12 Ways to Encourage Your Preschooler to Read

By Louise Baigelman, MEd

Use these strategies to help make reading familiar and fun for your preschooler. These tips can also help kids with learning and thinking differences start to work on foundational skills needed to become good readers.

1. Read stories to your child.

Read together every day. Make this a special one-on-one time that your child can look forward to. Curl up together in a cozy chair or designate a comfy reading nook in your house. During story time, give your undivided attention to your child and to the story you’re reading together. This helps create positive associations with reading that can last a lifetime.

2. Talk about your love of reading.

Tell your child how much you enjoy reading with him. Let him know that story time is your favorite part of the day, and explain why you like it so much. Share your favorite childhood books and talk about what they meant for you. You may even want to tell your child a little about what you’re reading nowadays and highlight how much you value reading. That will help him understand that reading is not just something you do with kids.

3. Show your love of reading.

Let your child see you reading as often as possible. Show him that you enjoy reading so much that you want to do it. Your preschooler’s desire to imitate is extremely powerful, so this is another way to make him feel that reading really is fun—and worth pursuing.

4. Let your child choose.

Select several different books your child might like, and then let him pick which one he wants you to read to him next. Make sure you provide a range of options. He’ll be more excited and engaged if he has a real choice about what to read.

5. Let your child “pretend read.”

If he wants to pick up a book and imitate the act of reading, that’s great! Even if he’s not able to decode the words on the page, it’s valuable for him to be exposed early to the physical tasks of reading. You can also encourage your child to point to the pictures in a book and make up his own story. Try letting him “read” a book to his stuffed animals, and don’t criticize or correct his version.

6. Act it out!

Have fun with the way you read to your child. Exaggerate, be funny and play with different expressions and voices. You can even include props in your reading and turn it into a show. Dramatizing your reading will keep him entertained and help him understand the story better.

7. Know when to stop.

If your child loses interest or is having trouble paying attention when you’re reading to him, put the book away for a while. Make sure that reading doesn’t feel like a chore.

8. Be interactive.

Discuss what’s happening in the book with your child as you read. Point out things on the page—how the pictures illustrate the story, what the characters’ expressions suggest. Ask questions about what’s happening and what it means. Take your child’s responses seriously and talk to him about them.

9. Read it again and again.

When your child asks, go ahead and read his favorite book for the 100th time! Even though re-reading can feel tedious to you, there’s a real value in it for him. Re-reading lets your child become the expert on his favorite story. Push him to deepen his understanding of the characters by asking him questions about their motivations and about what he thinks happens to them after the story ends.

10. Talk about writing, too.

As you read, make connections between reading stories and writing text. Help your child notice that we read from left to right, for example. Point out how words are separated by spaces. And make these connections outside story time, too. Point out the written words you see in the world around you. Ask your child to find a new word each time you go out.

11. Begin building a home library for your child.

Create a sense of joy around reading by giving books as special gifts. Build excitement around trips to the bookstore or library. Treat reading like a fantastic adventure that nobody would want to miss out on!

12. Make reading a treat.

Let your child select his favorite books. Make his library feel like a treasured collection that will grow and grow throughout his life. Create a designated place to keep his books and let him help turn it into a special space filled with stories.