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Literacy in EYFS

Instagram: @eyfs_inspiring_environments

Twitter: @SalehaPatel22

My name is Saleha Patel, I am currently a Nursery Lead and Early Childhood Studies graduate. I have been working within the EYFS sector for 8 years. I enjoy sharing my passion and ideas for our nurturing pioneers (The Early Years) of the future. My focus in this post will be around ‘Literacy’ within the Early Years – this consists of Reading, Writing and Phonics in the hope of helping trainee teachers and NQTs.


Reading alongside writing, makes up one of the four specific areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Through Nursery to Reception the focus is allowing children to become confident and competent readers. The Early Learning Goal for Reading suggests - ‘Children read and understand simple sentences. They use phonic knowledge to decode regular words and read them aloud accurately.’ Prior to achieving this there are many ways to develop the skills children need to read and explore how to instil the love for reading.

Reading is the stem of strong oral language skills and literacy development. Children learn to love the sound of language before they even notice the existence of printed words on a page. Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. The benefits of children being read to at an early age is; the children have greater general knowledge, expand their vocabulary, become more fluent readers and have improved attention spans and better concentration with time.

Reading in the classroom environment and promoting reading for pleasure:

  • Prior to starting the day, allow children to choose their story for the day. Showcase two books and pebbles, stones or cubes personalised with their name and encourage them to choose what story they would like to listen to at home time or snack time.

  • Begin by encouraging children to develop their inference skills using picture books to decode and create their own stories. This is a great way to improve children’s confidence with reading and will eventually develop their love for reading.

  • Provide a range of opportunities by having different areas to read in within the environment and outside. This could be a cosy indoor area, outdoor den, tent, library, camp fire/during forest school.

  • Provide a range of media for the children to read: non-fiction, fiction, catalogues, leaflets, magazines, comics, newspapers.

  • Encourage reading at home and get parents on board. This works well by providing workshops, morning reading sessions with the child and parent, book sales.

  • Send books home weekly from the school/EYFS library and encourage parents to read with them at home, this can also be done with guided reading books.

  • Parents within EYFS love bringing cake and chocolates to share with their friends when it’s their children’s birthdays, why not encourage them to bring in a book from home, the teachers can sign the book and they can keep this as a memory! The most perfect gift to receive from Santa during Christmas in school is definitely a book!

  • Have relevant books placed within the classroom and the different areas. For example, a book about crafts and colours in the paint/creative area.

  • Read themed books throughout the year, e.g. Halloween, Autumn, Christmas, Bonfire Night.


Phonics and Reading are heavily interlinked, and the impact affects both areas and the skills children need to achieve this. Within EYFS you must ensure you have a secure, systematic, synthetic phonics programme taught from the beginning of Reception. It is important to create opportunities to read and reread books that match the phonics stage taught.

However, prior to this, in Nursery the focus is on Phase 1, Letters and Sounds. This means developing children’s listening and attention skills, rhyming words and oral blending and segmenting. A critical part of supporting early reading skills is to improve children’s language and communication skills through creating a language-rich environment.

Developing Phonics:


During early childhood, teachers are laying the foundation for generative knowledge as children learn to express themselves orally and experiment with different forms of written communication; such as composing a story, writing notes, creating lists, and taking messages. The approach to writing in the early years is very different and interlinks with all the characteristics of effective learning.

Before writing the children need to enhance their gross motor skills – this forms the basis for fine motor skills that helps children make small movements. The focus on fine motor skills is also part of children’s physical development, it encourages children to grasp the tripod grip.

Mark making is a crucial part before writing, children need to be able to draw different patterns in order to form letters. Sand, glitter, oats, powder, paint and shaving foam are some ideas of what you can use to mark make in.

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