It doesn’t always matter what you read together – it’s all about inspiring your child to be confident and comfortable reading, so they learn to love it too.
Start by thinking about what kind of reading the book is for. Has your child brought it home from school so they can practise their reading and build fluency? Is it a book they find easy to read that will help them to build their confidence? Or is it a book for you to read to your child for pleasure?
What should I read to my child, what should they be reading, and when?
With hundreds of books in your local library, school or bookshop, it can be hard to know where to start when you’re picking something for your child to read. Don’t forget that us grown-ups like to re-read our favourite books and relax with magazines as well as tackle something more challenging. Children are exactly the same, so encourage them to make their own choices – maybe a familiar book as well as something new. Don’t look disappointed if your child goes back to their favourite books.
If you’re stuck for something to capture your child’s imagination, have a word with their teacher or ask a librarian which books they recommend.
Get some ideas
Puffin made a list of its best ever children's books, with lots of fantastic options for kids of different ages.
Waterstones has pulled together a list of the top 50 books for children of primary school age. They’re all classics, so it’s a great place to get started.
How do I choose books at the right level for my child?
Be guided by your son or daughter’s teacher, especially when they’re little. Most schools have some kind of system, sometimes colour-coded, that they use to grade how difficult a book might be. This is particularly important when children are still learning phonics.
As a rule of thumb, your child should be able to read a book with about 95% accuracy if they want to read it to themselves. Less than that, and they're probably missing or misreading too many words to make sense of the story.
Introduce the 'rule of five' to older children. Ask them to read the first page or two of a new book and raise a finger for every word they can’t read. If they get to five fingers, that book’s too hard for them and they should choose another one. Don’t encourage them to guess words if they can’t read them.
We asked top children’s writers what they like to read to their own families, and a few old favourites cropped up:
We enjoyed the Dogger and Alfie series by Shirley Hughes, the wonderful illustrations of John Burningham or classic picture books from Janet and Allan Ahlberg such as Each Peach Pear Plum. As my kids got older I particularly liked reading rhythmic, rhyming texts and two of my favourites were Mr Magnolia by Quentin Blake, and In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak – great to read aloud!
Tony Bradman, author of Dilly the Dinosaur
I read lots of Julia Donaldson's and Axel Scheffler's books: The Smartest Giant in Town, Tiddler, Tabby McTat – great to join in with and something in every spread for inquisitive eyes to spot.
Christopher Edge, author of the Dead Ways series