The Ladybird early years reading timeline: how to support your child

Author, educationalist, producer and consultant Laura Henry-Allain MBE has written a comprehensive timeline on how to best support your child on their reading journey.

Please note that the below is a guide and every child develops differently in terms of their age, stage and ability. If you are concerned about your child’s development and learning, please speak to your doctor or health visitor.

Reading books with children is beneficial to their all-round development and learning as well as offering quality bonding time. Introducing books to your child from a young age helps them to develop life-long positive reading behaviours. Why not make reading books part of your daily routine? Enjoying this together on a regular basis will have a lasting impact and is the start of establishing a lifelong love of reading for your child.

Below you can download a PDF version of the timeline to follow and refer back to on your child's reading journey.

0-3 months

What do you notice about your child?

Babies love it when you smile and talk to them when they are being fed and changed. They have started to respond and recognise your smile. They know when you are talking to them as they have become familiar with your voice.

How can you support them?

Make eye contact with them when you are singing songs and nursery rhymes. It helps if these are sometimes the same songs as this supports them as they learn to recognise musical patterns. If there is a library nearby, register your child so that they have library books at home to enjoy.  

Books for 0-3 months

3-6 months

What do you notice about your child?

They are beginning to move their body more. They can turn their head when they hear you speak and when they hear different sounds, such as a telephone ringing, a song on the radio or a dog barking. They can hold objects in their hand, and they are starting to pass the objects between their hands.

How can you support them?

Start to introduce a range of fabric, bath and board books, which develop their sensory development. Black and white books will be more engaging for your child at this age, as their vision is still developing so high-contrast images will stand out to them. Talk about what you can see in these books, for example, cat, hat, cup. Let them respond when you are sharing what is in the book: they will use pre-speech tongue and lip movements, which is their version of talking.

Books for 3-6 months

6-12 months

What do you notice about your child?

They have started to sit up, although there are times when they may need support. They can hold books with a tight grip and may put them in their mouth as they explore with their senses, especially their sense of taste. Babies love looking at the pictures in books.

How can you support them?

Books that are full of colourful drawings, and short, easy-to-read books are their favourites. They will love a book that you have made that includes photographs of their favourite grown-ups, food and special things that they do and see. This will help them to make connections with these special things and support their memory development.

Books for 6-12 months

1 year +

What do you notice about your child?

They might crawl or walk to a book that they see and pick it up. They have started to say their first words; they may say 'mum' and 'dad'. They copy sounds and words, especially if they have heard them several times, such as ‘banana’ and ‘hair’.

How can you support them?

They love it when you use funny voices when you read books to them. They love books that have flaps that they can lift, which supports their independence. If you ask them where something is in a book, such as a bike, they may point towards the bike if you have read the book to them a few times.

Books for 1 year +

2 years +

What do you notice about your child?

They are beginning to copy words that are used on a regular basis, such as ‘finished’ and ‘Good morning’. They have a few favourite books and they enjoy saying the last word in a nursery rhyme; when you sing The Wheels on the Bus, they will finish with ‘long’!

How can you support them?

When you are out and about, have a few books on hand for them to read; for instance, they will love it when you read to them in the park. This reinforces that books can be read in different places. Adding props, such as soft toys or real objects when you are reading will bring the story alive and enhance it. When reading a book that they know, let them join in with the words. At this stage, reading is a great way to start introducing topics such as potty training.

Books for 2 years +

3 years +

What do you notice about your child?

They know that the print in books has meaning. They can pick up a book by themselves, turn the pages and be interested in the print and pictures. They are likely to have a favourite book, which they love to carry around with them and they may ask you to read this book several times. There will be favourite characters and favourite things that they enjoy in this book.

How can you support them?

Provide them with a range of fiction and non-fiction books, so that if they are interested in trains or flowers, for example, they will be able to see these things in the stories in the fiction books and learn more about them in the non-fiction books. Books can help support your child with any feelings that they may have on topics such as bereavement or going to the dentist.

Books for 3 years +

4 – 5 years

What do you notice about your child?

They are beginning to read words and easy sentences, especially from books that they know. They still enjoy it when they can cuddle up to you when you read their favourite books. They adore books that are funny, and you will notice that they laugh out loud at these books.

How can you support them?

Continue to share a diverse range of books with them, especially books that have positive images of different people and their communities, for example, differences in ability, religion, culture, race and gender. After they have read a book, encourage them to make marks, draw or write about the book. This will help your child to build on what they have learnt in the book. When you are out and about, remind them to take a book with them so they can read, for example on a bus journey. Ask them if they want to make a mark, draw or write their own story and invite them to share their story with you.

Books for 4 5 years

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