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Developing a love of books and reading in the Early Years

A few weeks ago, I delivered a training day on developing early reading skills. It was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to share their ideas and there was such a love of reading at the heart of the day that it really made me think about the texts that we use with the youngest children in our schools. Consequently, I thought that I would write a blog to explore some of the books that I have been using lately to stimulate language acquisition, teach early reading skills and inspire pupils to see themselves as readers.

Developing the reading environment:
As a consultant, I visit some amazing schools and am lucky enough to witness wonderful practice, both inside and outside the classroom. It’s such a joy when I experience high quality learning environments where books are celebrated and enjoyed in every area:

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@Higher Openshaw Primary, Manchester      @The Friars, Salford

I love the way this topic box, that is attached to the wall, takes the theme of shoes and shares both The Elves and the Shoemaker and Cinderella with their foundation pupils. Texts, artefacts and characters are explored to enhance their understanding of the stories.

Texts within small world displays enable pupils to visit texts and use finger puppets to retell stories and create new versions:

3@Whitefield Infants, Nelson


@Higher Openshaw, Manchester

I love this simple idea of having a Book Basket that shows pupils brand new books that they might enjoy and want to share with each other.

5@Whitefield Infants – Nelson


Quality texts are an intrinsic part of the provision, inside and outside the classroom.

Many of the schools that I support have created invited reading areas and sheds so that children will experience reading outside the classroom, as well as inside it:

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@laurs26                                  @The Friars


Great books for stimulating talk and extending language:
There are now so many amazing texts to extend pupils’ language that it is difficult to pick just a few. I use the following texts with the visualizer on the interactive whiteboard for large group or whole class talk, laminated for individual and small group talk and of course have the book in the provision so pupils can really enjoy them with the staff and other pupils.

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You Choose –Sharratt &  Goodheart 

This is probably my favourite book for encouraging high quality talk. I use it all the time to really stimulate and extend pupil’s language as it is full of images that will support language acquisition and spark pupil’s imagination. Pages on buildings, hats, food, animals, transport will engage them and link to many of the EYFS topics. Maddy Barnes has blogged about it already, so if you want more ideas look at her blog on this website.

I have also used the You Choose colouring book to support pupils to follow instructions or to play barrier games in reception:

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14Home by Carson Ellis
This is packed full of different sorts of houses. I love the first page where it shows the same house but uses language to show how it would be different if it was clean or messy, tall or short. It is wonderful for discussion and helps pupils think about where different sorts of people would live. Great to link up with pages from You Choose.





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I can’t wait to see the brand-new book You Choose in space – Sharratt & Goodheart in September 2017. It will be taking the layout of You Choose but transporting it to the topic of space! Guess what topic I’ll be doing in the autumn!

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There are some old and some new texts that help children explore the world they live in:

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Richard Scarry’s written a number of books with intricate pictures capturing a world of worms, foxes, rabbits and cats!  Pupils will have so much to look at and talk about. I’ve used them to help generate story telling too! There is even a tv series where they are animated!


I have just discovered this series of books by Olivier Tallec, including Who Done it?, that are wonderful for getting young children to give their reasons for their opinion. Each page asks a question and the reader has to work out which character is the answer:

 Texts that pupils will love for generating story-telling:


The Story Path is an interactive book can be used with individuals, small groups or the whole class to help create brand new stories. It could be supplemented with puppets, characters and objects to help make the story more tangible.

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Here comes Mr Postmouse by Marianne Dubac is part of a series of books that I’m using with reception to underpin their story-telling. There are so many things to look at within each picture and the story can follow a simple linear route or pages could be used in isolation for children to create their own ideas and link to small world provision or construction.

27Journey by Aaron Becker is a magical story about what happens when I child draws a door with her red crayon and then opens it to find a world of adventure. We drew large doors to travel through and then used our imagination, and rolls of lining paper, to capture the different journeys we could travel on. We also used big pieces of material to bring the setting to life!



Early reading skills, as well as story-telling, can really be enhanced by using texts like The Great Fairy Tale Search by Chuck Welon. Pupils can be shown how to use skimming and scanning skills to find the key parts of the stories, as well as use the intricate images to retell known stories or be introduced to new ones!

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Texts to support topics!

High quality texts, linked to engaging topics, can help pupils see the importance of reading to bring learning to life:

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Book shelves and display tables have then be used imaginatively to help pupils see how the books can be explored with them depth:

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Both images @Whitefield Infants, Nelson

There are so many gorgeous texts about bears that pupils will love. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen is a well-loved classic that every EYFS child should experience. However, there are a number of others that will become favourites too and I particularly like those studying pandas!  

