Learning at Home / Reading / Ages 2-4

How to Read With Your Preschooler

Read with your child! It’s great advice. But how do you actually do it?

Reading with your preschooler is one of the most important things you can do to prepare them for school. It sounds simple, but it can become overwhelming as you think about what to read, and when, and what to do if your child doesn’t want to. The good news is, you don’t have to be a librarian or a reading teacher to support your child’s early literacy skills.

Here are some ideas for making the most of your reading time together:

  • Ask your child questions about what you read. “What do you think will happen next?” “Why do you think the character does ___?” “How do you think this character feels?” By asking open-ended questions about the story, you’re encouraging your child’s listening and comprehension skills.

  • Point to the words as you read. Especially with younger children, this reinforces the idea that written words correspond to sounds—a building block of early literacy. Talking about what you see in the illustrations is fun, too.

  • Re-reading is reading. Toddlers and preschoolers often like to read the same book over and over. This might be a little boring for you, but roll with it! They learn through repetition. In fact, you might notice that over time they can tell you the story.

  • Read in any language you prefer. You don’t have to read in English. In fact, reading in your home language is a gift for your child: It will help them develop valuable language skills, keep them connected to your family’s culture and language, and help them become bilingual and bi-literate (a reader and writer of two languages).
  • Sneak reading into your daily routine. Bath time is a great opportunity to read a story out loud. Meals can be, too. Toss a book in your bag so you can read while you’re waiting for the bus, in line at the grocery store, or at the pediatrician’s office. (Find more hidden opportunities to read with your kids.)

  • For reluctant readers, meet them where they are. Not every kid loves to sit and listen to books. Try reading to them while they play or color. When you choose books at the library, think about your child’s existing interests, whether that’s trucks, dinosaurs, sea creatures, or anything else (and of course, let them pick their own books!). You can look for books related to a favorite TV program or movie, too: Since they’ll already know the story, it can be easier to engage them.

  • And remember, all reading is good reading. You don’t have to read award-winning children’s literature: Anything that captures your child’s attention is great. Fiction, non-fiction, comic books—it’s all good stuff. Your local library will also have children’s magazines like Highlights, National Geographic Kids, and Ranger Rick, which include stories, facts, and games.

Click here for even more ways to turn your kid into a reader.