By Raising Children Network
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Preschooler reading with mum

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Your child’s ability to hear, recognise and use sounds in his early years will help him have success later in life when he’s learning to read.
Reading aloud and sharing stories with your child is one of the most important and enjoyable things you can do together. If you’re not sure what or how to start reading with your preschooler, here are some ideas.

Why reading with your preschooler is important

Sharing stories, talking and singing every day helps your child’s development. You’re getting your child familiar with sounds, words, language and, eventually, the value and joy of books. This all builds your child’s early literacy skills and helps her go on to read successfully later in life.

Reading stories stimulates your child’s imagination and helps him learn about the world around him. It’s also a great time for you to bond with your child and share time together.

You can start reading to your child as early as you like – the earlier the better. Our articles on reading and storytelling with children and developing literacy have more information to get you and your child started.

Sharing books with your preschooler

At this age and stage, reading with your child is all about spending special time together, and having fun by enjoying the language and illustrations in picture books. Here are some tips that can help you and your preschooler make the most of your reading time:

  • Vary the pace of your reading, as well as how loud you read.
  • Ask questions about the story:
    • ‘What do you think happens next?’
    • ‘Why is she happy?’
    • ‘Who has the ball?’
  • Ask questions about the names and sounds of letters.
  • Play ‘find the letters/words’ game, especially the letters in your child’s name.
  • Help your child make up her own stories and drawings to go with them.
  • Let your child ‘read’ you the story in his favourite book.
  • Chant or sing repetitive phrases and words together.

These general tips are helpful for most budding readers:

  • Make a routine, and try to share at least one book every day.
  • Turn off the TV or radio, and find a quiet space for reading so your child can focus.
  • Hold your child close or on your knee while you read so she can see your face and the book.
  • Try out funny noises and sounds – play and have fun!
  • Involve your child by encouraging talk about the pictures and repeating familiar words.
  • Visit your local library – it’s free to join and borrow. The staff there might be able to recommend books for you and your child to enjoy.
  • When he’s old enough, let your child choose the books.
  • Be prepared to read favourite books over and over again!
When your child sees you reading and writing, you’re creating a home environment that helps develop literacy skills. Your reading and writing can be as everyday as reading magazines or newspapers and writing letters, shopping lists or messages for your partner or older children.

What to read with your child

There are so many books to choose from that it can be hard to know where to start. As a broad rule, young children often enjoy books that have good rhyme, rhythm and repetition. In fact, one of the ways that children learn is through repetition and rhyme.

In the preschool years (ages 3-5), your child might especially enjoy:

  • alphabet, shape, size and counting books
  • books that tell simple stories, especially ones with rhythm and repetition
  • nursery rhyme and song books
  • books about families, friends and going to school
  • books relating to your child’s particular interests – for example, books about dinosaurs, fairies, football or animals. Some preschoolers are very interested in non-fiction books (information books about real things).
If your child is attending child care, kindergarten or preschool, it might be helpful for you to talk to her teachers or carers to get some ideas about how they read with the children. Some preschools allow children to borrow books each week or to bring a special book from home to share with the group.

Here are some books for you and your preschooler to explore:

  • An Australian 1,2,3 of Animals by Bronwyn Bancroft
  • An Australian ABC of Animals by Bronwyn Bancroft
  • Early Learning Big Book of Australian Nature by Steve Parish
  • The Hairy Maclary collection by Lynley Dodd (for example, Hairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy, Slinky Malinki, Schnitzel von Krumm and Dogs Never Climb Trees)
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr Seuss
  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson
  • The Cat in The Hat by Dr Seuss
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  • The Wheels on the Bus by Penny Dann
  • Za-Za’s Baby Brother by Lucy Cousins.

Video Telling stories with children

In this short video, storyteller Anne E. Stewart talks about telling stories with children. She says storytelling promotes literacy and language and gets children ready to start reading. Stories about family and culture also give children a sense of their place in the world. You can use actions and rhymes to get children involved in the story.
For more story ideas, you could check out our storytelling videos. Let storyteller Anne E. Stewart introduce you and your child to ‘Mook Mook the Owl’, ‘The Crocodile’, ‘The Old Lady and The Mosquito’ and ‘How the Years were Named for Animals’.
  • Last updated or reviewed 15-07-2011