Making time for books at home

Your child may be starting to learn to read on their own at school, but it’s still important to continue enjoying books together at home.

Mother and children reading a book


When your child begins primary school, they will be learning to read themselves, but this is still a really important time to enjoy books and story times together.

Inspiring a love of books is one of the best ways to prepare children for a lifetime of learning and enjoyment through reading. This will bring huge benefits at school and beyond.

Your child will learn their letters and sounds in school, but it’s at home where you can really inspire them to enjoy and value reading and all the benefits it brings. This is what Booktime - a free books programme - sets out to help you with.

Extra information

Booktime is the national free books programme for Reception-aged children. It provides a free book pack for every child aged 4-5 in England to share and enjoy with their family and friends. Booktime aims to promote the pleasure of books by encouraging families to have fun reading together.

Booktime is run by Booktrust (the independent charity dedicated to inspiring a lifelong love of books for all) and Pearson (a learning company). The programme is now in its sixth year and has so far distributed almost 6 million free books.

There are over 17,500 primary schools in England who take part in Booktime. If your child is in Reception this year, they will bring home a Booktime book pack in a blue book bag. Each book pack contains two books: 'Why Elephant Has A Trunk' from the Tinga Tinga Tales series (created by Claudia Lloyd) and 'Face Painting' by Monica Hughes.

'Why Elephant Has A Trunk', like other Tinga Tinga Tales stories, is based on a traditional tale from Africa. Activities for teachers and parents on the Booktime website draw on this international theme - with ideas for learning about Africa through languages and the natural world.

How to make a magic moment

Reading together builds a very special bond and makes for memories to treasure. Try these tips when you’re reading your child’s Booktime story book with them:

  • Make a special time and place to read the book together.
  • Enjoy laughing together at the funny bits.
  • Talk about what is happening in the pictures. This will help your child make sense of the story.
  • Help bring the book to life – draw pictures of your child’s favourite characters and make up new stories about them.
  • It’s great if the whole family joins in – this shows how much stories and reading matter.

How CBeebies can help

If your child is in Reception class in England, you may well recognise the characters from the story book they bring home in their Booktime bag. One of this year’s titles for children starting school is 'Why Elephant Has A Trunk' from the Tinga Tinga Tales series created by Claudia Lloyd.

Tinga Tinga Tales is shown on CBeebies, and there are books based on the animated series too. 'Why Elephant Has A Trunk' is a brilliant book to share – funny, vibrantly illustrated, with lots of animal voices for you to try and funny noises to make together.

Why not cuddle up and watch Tinga Tinga Tales on CBeebies together and have fun discovering how some of the other animals on the show came to be (e.g. Why Lion Roars or Why Monkeys Swing in Trees).

After you’ve watched an episode, try asking your child questions about what happened. Retelling a story is a great way for your child to develop their speaking, listening and memory skills. Asking open-ended questions about characters’ feelings and reactions helps your child engage with different points of view.

You can also have some fun watching clips from the show on the ‘Watch & Listen’ section of the CBeebies website.

And why not help your child make up their own stories too - using favourite characters and familiar settings from Tinga Tinga Tales to spark their imagination? You could also try drawing pictures of the animals on their new adventures.

By Emma Campbell

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Top tips

  • Variety is great. Encourage your child to read the things that interest them – such as comics, magazines, joke books, poetry or fact books. What they read can be about any topic, e.g. pets or sport.It’s great if your child sees you reading – anything from books, letters and emails to recipes, newspapers and magazines.Find the time to look at any book that comes home from school and share your child’s favourite books with them.

Expert opinion

The beauty of Booktime is that it provides every child with the opportunity to access books. Looking at the quality of the books, and looking at the pictures and the stories, I don’t think any child could not be motivated to read. The main impact of the books is that they belong to the child. The books are theirs, and that’s special to them. Anything that gives children that interest is very, very valuable.

Mr Eaton, Reception teacher

Parent's tale

My son was very pleased to have his own blue book bag and we've read through the books loads of times. They quickly became two of his favourites!

Jane, from Sheffield