These texts about Mr Panda by Steve Anthony have real humour whilst also exploring how important it is to be polite and patient, especially where food is involved! Their simple repetitive structure make them very accessible and also introduce foundation pupils to different sentence types!

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38Children will love this story about what happens when Stanley the zookeeper can’t find Fred in the zoo, as they have to search the pages to see where he is hiding. Reading will become a really interactive activity whilst also embedding early reading skills.






Information books could also really broaden pupils experience of the reading process:





All of these texts could then be used on the working wall in the classroom to capture the learning taking place:


Using high quality texts:

I am really fond of this text, as when it was first published there was nothing quite like it. It was a real favourite of mine for a number of years,  however, when I used it on my recent training lots of teachers hadn’t heard of it, so I thought that I would share it in this blog and show some of the different ways it has been used in the schools where I support learning.

It is a simple journey story about a birthday present that turns out to be a naughty bus! This toy has its own idea about how he should behave and loves rushing around the house and garden creating havoc!


The photographic nature of the book make it so believable, but I also absolutely love the simplicity of the text that is actually very clever, as it plays with typography to give an extra layer of meaning within the text. There is so much to talk about!


  • I love the way the doorway into EYFS welcomes people in by exploring the text before you’ve even entered the classroom:


 @Whitefield Infants

  • Introduce the text and use props to bring the text to life – discuss the story it tells, the way the images tell the story and the way the text works.
  • After reading the text use Aiden Chamber’s focus by asking them which part they liked or disliked and whether they saw any simple patterns. You could ask them if they were puzzled by any parts.
  • Map the journey of naughty bus:


  • Explore individual pages and how the text works on that page:


  • In pairs, give children pictures from the book and ask them to discuss in detail what they can see in the pictures and then share with the whole class. Why is the picture like it is? (blurred, close up, just bus etc)
  • Around the environment set up areas that relate to the book, e.g. bricks, cars, play food, water tray plus other things that are not in the book to encourage children to play and go beyond the story. Annotate photographs of this with comments from the pupils

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  • As an outcome of play produce a physical map of their story (guided activity). A possible framework might be that there has to be 4 different settings and one must be outside. Pupils can be encouraged to annotate their plans:

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  • Give pupils cameras, if the school has them, and teach them how to take photos of the new ‘pages’ they have created as the Naughty Bus visits the new settings. Pupils could also use dicta-phones or recordable ‘tin-lids’ to capture their oral ideas about what happens in this setting. These could be displayed with the photos to share with the rest of the class.
  • Wrap up a toy for each group and give it to them to use in the play settings around the room to help them think about a new story.
  • Scan some of the images of contrasting or interesting settings and place into the map of the journey. Discuss how the setting directly influences the actions of the bus. Start to introduce particular settings into role play and small world play to stimulate thinking about how they might affect the character’s behaviour and what their toy does in those settings.

Pupils could respond to the text in a variety of written way:


Pupils could practise their pencil control

  • Label the different characters and places within the story:


  • Create a large class book retelling the whole story using the pupil’s photographs to tell the story;
  • The story can also be retold in much more detail, learning using Talk for Writing techniques, to really challenge the pupils:


  • Through drama explore what all the different characters will say when the Naughty Bus zooms past them. Then produce speech or thought bubbles showing how the characters felt when this happened:


  • Pupils could write about where each character would like to go on the bus:


  • Produce lists of all the places that the Naughty Bus wants to travel around the school or the area;
  • Create a special bus tickets showing this journey;
  • Write a new diary of the Naughty Bus visiting the school/local area/going on holiday;
  • Produce an information booklet about buses
  • Write a sequel to the story, either about the bus or about a new character such as the cheeky taxi or the silly tractor. What does happen at night?


  • Ask children to bring in similar toys, books, characters, videos to make a display.

 Other texts to link with The Naughty Bus:
A simple text about the exploits of a bus in London.







The theme of buses can be explored through this vivid information text that shows the children the variety of buses that can be found. They could then create their own buses through drawings, paintings and construction.






59Imaginative buses could also be explored.

This story simply grows and grows as more and more interesting people want to travel on the bus. It begins with the man with the big red tie who gets on at the roundabout and the noisy children who jump on at Clover Drive, but ends up packed with new and exciting people. The giant fold-out ending will lead to lots of chatter about who all these characters are and why they are travelling on the bus!






My final book choice is a wonderfully quirky text all about a pigeon who is desperate to drive a bus, but the bus driver asks us, the readers, not to let him! This is great book for sharing with the whole class and getting them to join in as we try to stop him!  It reinforces how wonderful reading really is!


You can order all of the above books from the Book Centre or online at

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