donate button
facebook social media icon twitter social media icon instagram social media icon

Tips for Parents

Thanks to our friends at the Ministry of Education for giving us some great ideas to help Duffy parents and Duffy kids with reading.

You can visit the parent's section of the Ministry of Education website for more great ideas about how parents can get involved in their children's learning. 

Ministry of Education Logo


When your child is ready to start school, it's important for parents and caregivers to feel comfortable with what happens in the classroom. You will have probably visited the school and may have asked questions about what to expect. Teachers are able to identify and build on the literacy skills that your children bring to school.


Your child's teacher will work to build a positive relationship between school and home, to help the children in their care increase their literacy. They will recognise and value cultural diversity. Teachers of children starting school will create an environment that reflects the cultures of the children in the class. They will show parents how they can help their children. There is a widespread belief that children begin the journey of learning to read when they start school. In reality, the building blocks for successfully starting the classroom part of this journey have been laid in the years before school. These building blocks are formed from the unique language and literacy experiences of each child. This includes the many situations a child may be involved in where language is used - eg, family events, shopping trips, playtime with friends, family and whānau members.


The experiences and learning styles of the children in new entrant classrooms are usually very diverse.
Some children may start school already able to read; some may have strong oral language, speaking and literacy backgrounds but little experience with books. Some may have learned English as a second language. The experiences that individual learners bring with them to the classroom affect the nature of their personal journey to reading and writing. The experiences that help them most are those where oral and written language is used in a positive way - eg, talking about what is happening around them or reading together about similar experiences.


Reading with children in the early years encourages a positive attitude to books and reading and provides an opportunity for children to think of themselves as successful readers. Children who have had years of sharing books (especially favourites over and over again) may appear to be more fluent or accurate than they actually are because they can memorise whole parts of books. You need to be aware of this when you share books brought home from school. You should ask your children lots of closed (one-word answers) and open questions (those that have many different answers) and encourage your child to talk about different parts of the story. Some books that come home from school will have instructions for the children to read the stories themselves, share the book with an adult or for an adult to read the story to the child. Check these instructions before you start!


There are lots of ideas and activities you can do at home to help your children. Here are some starters:

  • Talk often with your child - not just instructions to do things but have general conversations about their day
  • Read different books together
  • Read aloud to your child and often
  • Sing songs, waiata, say poems, or chants together
  • Talk about the pictures in a book
  • Share the joy of rhyming books - laugh together, predict what might come next
  • Listen to tapes and CDs - these are usually available from your local library or can be purchased
  • Encourage your child to retell their favourite stories - from books or from their own experiences
  • Encourage your child to make up plays and either join in or be the audience!
  • Play lots of word games - eg, Simon says...., words that rhyme
  • Make up silly poems


By the time your child starts school, they may be ready to learn to read. Teachers call children at this stage ‘emergent readers'. Not all children will be at this stage when they start school. Talk to the teacher about your child if you have any concerns. Children at this stage will develop these understandings. Over time they will: 

  • Be curious about language
  • Be persistent - eg, they will ‘read' to the end of a book, especially if you can make it fun and a game to find out what happens
  • Sit and listen to a complete story
  • Expect a text to make sense
  • Expect books and stories to amuse, delight, comfort and excite
  • Enjoy hearing and using new language
  • Show pleasure in the rhythm and rhyme of language
  • Enjoy playing at reading and writing
  • Be willing to work at reading and writing
  • Want to read and see themselves as a reader
  • Like listening to stories, rhymes and poems
  • Enjoy re-reading books or listening to stories over and over again
  • Know that language can be recorded and revisited
  • Understand that the text, as well as the illustrations, tells the story
  • Know that print in books and in their own writing holds meaning
  • Recognise book language and sometimes use this in speech, retellings, writing or play
  • Be aware that there is a difference between fiction (imaginary) and non-fiction (real) texts


These children will be developing some concepts about print eg,

  • What is a letter, a word, sentence or line
  • The one-to-one match of the spoken word to written word
  • Direction - left to right
  • The functions of some punctuation features, such as the full stop, capital letter, comma and exclamation mark
  • The convention that sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop
  • An emergent reader will be beginning to show these skills and behaviours. They may:
  • Finger-point to locate specific words
  • Identify some letters
  • Identify some words
  • Begin to realise that words are always spelt the same
  • Hear some sounds in words (the development of phonemic awareness)
  • Recognise and read familiar signs, symbols and labels
  • Use pictures to predict text
  • Interpret pictures
  • Retell a known story in sequence
  • Develop a memory for text (oral or written)
  • Explore new books and return to favourites
  • Choose to read independently at times
  • Enjoy creating and sharing work with others
  • Handle books confidently


Reading aloud to your child will help them get better at reading and listening. You will both enjoy the special time together.
If your child comes across a word they don't know, use the pause, prompt, praise technique:
Pause - wait a few seconds and give your child time to think. Often they will work it out by themselves.

Prompt - if they still don't know the word, try a couple of the following:

Look at the beginning of the word and discuss the letters and sound. Talk about words that would make sense in the sentence 

Look for clues in the pictures 

Ask your child to go back to the beginning of the sentence or to read on to the end of the sentence 

If your child still doesn't know the word, tell them and prompt them to read the sentence again
Praise your child for getting the word right or for trying hard.