How to Improve Your Child’s Literacy

Posted on Apr 26 2019 - 10:27am by Ella

At Parents’ Evenings, the question I am most commonly asked is: how can I improve my child’s literacy?

There is a massive focus on literacy and numeracy levels in the UK at the moment, and a vast array of evidence to suggest we, as a nation, do not fare well in comparison to other European countries in these areas so, understandably, many parents are keen to support their child’s development in these two incredibly important areas.

Childish but funny!

Childish but funny!

I meet loads of parents regularly who feel their own literacy levels are inadequate and who, consequently, feel embarrassed and unable to offer support to their child in this area. I’ve put this article together to offer advice to parents looking for ways to help improve their child’s literacy levels regardless of their own reading and writing abilities. This advice is all purely from the point of view of one English teacher; it may work for you, it may not, but if you’re looking for ideas, some suggestions below may prove useful.

1. Check your child’s workbook

Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for or at, and you don’t understand what the hell they’ve been doing in science or French, the simple act of asking your child to show you their exercise books on a regular basis will let them know you care about their education, and may give them an extra nudge to give their best efforts.

Sample of a child's work marked for literacy errors.

Sample of a child’s work marked for literacy errors.

In our school there is a massive focus on correcting pupils’ literacy mistakes in all subjects, be it English, science or history etcetera. This means every child’s books should contain corrections to their spelling, use of capital letters, punctuation and expression. If you look at their work across the range of subjects, you should be able to see what spellings they’ve got wrong, and whether they are struggling to remember capital letters or apostrophes, etcetera.

If you can identify what mistakes they are making, you can ask them about it. If you know yourself the rules for using apostrophes, for example, you can go through this with your child. If you don’t, you can put pressure on your child to speak to their English teacher about it to ensure they have a sound understanding of the rules.

2. Get them reading

One of my colleagues has teenage sons and she says she gets them to read things aloud to her from the newspaper by pretending she’s left her glasses upstairs. Sneaky, but it works.

There is no substitute for reading regularly when it comes to improving your literacy. Reading improves spelling, understanding of sentence structure, widens vocabulary etcetera. Getting your child to read is a massive thing.


I have written an article on my blog recommending a range of books for high school kids, but there are a few more I want to add here.
For boys, the Cherub series by Robert Muchamore has proved hugely popular in my classes. Also, lads seem to love Ripley’s Believe It Or Not books and the Guinness Book of Records – it doesn’t matter that they’re factual and not fiction! The Horrible Histories are popular, as are David Walliams’ stories.

3. Weekly Spellings

If you can access their exercise books on a weekly basis (even just some of their subject books would be useful), you can make a list of the words they’ve misspelt and set them a spelling test, giving them time to learn the correct spellings before quizzing them.

You could make this into a regular game, and award prizes for full marks.

4. Online games and resources

There are endless literacy worksheets and games online to support the development of children’s literacy levels. Google ‘capital letter worksheets’ and you get about 167,000 results!
The only thing you might need to know is which Key Stage your child is in as the worksheets will have different levels of difficulty. Key Stage 1 is reception class and years 1 and 2; Key Stage 2 is years 3-6; Key Stage 3 is years 7-9; Key Stage 4 is years 10 and 11.

Most worksheets focusing on basic literacy skills will be in the KS2 and 3 categories.


A screenshot of the Free Rice game.

As well as worksheets, there are tonnes of literacy games online, and many I use in class. One of my favourites is This is a multiple-choice game designed to improve children’s range of vocabulary – I say children, but the better you do, the harder the game gets, so it’s definitely great for adults too! For correct answers, you donate a handful of rice to a developing country; 10 correct answers is a bowl.

Another great one the kids in school love is apostrophe penalty shootout (Google these words and choose the first option).


A sample question on the penalty shootout.


If you get a question right, you can take a penalty.

If you get a question right, you can take a penalty.

5. Get them to write regularly for you

Your child may well know the rules for using capital letters but I find in school, even if kids can tell me when to use them when I question them on it directly, they forget them regularly when they have to complete a sustained. The only way to fix this is to get kids into the habit of checking their own writing and taking their time with it, and the only way to do this is to get them to practise writing as much as possible.

Set them creative tasks regularly, for example, write a paragraph on what you will do with your pocket money this week, or, your favourite things about Facebook. Try to choose topics they will engage with and, you never know, you may learn some interesting things about your kids!

If you have more than one child, you could turn it into a competition, for example, write a paragraph on why you deserve £2 extra pocket money this week, or why your brother/sister should do the washing up. Tell them you’re judging on their use of capital letters/apostrophes/vocabulary choices etcetera.