Ruth Miskin training programmes have the core purpose to teach every child to read, and to keep them inspired enough to continue. This is the first of a two-part series of articles that aim to provide practical tips on how you can help your child to read at home. 

When I first started teaching, my job as a reception class teacher was to get every child reading. Hearing children read was what I did most of the day. I only considered myself successful if my children became ‘free readers.’

ruth's class

In spite of my passion and commitment, for the first 17 years of teaching, I failed three children every year ”” in different schools, different catchment areas and using a wide range of different approaches. Ian, Ann and Matthew were the first of my litany of failures.

If every infant teacher was like me, committed to turning children into ‘free readers,’ we failed over 60,000 children every year in England alone. But not every teacher was like me. When I moved to Tower Hamlets in 1994, I discovered that there were many more than three children in each class who couldn’t read. My secretary, who had recently worked in a local secondary school, said that she helped many 15 year-olds read the application forms for their GCSE options every year.

Fortunately for the children in my brand new Tower Hamlets school I worked out what it really took to get them all to read and write. I made a promise to their parents that we wouldn’t fail a single child. And I kept it.

I hope that someone else has helped Ian, Ann and Matthew learn to read because reading matters. As Michael Morpurgo says, “Reading is the one ability, that once set in motion, has the ability to feed itself, grow exponentially and provide a basis from which possibilities are limitless.”

Put simply, children who choose to read a lot at home do well at school. They read in two days what Ian, Ann and Matthew probably read in a year. It’s the ‘once set in motion’ part of the quote that’s the most critical: only the child who can read does read. The child who reads has access to new words, new worlds and new ideas. They acquire an extensive vocabulary, appreciate diverse English spelling, and can choose the best word to use in their writing. And, they gain new knowledge every day for themselves. Good readers learn more: the more they know, the easier it is for them to learn.

Given the pull on children’s time from TV, ipads and computers we need to be better at storytelling than we’ve ever been before. Don’t beg children to read a story with you – show them that storytime is absolutely the best time of day and a total treat – for both of you!

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Choose books carefully together – books that reflect what your children are interested in or what is happening in the world around them. Talk about the stories you’ve read, pretend to be the characters and show them that stories exist in our everyday world – grow their imaginations by looking for fairies in the garden and bears in woods.

Schools have a part to play too. The new national curriculum, published in 2015, requires schools to use synthetic phonics to teach their children to read: research shows that this approach is the quickest and safest method for ensuring that all children learn to read.

My programme, Read Write Inc. Phonics, developed in my years as a headteacher, is the market leader and used in over a quarter of the UK’s primary schools. You can be sure that if all of the school’s teachers and teaching assistants are trained and receive on-going support from my consultants that they can promise rapid progress for every child. Find out more at or watch this short promotional film:

If you want to teach your child to read, follow my 5 easy steps in the next article, next week on My Baba.

By Ruth Miskin


About The Author

Phonics Consultant

Ruth Miskin is one of the UK's leading authorities on teaching children to read. She has many years experience as a head teacher, teacher trainer and consultant in phonics and literacy, working with primary and secondary schools throughout the UK. Her time as a headteacher in Tower Hamlets convinced her that when headteachers put reading at the heart of their schools they change everything. Their children learn to read quickly, get the reading habit early, learn to love reading and are successful at school. These heads ensure that every teacher becomes an expert in the teaching of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Ruth's programmes provide high-quality innovative resources and, even more importantly, provide the training necessary for every teacher and teaching assistant to teach literacy effectively and enthusiastically. Read Write Inc. Phonics has now been adopted in around 5,000 schools across the UK and worldwide. Oxford University Press published her comprehensive Literacy and Language programme for 6-11 year olds in May 2013. Ruth has been an adviser to the Government on many aspects of literacy teaching since 1997, from the early stages of the National Literacy Strategy to the Rose Review into the teaching of reading, the National Curriculum Review Committee and Lord Bew's SATs Review Committee. Ruth was awarded an OBE for services to Education in 2011. Her work has been featured both by Newsnight on BBC1 and Dispatches on Channel 4.

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