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If your child seems to be making little progress with the first stages of reading it may be that his whole approach is wrong and he is relying too much on his eyes, instead of his brain.

Settle down with him one evening and ask him to read a little from his school reading book. If, as he reads, he struggles from one word to another and comes out with a sentence that is a nonsensical jumble, it is because he is trying to interpret a string of shapes, instead of thinking about the meaning of the words.

Without taking the meaning into account, he cannot check whether he has got it right or not. Yet when his mother talks to him, he understands without needing to identify every word or syllable. For some reason, he is not applying the same technique in reading. He is not using his knowledge of language to guess what is coming next so that interpreting the symbols becomes much easier.

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You can use a simple reading game to help him. When you read him a story, move your finger along the line of words, so that he follows it with his eyes. After two or three sentences, suddenly stop and let the child guess the next word. If the sentence was: “Mum said Jenny could go out and play but she had to be home by…” the child might guess five o’clock. He might be wrong, but he knows it must be a time that is missing and he knows children have to come in from play around teatime. Soon he will realize that he only needs to identify the first one or two letters of the unknown word to get the answer right.

If you repeat the game over and over again he should eventually get into the habit of using his brain as well as his eyes as he tries to read.

If children can be encouraged to see reading as a useful and necessary part of life in dozens of different ways every day, then they will accept the written word easily and naturally instead of being slightly nervous about it all their lives, as many adults.

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Help your child by putting him in charge of the shopping list, for example, asking him to read out the items one by one as you go around the supermarket. Or ask him to read out a recipe as you cook or to look up the time of a film in the paper.