Look at the Birds of the Air - both side




We've been really blessed with English. Our eldest happened to have a real thirst to read and ended up reading the original Alice in Wonderland independently in the week running up to her 4th birthday. She then took it upon herself to read to her siblings. Now, the littlest brings her books.

I'm a believer in starting English skills early, basically from birth, because they absorb so much without us having a clue. I also think a lot can be learnt from osmosis if a child reads a huge quantity of literature.

So here's our family English curriculum!

  1. Listen, interact, speak and converse all the time!

  2. Sing the alphabet every day pointing to the letters in more than one font, upper case and lower case.

  3. Sing (to the tune Twinkle Twinkle) A says "ah", B says "buh", C says "kuh" etc. etc.

  4. Reads loads and loads and loads of books together.

  5. Start drawing pictures with crayons, then pens, pencils, chalks, paint, sticks in mud etc.

  6. Read out the letter sounds of 3-letter words. Read out the sounds slowly, then faster and faster and faster until they blend into a word, whoosh!

  7. Write 3 letter words in crayon and sound them out. Do the same with whatever physical letters you have, e.g. fridge magnets.

  8. Rhyming games. What rhymes with cat?

  9. Rhyming games - write down all the answers with the letters that stay the same in one colour and the letters that change in a different colour.

  10. Get the child to try and spell words.

  11. Get the child to try and recognise easy words like "moon" in real books.

  12. Teach which letters are vowels.

  13. Teach "ee", "oo" and "e makes the vowel say its name".

  14. Start reading to parent every day with a simple reader series like Julia Donaldson's Songbirds.

  15. Build up to parent reading the child chapter books.

  16. Write letters in mud, then paint, then wipe-clean books.

  17. Write letters in crayon.

  18. When ready, start writing every day. At the beginning, trace a letter 3 times every day. 

  19. Trace a letter 3 times and then have a go without the guide letter underneath!

  20. Start tracing and joining 2 letters.

  21. Work through handwriting books every day. We use some by Carol Vordeman, Collins.

  22. Write down the childs' poems and stories.

  23. Write down child poems, stories, newspaper articles, letters etc. and get them to trace your writing.

  24. At this point, we worked through the English books in DK Everything I Need To Know For School KS1. We liked this set of books but I don't feel passionately that there aren't lots of better ones out there available. 

  25. We did memorise the first 100 key word spellings, but I soon discovered that my child, who reads huge quantities of books, had achieved pretty good spelling by osmosis.

  26. Write down the child's writing and get them to copy it.

  27. Get the child to start writing freely every day with a range of writing styles. Gives lots of examples. All this time you have been reading to your child every day!

  28. Let the child read independently to themselves every night as soon as they enjoy it. We have a row of classic literature they can choose from, everything from Children of the New Forest and Black Beauty to How To Train Your Dragon and Harry Potter. There is so much fantastic literature we only bother reading things that are worth reading.

  29. I bought a primary school grammar workbook and worked through it with the older kids so that they wouldn't be left out, I don't know if it's necessary. I have also been experimenting with the Carol Vordeman "English Made Easy" series in combination with less-textbooky resources.

  30. See plays and experience literature and storytelling whenever possible! 

  31. Look for opportunities to read to audiences, give speeches, recite poetry to audiences and perform in plays. Reading in church and half term drama clubs are a great resource for us.

  32. Start typing up work that has been written out in rough to get typing practice.

Great starter chapter books:

  • The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, Roald Dahl

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl

  • The Worst Witch (series), Jill Murphy

  • Winne the Pooh books, A. A. Milne

  • The Butterfly Lion, Michael Morpurgo

  • The Mum-Minder, Jacqueline Wilson

  • BeWILDerwood books, Tom Blofeld

More chapter books for primary school age:

  • Paddington books, Michael Bond

  • Moomin books, Tove Jansson

  • Asha and the Spirit Bird, Jasbinder Bilan

  • Anne of Green Gables (series), Lucy Maud Montgomery

  • Jacqueline Wilson books including The Lottie Project (check age suggestion, many of her books deal with typical teen social problems head on)

  • Roald Dahl books

  • Katherine Rundell books inc. The Explorers

  • The Ickabog, J K Rowling

  • Dragon Rider, Cornelia Funke

  • A Pinch of Magic (series), Michelle Harrison

  • Fing, David Walliams

  • Children of the New Forest, Frederick Marryat (pub. 1847, so difficult language. However, I read this to my eldest two kids when they were aged 4 and the emotional maturity required to understand this extremely macho book is so low that at that age both loved it. My son in particular became obsessed with the English Civil War for at least 6 months after reading this book).

  • The Last Wild trilogy, Piers Torday

  • The Railway Children, E. Nesbit

  • Five Children and It/ The Pheonix and the Carpet, E. Nesbit

  • Enid Blyton books (questionable morality)

  • Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome (also questionable morality, but less than Blyton)

  • Alice in Wonderland etc (why do all the characters in this book speak horribly to each other?)

  • How to Train Your Dragon series

  • Harry Potter series (I think this benefits from waiting until the kids are at least 8 years old, and from reading the books before the films)

  • The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings et al. (books before films!)

  • Michael Morpurgo books

  • The Chronicles of Narnia

  • A Pilgrims Progress

  • Huckleberry Finn (I read this to the children just to be able to replace the word "nigger" with "Black" - which is necessary at least once a page. It's written by a White author who is trying to help advance the Black situation in 1884, but it's full of unhelpful stereotypes and reading the whole book is like wading through a treacle of moral depravity. Included for historical significance).

  • The Odyssey, we like the translation by Gillian Cross

  • I Am Malala, teen version

  • No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference, Greta Thunberg

  • The Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling (read together with your child to counteract some fairly wild racism and sexism)

  • Heidi, Johanna Spyri

  • Black Beauty, Anna Sewell

  • Wonder, R. J Palacio

  • Pollyanna, Eleanor H. Porter

  • Midnight Rider, Joan Hiatt Harlow

  • The Animals of Farthing Wood series, Colin Dann (a lot of animals die)

  • Chaim Potok books inc. The Chosen and The Promise (8+ emotional maturity?)

  • Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian (8+ emotional maturity?)

  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (9+ emotional maturity?)