I haven’t forgotten about our “Creating A Literacy Rich Home” series –it’s just been on hold through my summer hiatus. Before I jump back into the series, I asked Alysa Stewart, of Everead, to share some tips for getting the reluctant reading preschooler to join the “I ♥ reading club.”
I’ve got thoughts of my own to add to Alysa’s words (but I’ll wait until I resume the series, which will be soon, promise), but if I could just say one thing right now, & it’s this. DON’T FORCE READING. Don’t use reading as a punishment, & never show impatience at the fact that your preschooler won’t sit still for more than a book or two at a time (completely normal!).
Show by example. Expose them to (lots of different) books. Make it fun, exciting, & an intimate personal experience by reading together. Not everyone is destined to be a bibliophile, but everyone can learn to enjoy & appreciate books.
“Do you like reading?” I asked six-year-old Cade.
“No,” was his definite answer.
“What books do you like, and what books do you hate?” I asked, sneakily.
“I like books about animals and dinosaurs, and I hate all the other books.”
What should you do when your pre-kinder child is a reluctant reader? What if she doesn’t want to be read to (ever)? What if he can’t sit still long enough to read the shortest book you own?
Getting books into kids’ hands is my passion. I’ve got three children of my own (ages 6, 3 and 1) who constantly benefit from my experience teaching reading (in a first-grade classroom) and literacy (in the context of Kindermusik).But just because I have know-how doesn’t mean my kids always want to cooperate. Below, you’ll find four of my tips on helping any reluctant preschooler become riveted on books.
1. Let the child guide the reading.
Let’s face it: kids like to be in control. And kids like to get a reaction out of their parents. One way I’ve made reading fun at our house is to act the part of a reading robot. I let my child hold the book and turn the pages, I just read the words. If they turn it too fast, I cut off mid-sentence and start the new page. If they go out of order, the words are out of order. This gets giggles from kids who know that they’re making you do it wrong. Anything that makes reading fun is good! There are all kinds of skills involved in reading before reading starts: holding the book right side up, turning the page, recognizing that text is read from right to left, top to bottom. Even if you are not reading a book all the way through, your child is picking up on these pre-reading skills.
2. Wiggly child? Choose a wiggly book!
There are loads of books that ask you to make a movement of your own. One of our favorites (all 3 of my kids have loved it) is Eyes & Nose, Fingers & Toes a Sesame Street book that we got as a gift, but that I have since seen in dollar stores. It talks about “bend and reach to touch your toes/Stand up straight point to your nose.”
But a book doesn’t have to command you to move or touch something. You, as the reader, can fill in that command: “Look! These ants are going on a picnic! Let’s go get our blanket real quick.” Run here, run there, and begin to read again.
3. Tap into your child’s interests.
Just like Cade, your child might not like reading unless the book is about a favorite subject or character. You know what your kids like, and if you don’t share their interest you can be mature and take one for the team.
Here’s a good experiment: select many books on subjects you know your children like, then let them pick which ones look the best to them. Librarians are very good at finding books by subject, and love to do this sort of thing!
4. Make reading part of your day.
Andy Warhol once said, Either once only, or every day. If you do something once it’s exciting, and if you do it every day it’s exciting. But if you do it, say, twice or just almost every day, it’s not good any more.”
Pick a time every day to read with your children. For our family, we always read a little bit of scripture before bed. Some days we read all kinds of things all day long, but some days are filled to the brim with non-reading excitement. However, reading for a few minutes each night is just what we do. It’s a routine that is part of our family culture.
Persistence really is the key to getting through to the pre-kinder reluctant reader. But equally important is knowing when to quit. Bottom line: Don’t push reading so hard with your preschooler that it becomes a fight.
Here are five books that, in my experience, are loved universally by preschool kids (affiliate links):
5 (fabulous) books for preschoolers
- Press Here by Herve Tullet
- Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
- Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems
- Bubbles Bubbles by Sesame Beginnings
- Rocket Town by Bob Logan
- The “sound box” series by Jane Belk Moncure
Other bring joy posts you might want to check out:
- 10 Reasons to Teach the Love of Reading
- Building a Home Library on a Budget + 15 essential books
- Why you need to read to your baby + 10 smart baby books
- Tips for reading with toddlers + best books for toddlers 2-3
Alysa Stewart loves reading & talking about books.
You can find more of her at her blog, Everead.