As someone who was a classroom teacher, reading specialist, and now mother, I have a LOT to say about reading. But for today, I am just going to focus on the preschool age, specifically ages 3-4.
In the United States, there is increasing pressure to have our children reading earlier and earlier. Not just being read to, looking at books, but actually READING by themselves. As an (older) millennial, I remember attending half day kindergarten, reading aloud, and really beginning the reading process in school in first grade. That has since shifted and students are expected to be reading in kindergarten. Many of our children are ready at this point and there is nothing wrong with that, but pushing our children before they are developmentally prepared can leave them frustrated and with negative attitudes about reading.
Children in the preschool age should be given the freedom to explore books to develop a love of reading. Here are some simple ways we try to do this at home. And the best part is that the only materials are you, your child, and a book!
- Leave books in most rooms. Just like toys, books are fun and always leave space for discovery.
- Let your preschool “read” a book on his own. You do not always need to read it aloud. Let him develop his own concept of a book and a story through the pictures and perhaps even some words.
- In a book with sparse text, use your finger to track the words. This will help anchor your child’s understanding of how we read left to right and that each word is its own unit. You should not do this with all books and don’t even need to do it on every page.
- Find books that suit your child’s interests. Although I may want my child to love the latest Caldecott winner or more classic texts, a book that captures his interests will be much more engaging. We have loved dinosaurs, vehicles, maps, and Paw Patrol! You never know what’s next.
- Let your child see you reading. Beyond those early newborn days, preschool age is probably the first time you can hope to squeeze in a couple pages of your own reading when your child is around. If possible, choose a paper text so that your child knows you enjoy reading books just like him!
- Allow your child to pick the place where you read. Sometimes a comfy couch, chair, or bed work best. Other times, your eager reader may want to get right to the book while sitting on the floor. You don’t need a perfect set up to read a book. Chances are, it’s a short book and you can read it wherever you are. Don’t miss an opportunity for a good read and a snuggle!