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Reading is so important.   As they say, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”   It teaches so much more than just brain development and imagination.  Reading with our children while they are young gives them a love of reading that strengthens your relationship.  It teaches them about emotions, problem-solving, empathy, and language.  

Taking the time to read with your preschooler (or toddler) is so important!  You don’t need to read for hours one end, but just twenty minutes a day will make a huge impact in the life of your child, not to mention that it will get them ready for Kindergarten.

When you are reading,  you are working on Kindergarten Sight Words, labeling pictures, and increasing their vocabulary, amongst other things. 

reading tips for preschoolers

I was a teacher for several years, before becoming a play therapist.  In both of these careers, I was able to witness the benefit of reading with children.  I have seen it in my own children, as well.  It is powerful.  Not only for academic benefits but for emotional benefits, as well.

Children Who Read For Pleasure, Regularly, Perform Better In School

Reading helps with every subject. 

  • If you can read well, you will be able to read & learn about science.
  • You can directions and steps to understand math problems.
  • You can comprehend a history lesson and a book.
  • Reading lends itself to every subject and becomes imperative.
  • It teaches life lessons and shows the child different scenarios and how to handle problems that he/she will face in the outside world.

Parents Are The Child’s First Teachers 

As parents, we have the ability to either help or hinder our child’s success.  Reading more builds a love of reading.  It helps your child to become a better reader.  It allows you to bond with your child.

You can help your child, now and in the future, by reading to your child while they are still young.  It’s just like playing with your child (instead of just watching), or talking and interacting with your child, instead of just listening. 

sweet little girl with mother reading book

Alternative Ways To Read To A 2-4-Year-Old 

I have learned that what makes most parents turn away from reading to their young toddlers and preschoolers is that they do not have the attention span to sit through a full book… and that is OK!   They don’t need to sit quietly and listen to an entire book.   You don’t need to read a book cover to cover.    Eventually, you will work up to that, but when they are young, you are reading to them in other ways.   Sometimes I read books to our kids without ever even READING the words at all. 

1- Do a picture walk.

You don’t have to just jump right in and read the words.  Children love to look at pictures.  Explore these pictures with your child.  A picture walk is just that- a ‘walk’ through the book, talking about the pictures, pointing out words that they may know, and talking about what might happen in the book.

2- Label the pictures.

Talk about what you see.  A dog?  A cat?  Label everything!  (This improves speech, as well).   After you see the picture of a Dog, try to find the word that would say “Dog.”
Example:  What does Dog start with?  D-D-Dog?   D?  OK- let’s find the letter D and see if it sounds like dog.  Oh!  There it is!   You are right!  That does say dog!  (If your child does not know their letters, try doing what we did to teach letters in a week.)

3- Count things.

  • Example of how I would read to a toddler:
    • “I see three kittens on this page!  Let’s count those silly kittens before they run away and hide!  1…2…3…  Oh my goodness, those kittens are talking to us.  What do kittens say?  Meow!  Let’s talk back to them.  Meow. Meow”
  • Example of how I would read to a preschooler:
    • Oh, wow!  Kittens.  I see the word Kittens.  K-K-K-Kittens.  Do you see more than one kitten?  How many do you see?  Three kittens- that’s right!   What if one more kitten came?  How many would we have?”   
      (OK- I’m sorry that I just gave you a whole rundown of how to read a page with pictures, but you get the idea)

4- Read with expression.

When you are ready to read the words, you want to make it FUN! (By the way- sometimes I will “read” a whole book for 20 minutes without ever “reading” the words!)…
If you talk in a monotone voice (think of the teacher on the TV show Wonder Years), your child will not be engaged.  You want to capture his/her attention!

When I was a student teacher in college, I mentored under a phenomenal teacher, Mrs. LaRose.  I could not wait to teach, just so that I could use what she taught me. I think that I learned as much about teaching, by watching her, as I did in my classes.

She made the books come alive!  

If she did a lesson on Little Red Riding Hood, she came in dressed like Little Red Riding Hood!  She would teach math out of Little Red Riding Hood’s basket (counting the cookies that she was taking to her Grandmother).   She would work with the letter R and let the kids paint with Red paint that day.  Everything was tied to that one theme and the kids just loved being in her class (so did I!)   

5- Be animated & get them involved!

You want to bring the story to life!
Example: When you are reading a book and you read about someone knocking at the door, this is a great opportunity to get into the story. 
Knock on the book.
Let the child knock on the book, too.

If they talk about the wind blowing, make a wind sound.  When they talk about hugging their friend, hug your child.  Get them involved!  “Your child is going to Learn to LOVE READING from these little things.  

6- Reminder: Your child may want the same book 50 times before they are ready for a new one.

This is OK, normal, and even great! 
They will learn this book and they are learning so much from re-reading it.  Repetition is helpful at this age.   Don’t be surprised if one day they start “reading” it to you!

If you are truly ready to prepare your child for Kindergarten, I highly suggest our book about Getting Your Child Ready for Kindergarten.  It is filled with play-led ideas on how to prepare your child.  It is written by two teachers (and mothers) and it was a very carefully, thought-out book with every single thing that you would want to know, broken down into extremely simple, manageable ideas. 🙂 Find out more here.   

getting ready for kindergarten

Good luck and enjoy this time teaching your child.  You are making such a difference in their future by investing the time reading with them now.

Here are a few products that I have found to be helpful in reading with our children when they were preschoolers:

  1.  Dr. Jean Music CD.  (If you have not listened to this yet- get ready to laugh and watch your kids dance and have a blast!  Dr. Jean was always my favorite CD!)
  2.  Preschool Scholar – I have not used this myself, but the price is right and I’ve heard great things!
  3. Thinkfun Roll and Play  – This is the perfect “first” board game.  It is fun for all of our kids, but even our youngest child can play!

Learning to read starts with Sight Words: 

Learning to read begins by learning the basic words.  In Kindergarten, children are expected to learn these words.  I suggest using this Kindergarten Sight Words List  This printable sheet is easy to use, you can download it and print it over & over to help your child.

The kids love it & they learn so much from the repetition of seeing the same words again & again.   It’s a great way to help your child learn their sight words, which helps them to learn to read well.

You can also grab this Kindergarten Sight Word Bundle… 

Kindergarten Sight Word Bundle


Related Articles You’ll Like Reading… 

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Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. Great suggestions! I like your suggestions of how to get into the story actively. Thank you for pointing out that a child’s desire to read a book over and over again is good. I have 8 children, ages 6 – 36, and I am inspired, once again, to sit down and read tonight. Thank you!
    Resa ~ Pitcher and Plate

  2. I can’t stop reading your blog! And I am not a mother yet. I am actually a 21 years old girl from Brazil who loves children.
    And I am sorry for my poor English.
    Thank you so much for your tips! I will use it with my little cousin.

  3. I find it alarming that there are so many typos in an article written by a “teacher” about reading!

  4. My son just started reading and I want to make sure he is doing things right. As you said here, there are some tips that I should follow to help with that. I really like that you mentioned that reading with expression can help. I’ll for sure look more into this as I want what is best for them.