Last reviewed 25 October 2019

Understanding why the parents in your setting do or do not read with their children is crucial to enhance shared reading opportunities within your local context. In some cases, parents may not see the value in reading, especially if community literacy levels and aspirations are low. Where children live in poverty access to books is unlikely to be a priority for families.

Parents may simply have low reading confidence levels or cannot read English. Parents may also be ‘too busy’ to read with their children. Asking parents to give you honest feedback about how often, when and who reads to their child, may help you to tailor your provision towards children’s unique needs. Asking staff the same question can be helpful to ascertain staff confidence levels and training needs.

Strategies to encourage parent/child reading

  • Enabling book loans to the home – you can buy book resources in charity shops to keep costs down and ensure every child has access to books at home

  • Borrow lots and lots of different books from local libraries

  • Ask for book donations to your setting from the local community

  • Invite librarians and story-tellers to read in your setting

  • Providing a time and space for children to share books with their parents in your provision, for example, in a ‘Book Nook’

  • Signpost parents to audio book resources and early language resources

  • Asking parents to take part in being the ‘mystery reader’ for small groups of children and invite them in to share a book/article/poem that interests the parent

  • Send home a nursery rhyme or song to learn on a regular basis

  • Promote mini-library book swaps for both the children and adults

  • Highlight the importance of reading non-fiction with an inspirational display

  • Ask for book donations to your setting from the local community

  • Keep making reading in all its forms fun for the children

  • Model reading and oral story-telling to small groups of parents or work alongside them and their child individually to boost confidence

  • Ask parents to send in pictures of their child reading/looking at a book somewhere in their local community, such as the park or doctor’s waiting room. You might want to make a community map display and be sure to include every child in the display with local outings to read in different spaces and places.

  • Share a few key statistics about the impact of reading well on children’s outcomes for life

  • Hold parent workshops on the value of dialogic reading, where discussion takes place about books to extend vocabulary, language and comprehension

  • Working with local adult literacy centres to promote reading skills with parents


In order to promote reading with parents you are likely to benefit from a multi-pronged approach which not only boosts their confidence, enhances access to resources but also helps you understand your community’s unique reading challenges and solutions. Keep it fun!