Story Time for Preschoolers
Becoming a Reader
"Rattle, shake, screech, roar — who's knockin' at my door?" Matthew tears through the house, a sheet over his head. "Boom, boom, in my room!" he yells. "A witch is flyin' on her broom!"
For the past month, Matthew has immersed himself in a world of Halloween books. Although he does not yet know how to read text, he spends time every day looking at books with spooky ghosts, goblins, and skeletons. He recites lines he has memorized from the many times his parents have read them aloud. And he makes up his own, like the ones above. All this adds up to one thing: Matthew is becoming a reader.
Moving Toward School — and Reading
Preschoolers know a lot of things they didn't know as babies. They don't read independently, but if they've been read to a lot, they know a thing or two about reading:
- They know books are read from front to back.
- Pictures should be right-side up.
- Reading is done from left to right.
- The language of books is different from spoken language.
- Words have different sounds in them.
- There are familiar and unfamiliar words.
All of these are emergent literacy skills — important building blocks toward the day when they'll read independently. How can you encourage further development of these skills? Just keep reading aloud.
Choosing lots of different books to read aloud will build your preschooler's vocabulary, and help your child learn about different topics and understand how stories are structured and what characters do in them. Your child also will learn that:
- Text is words written down.
- Letters in a specific order form a word.
- There are spaces between words.
Understanding these basic concepts will help when kids start formal reading instruction in school.
When and How to Read
Many kids this age have moved beyond the small world of home to childcare or preschool. They may even be enrolled in lessons or classes. Read-aloud time can be a chance to slow down and spend time together.
Try to have set times to read together. Before bed works well, as do other "down" times in the day, like first thing in the morning or after meals. Your child will enjoy cuddling with you, hearing your voice, and feeling loved.
Kids between 3 and 5 years old are eager to show off what they know and love to be praised. Continue to choose some books with simple plots and repetitive text that your child can learn and retell. Encourage your child to "read" to you and praise the attempts.
Here are some additional tips:
- Yes, you should read that book for the millionth time — and try not to sound bored. Your child is mastering many skills with each re-reading.
- When you are looking at a new book, introduce it. Look at the cover and talk about what it might be about. Mention the author by name.
- Ask your child why a character may have taken a specific action.
- Ask what part of the story your child liked best and why.
- Talk about the parts of the story — how did it begin? What happened in the middle? What did your child think of the ending?
- Move your fingers under the words as you read to demonstrate the connection between what you are saying and the text.
- When you come to familiar or repetitive lines, let your child finish them. ("I do not like green eggs and....I do not like them, Sam....")
- Ask your child to point out letters or words he or she might recognize. You might also occasionally point to words and sound them out slowly while your child watches.
But even as you ask your child more complicated questions, your top goal should be to enjoy reading and have fun. Don't make reading a book like a test your child needs to pass. Look at the pictures, make up alternative words together, and be playful and relaxed.
Also, remember that reading comes to different kids at different times. Some kids fall in love with books earlier than others. So if your child is one who doesn't seem as interested right away, just keep reading and showing how wonderful it can be.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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