Five easy tips to help children learn to read from the leading child language expert

Described by Cambridge University and Yale University as “one of the World’s foremost authorities” on the English language and child language, David Crystal is the rock star of reading and literature!

“Reading is essential for vocabulary acquisition and learning in children. Apps like Pickatale are a great supplement to reading physical books.” David Crystal

We spoke with David about the reading and vocabulary milestones of children in their early years. Get five tips from the man himself below!

Five easy tips to help children learn to read by David Crystal

When to start? 

It’s never too early. As soon as children are able to sit up and focus, it’s possible to introduce them to the world of books. Learning to read involves learning how to hold a book, how and when to turn the pages, which direction to turn them, and – when some text is there – reading from left-to-right, or right-to-left, or in some other way, depending on the language being learned. As well as physical books, many children are now discovering their first words digitally. The Pickatale reading app has a huge library of stories including picture books, flashcards and phonics for younger readers as well as quizzes, fact books and fiction for older children.

Use the world

It’s surprising how soon some basic letter shapes and words can be recognised. The name plate or number on a house. A street sign. A cornflakes packet. A word on a T-shirt, or on a toy. A flashing advert in the main street. A shop name. And visual language is there too, often prominently, on television and on computer screens and phones. It can be large and colourful, and is often animated, which makes it even more exciting. It can help the development of reading awareness to draw attention to real-world uses of writing.

Make time for story-time

Read as many stories as you can. Find the best time of day to suit the child’s alertness. Bedtime is a lovely time for story-telling, but end-of-day tiredness makes it a less valuable time for learning. On the other hand, the evening is a good time for telling a different kind of story – what happened during the child’s day. Some parents keep a daily diary, writing down in short and simple sentences their child’s account of something that happened. That then becomes a bedtime story.

An enticing range

The availability of a wide range of characters, stories, and formats is a real advantage, as in the Pickatale reading app. Children love to explore, whether in a bookshop, library or online. Apps like Pickatale are a great supplement to reading physical books, more so now than ever before. Pickatale has over 1,000 interactive books and audiobooks for early readers, reluctant readers and confident readers to discover and above all, enjoy.

More of the same

Adults might think that repeated reading is going to be boring. It can indeed bore an adult – but it certainly doesn’t bore a child! Children love the repetition – and moreover the exact repetition. They notice if you change the words, or leave out a line, or a page. And they learn some stories, or parts of a story, off by heart, so that when they get to the favourite bit they can join in.


Keep your eyes peeled on the Pickatale blog for more insightful articles from David Crystal, which will be coming soon! You’ll discover more fascinating information about how children begin to speak, how and when they build up their vocabulary, how speaking and reading come hand-in-hand and so much more!

David Crystal is one of the world’s leading authorities in child language