Use these strategies to help make reading familiar and fun for your preschooler. These tips can also help kids who learn and think differently start to work on the basic skills they need to become readers.
1. Read stories to your child.
Try to 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. Show your love of reading.
Tell your child how much you enjoy story time and reading together, and explain why you like it so much. Share your favorite childhood books or stories, and talk about what they meant for you.
You can even tell your child a little about what you’re reading nowadays. Let your child see you reading as often as possible. (It doesn’t have to be a traditional book—it could be a cookbook or a newspaper, for example.) Preschoolers like to imitate, so this is a great way to encourage reading. It also shows that reading isn’t just something you do with kids.
3. Let your child choose.
Pick out a few books your child might like, and then let your child pick which one to read together next. Offer a range of options, on topics and with characters your child can relate to. Kids are more excited and engaged if they have a real choice about what to read.
4. Let your child “pretend read.”
If your child wants to pick up a book and imitate the act of reading, that’s great! Even if kids can’t yet sound out the words on the page, it’s still helpful for them to experience early the physical tasks of reading.
Encourage your child to point to the pictures in a book and make up a story. Try letting your child “read” a book to stuffed animals, but don’t criticize or correct what it sounds like.
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 and turn it into a show. Adding some drama keeps kids entertained and can help them understand the story better.
If your child loses interest or is having trouble paying attention when you’re reading together, put the book away for a while. You don’t want to make reading feel like a chore.
Talk about what’s happening in the book as you read. Point out things on the page—like how the pictures illustrate the story and what the characters’ expressions mean. Ask questions about what’s happening. Be sure to take your child’s responses seriously and talk them through.
8. Read it again and again.
When your child asks, go ahead and read that favorite book for the 100th time. Even though re-reading can feel tedious to you, there’s a real value in it for kids. Re-reading lets kids become the expert on their favorite stories. Push your child to think deeper about the characters: Ask questions about what motivates them and about what your child thinks will happen to them after the story ends.
9. 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.
You can 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.
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 so your child doesn’t want to miss out on it.