhymes exposes children to language and new words, developing their understanding and vocabulary.

Our whole half-term focus on reading, singing and talking was designed to engage all children and families. Although some of the children attending Busy Bees have speech, language and communication needs, this wasn’t the driving factor.

Our approach was inclusive, designed to spark the interest of those less interested in books, plus those who regularly bring stories in to share with us.

The book fairy
As well as involving our children and families, we included the community in our learning. We acted as a ‘book fairy’, wrapping up new books and, with the children, hiding them in locations around Ledbury for others to find.

It was lovely to hear about the books being discovered and the gratitude of the children and families. This is definitely something we’ll be doing again!

Other successes were our book swap day, where all children brought in a book from home to exchange for another. We also enjoyed a bedtime story day and all came in wearing our pyjamas and shared our favourite stories.

A big feature of our focus was on BookTrust. Each year, their programmes provide 3.4 million UK children with books, resources and support to help develop a love of reading.

What better place for us to start! We have a good relationship with our local library, so when I contacted them for support, they were happy to advise and provide leaflets for families.

We also borrowed the Bookstart bear costume and throughout the half term, he made regular appearances, much to the delight of the children.

He came along to listen to stories, visited us on our bedtime story day and even presented school leavers with their Bookstart pack.

The bear became a real favourite with the children, prompting lots of questions and talk: “How did he get here?” “What did he have for breakfast?” “Does he have a mummy and a daddy?”

Rhyme time
A successful element of our focus was our involvement with the Bookstart Rhyme Challenge – all of the resources you need are available from the BookTrust website.

Children were given a rhyme sheet with a selection of 10 different rhymes, including ‘A Sailor Went to Sea’ and ‘Polly Put the Kettle On’. These were taken home to practise ready for a performance on the last day of term.

In small groups, children performed the rhymes in front of family members who had fully supported the challenge at home.

It was a fantastic end to a brilliant focus. We all felt that children, families and us as practitioners, had learned something, whether it was the importance of reading to promote talk, a new favourite book to read aloud or how collaborating with parents can lead to amazing outcomes.

Take it further

Reviews board
When parents read a book their child particularly enjoys, ask them to write a short review.

Guest readers
Invite visitors in to read; a new face can often generate interest at story time! We’ve had librarians, PCSOs, teachers and grandparents.

Out and about
Visit a local bookshop – some of them hold storytime events for preschoolers.

Emma Davis is manager at Busy Bees Ledbury. Follow her on Twitter at @EmmaDee77.