Sharing books and stories

Reading with your child is a great way to bond with them, but will also have a huge impact on their learning and development. We explore how you can make the most of sharing a wide range of books and stories with your child.

Take a look at PACEY President Penny Tassoni’s top 5 story telling tips:

Sharing books and stories with children helps their learning, development, language and communication. Reading to your child every day gives them the best start to life. Reading books or telling stories is a time when you can be together. Children learn so much from sharing books with adults. Not only are they learning vital skills for later reading and writing, but sharing books also helps with talking, listening, and communication skills, as well as encouraging imagination, curiosity, and arousing emotions.  

Sharing a book will not only give your child the opportunity to hear words spoken, either through poetry and rhyme, story or non-fiction, but it will encourage communication as you talk about what’s happening in the book.

Books offer a structure that can be helpful when talking about particular situations or emotions with your child, for example, jealousy of a new sibling, or difficulties with friendships. You can make particular books available that will help a child make sense of a situation such as moving house or starting school. 

Stories do not need to come from a book.  Children enjoy listening to you make up stories. They can be about anything, for example, things you did as child or things your child did when they were a baby.

What does this mean for me?

Making books available to children, sharing them, telling stories and talking with children from birth is fundamental to the early years frameworks in both England and Wales. So if your child is with a childminder or in nursery you can be sure that they'll have access to a wide range of books. But extending this activity at home and reading with your child is important, too. There are some tips and hints that might help you read with your child.

  • Babies and young children love listening to the sound of your voice so don’t be embarrassed about reading to them. Be brave and experiment with different voices and accents when reading stories.
  • Stories can provide you with a structure to help you talk aloud to your child and overcome any inhibitions you may have.
  • Little and often is best - try not to read for too long as children have short attention spans.
  • There is lots of support available for parents who struggle with their literacy skills, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

What can I do to support my child?

It’s never too early to share books with children! Give your baby access to books on journeys, in prams and throughout the day. Let them choose which book they’d like to explore, show them how to hold it the right way up and to turn the pages, and importantly, talk about what’s in the book, what they can see and feel.

Have books in your home where possible. You can borrow books from the library or a Children's Centre. Your childcare provider may also be happy to let you bring books home from the setting - particularly if it helps to extend the activities they've been doing together.

Spend time together reading books and telling stories. Try to do this somewhere quiet and remember turn off the TV, radio mobile phone and other devices so you are not distracted. Stories can be shared at any time of the day and anywhere, for example, on a bench in the park or on the bus. Sit so that you are comfortable and ensure children can see the book clearly. Use funny voices, props and music to bring the story alive.

Encourage children to choose the book or story. This helps them feel valued and important. Point to the pictures and talk about them. Talk about the words, emotions aroused, situations and characters, and introduce children to "book language" for example, front cover, back cover, title, author, illustrations.  

Give children time to enjoy the book and time to think and respond to your questions. Give children your full attention as you talk with them by using direct eye contact to show that you are really listening. Make books for your child with pictures of family members, pets, special friends and special occasions such as birthdays or holidays that they can recognise and talk about.

Children who cannot yet write will love seeing their words as a book if you write down the stories and words they tell you. They will also take pride in illustrating their own books, "reading" their story to you, and listening while you read the story they created.

Visit your local library, many offer regular story sessions that you can join in with.

You may also like to make story sacks for your favourite books. A story sack is a large cloth bag with a children’s book and other supporting materials inside. Your child will love the surprise element of what’s coming out of the bag next. You could include a cd or dvd of the story, related non-fiction books, models and objects from the story, activities or games related to the story.

Share books with your child that they may bring home from their setting.

Have fun and enjoy the book and spending time together.

Additional resources and further reading

Booktrust has a website dedicated to children’s books, including recommended book lists and information and resources for National Children’s Book Week

World Book Day  - is a registered charity celebrating books and reading. It has videos of top tips and people reading stories, resources to download, book recommendations and much more.

National Literacy Trust  - free resources to download, storytelling videos and much more.

Talk to Your Baby is a campaign run by the National Literacy Trust to encourage parents and carers to talk more to children from birth to 3.

Bookstart is a national scheme that delivers free books to young children and offers information on choosing books. - free books to download and make

Storytelling tips from author Neil Griffiths  - make your own storybook on line –ideas for making books

Legislation and frameworks - how this complements what your child is learning in registered childcare

Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage

The Foundation Phase – Framework for Children’s Learning for 3 to 7‐year‐olds in Wales