by Carol Grise
Preschoolers, children ages 3-5 years, are very curious. They ask questions and want to share what they know. Books can help them to explore the world, things in and far from what they encounter each day.
Why Read to PreschoolersCuriosity about the world creates excitement for learning. Sharing books exposes preschoolers to people, animals, ideas, and words.
Reading and talking about the pictures and story increases the number of words a preschooler can understand and speak. When he understands a variety of words, he will express himself confidently.
The enjoyment of books and reading develops a preschooler’s attention span and motivation to begin reading on his own.
When and How to Share Books With PreschoolersRead frequently with a preschooler. Make book sharing a bedtime routine. If the child is not familiar with books, start by reading 5-10 minutes. A preschooler experienced with books can participate for at least 20 minutes.
Make reading a relaxed, positive experience. When reading is fun, a child will want to repeat the experience, sharing more books and learning more words.
Preschoolers have a good sense of humor and enjoy participating. As you read, add sounds, motions, and funny voices. Encourage a preschooler to join in with repeated phrases and motions.
Ask questions about the book’s pictures or what is going on in the story. Repeat the answers, adding extra words to describe color, size, shape, etc. Include questions that require more thinking, such as “What is happening on this page?” “Why did the dog visit the cat?” “What do you think will happen next?”
Explain unfamiliar words. Talk about ideas, like above/below, which are part of the story, but not easily seen in the pictures. As you read, point to the words. Show that you are reading the words, not the pictures.
To hold attention to the story, try using a child’s name, as well as the names of family members or friends.
Say the proper names for the parts of a book, such as cover and spine.
Tell him people make books…the author writes the words and the illustrator makes the pictures.
What Kinds of Books Do Preschoolers Enjoy?Use individual interests, such as dinosaurs, to rope a preschooler into reading! If a preschooler has a book that he wants to share again and again, read it happily. Repetition reinforces understanding of the story’s action and words.
Silly stories, as well as stories about friends, community helpers, and family, are popular.
Preschoolers enjoy “happy ending” books featuring heroes and villains.
Musical stories, such as “Wheels on the Bus”, and stories with repeated phrases, like “The Gingerbread Man”, encourage participation.
Expose preschoolers to a variety of books. Don’t forget poetry and non-fiction (true) books.
Other Ideas to Help a Preschooler Develop LanguageTalk with a preschooler, rather than only giving him directions. Encourage him to tell about experiences at school or home. Use descriptive words to add to his comments.
Tell stories about your child or family. Create make-believe stories, asking the preschooler to add characters or events.
Read signs, food labels/boxes, store flyers, and recipes. Show him that reading everyday print is important and useful.
Play “I Spy” (“I spy something ___”) and memory-style games together.
Sing songs and read poetry or rhyming books. Singing breaks down words into smaller sounds. Point out rhyming words, then ask him, for example, “What sounds like fan?”.
Practice writing skills by providing a child with pencils, paper, forms, envelopes, and other “junk mail”. Ask his help in creating errand lists. While sharing books or writing lists, talk to him about the shapes, names, and sounds of letters.
Visit your library, allowing a child to select his own books. At home, have a shelf, canvas bag, or box to store books. Staple some blank pieces of paper together so that a preschooler can create his own book.
As he prepares to enter kindergarten, reading and talking with a preschooler will satisfy his curiosity about the world, help him to understand new words, and create a love of books, all important early literacy skills, which will contribute to his interest in learning to read on his own.