Reading Aloud to Young Children


On occasion, parents will ask me about homework for preschoolers.  Although we will sometimes send home an assignment to work on, I always stress that the most important sort of “homework” for young children is being read to at home.  Instilling a love of reading should begin at birth.


How to read a story

Make sure you and your child are comfortable.  Choose a good quality picture book that is not too wordy and has detailed illustrations.  Books that tell a story are great for this age, even ones that are a bit longer.

Before you read:

Looking at the front cover, ask your child what he thinks this book might be about.  State the title of the story and its author.  What characters are on the front cover?

While reading:

Make sure you speak clearly when reading.  You may follow the words with your finger. Pause every so often and welcome comments from your child.  Ask questions relating to the characters, the plot, the setting.  Examples: “How do you think this character feels?” “What do you think will happen next?” It’s best to ask open-ended questions that invite a lengthier response, rather than a yes/no response.  Instead of asking “Do you think she will find her toy?” ask “I wonder what she should do next…”  Best questions are those that begin with “How” “Why” “What do you think…?” "What if?" “I wonder…” etc.  Extend children’s thoughts and ideas.

After reading:

Sum the story up and ask your child to retell what happened (use words like first, next, then, etc.).  Connect the story to real life: Ask your child if this story reminds him of an experience he has had or perhaps if it reminds him of another story you’ve read.  Ask what was your child’s favorite part of the story/favorite character.  As an extension activity, your child might draw a character from the story, you may act the story out together, make up a new ending to the story, ask your child to "read" you the story after reading it a few times.


More tips:

  • Model reading at home.  Let your child catch you reading. This conveys the importance of reading!
  • Is your child asking for the same story over and over?  That’s good news!  A child learns something new each time a story is read.
  • Visit the library.
  • Pick nonfiction books as well.  If your child is interested in certain animals, trucks/cars, nature, etc, choose books on these topics to further explore.
  • Consider wordless books (stories where solely the illustrations convey meaning) and invite your child to “read” the story.


Not sure what to read?

Here is a list of some of our favorites we’ve been reading over the years.  They have remained popular and we are asked to read them over and over and over....

  • Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Taleby Mo Willems
  • Olivia: by Ian Falconer
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: by Mo Willems
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar: by Eric Carle
  • Goodnight Moon: by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon: by Crockett Johnson
  • The Gingerbread Man: by Jim Aylesworth
  • In the Town, All Year Round: by Rotraut Susanne Berner
  • Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site: by Sherri Duskey Rinker
  • There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly: by Simms Taback
  • Where the Wild Things Are: by Maurice Sendak
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit: by Beatrix Potter
  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes: by James Dean
  • No, David!: by David Shannon
  • The Snowman: by Raymond Briggs
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury
  • Froggy Gets Dressed: by Jonathan London
  • Madeline: by Ludwig Bemelmans

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