Strategies to Use When Reading with a Child

I think reading is one of the most important things you can do with your toddler or preschooler…or infant…or school-aged child…or unborn baby for that matter!  In fact, I featured reading as #3 on my list of Top 5 Most Important Things to Do with Your Toddler/Preschooler.

Having worked as a reading intervention teacher for several years, I’ve tried to incorporate  into my daily reading habits with L&L a lot of what the struggling readers I worked with were missing.  

Here are some things we do when we read: (in random order)

  • We always read the title and author/illustrator.  
    • Every now and then I remind them that the author wrote the words to the story and the illustrator drew the pictures, but I don’t do it every time.
  • We always read the info again from the Title page and often I’ll tell them that it’s called a Title page.
  • If the book has a rhyme scheme or it’s a book we’ve read often, I’ll sometimes pause and let the kids fill in a word here and there for me.  If the book has a refrain, I encourage them to chant it along with me.
  • If something is about to happen on the next page, I’ll say, “What do you think is going to happen?”  
    • Often I’ll model my own prediction, too.  “I think Sally and Nick’s mom is going to be very upset when she gets home and sees the Cat in the Hat made such a mess in the house!”
  • If we come to a word that is new or difficult for the kids, I might have them repeat it or we might act it out.  
    • i.e. If I read the text, “He gasped!”  I might say, “Can you say “gasp”?  *gasp*  Can you gasp?  *gasp*  People sometimes gasp when they’re surprised or scared.”  
      • Then every time we come across that word, we’ll act it out or say what it means until they’ve learned it.  
      • If we hear that word in real life, one of us will say, “Hey, that’s like in such-n-such book!”
  • If a book has a table of contents or index, I point it out and say what it’s for.
  • If a page has text, captions, tables/charts, etc. I’ll point to the part I’m reading from so the kids know where to look.
  • If we’re reading something short, like a poem or something in our pocket chart, we work on one-to-one matching, by pointing to each word as it’s read, but I don’t normally do this with the kids when reading books since it causes a break in fluency to point at words one-by-one.  If you do want to point to the words while you’re reading, instead of bouncing your finger along, slide it smoothly under the words to show that reading should be smooth, not broken.
  • We randomly recite lines from things we’ve read for fun…at the dinner table, in the car, while we’re playing.  A lot of times, one of us will start and someone else will finish.
  • Sometimes I quiz the kids after we read a book, in a fun way.
    • Depending on the level of your child, your questions might have yes/no answers, have answer choices, or be completely open-ended.
    • It doesn’t have to be right after you finish reading, especially if it’s a book you’ve read lots of times; you could play Q&A in the car, in a waiting room, or at a restaurant while waiting for your meal to be served.
    • You might let your child try asking YOU some questions, too!  Oh, the thinking skills being developed here!!!! 🙂
  • Before reading a book for the first time, I try to “introduce” it to the kids.
    • I might point out other books they’ve read by the same author, similar characters they might have read about before, the topic of the book, or how it relates to something in their life (i.e. “This book is about snow.  Sometimes it snows in the winter and for us, it’s winter right now!  Maybe one day soon it’ll snow here.  Let’s read about what things you can do in the snow.”)
  • Sometimes we do extension activities with the books we’ve read.  
    • For example, after reading We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, we walked around the house pretending to go through all the areas the family went through.  
    • After we read The Three Little Pigs, we played with a felt board set to retell the story.  
    • After Ten Little Monkeys, we sang the song and used finger puppets.  
    • After we read The Gruffalo and The Polar Express, we rented the movies to watch.
  • If I notice the kids are interested in a particular topic, author, or character, I’ll try to provide more books of that sort for them.
    • A few of L&L’s favorite topics are: seasonal books, books about life events like going to the dentist
    • A few of L&L’s favorite authors are: Dr. Seuss, Karma Wilson, Margaret & H.A. Rey, Eric Carle, Caralyn Buehner
    • A few of L&L’s favorite characters are: Amelia Bedelia, Curious George, The Berenstain Bears, Llama Llama, Karma Wilson’s Bear, Clifford, Jack & Annie from Magic Tree House, Winnie the Pooh, Disney Cars characters
  • I try to sometimes talk about the characters in the story.
    • i.e. Who was in this story?  What were the names of the people in this story?  How many characters were in this story?  Can you draw the characters from the story?  How do you think the character felt when…?  Who was this story mostly about?
  • I try to sometimes talk about the problem and solution in the story.
    • i.e. What was the problem the characters had?  How did their problem get solved?  What else could they have done instead?  What would YOU have done if _______ happened to you?

If a lot of these strategies are new for you, my suggestion is to print the list and keep it near an area where you read with your child often.  Before you start to read, choose one item from the list and try it out!  (Of course, some strategies work better with some books than with others, so try to pair books and strategies accordingly.)  Before long, these types of interactions will become second nature to you, and your child will be benefiting A LOT!

Do you have any reading tips to share?

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Genny Upton

A former teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children. Creator (and writer) at In Lieu of Preschool and Parent Teach Play. Currently publishing my first children's picture book!

  • Adam Waugh says:

    Yes, this is absolutely true. Without any Strategies you can’t do this difficult work. So make a good approach…Okay

  • lori says:

    this is a great blog. easy, practical information that is second nature to a teacher, maybe not so much to parents. i would like permission to print it and share with the parents of my blessins.

  • Thanks, Lori! Feel free to print and share. I’d appreciate if you included the information about the blog to show them where it came from. 🙂

  • lori says:

    oh thanks for the go-ahead and i certainly will include your blog info. i always like to give credit where credit is due. 🙂

  • Oma to 10 says:

    I so enjoy all the ideas! I plan to use them, as opportunities arise, when reading to my grandchildren!

  • Sierra says:

    Awesome post! Thanks.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is a really great blog. Thanks for your experienced advice. Sounds like you’re raising some really great kids!

  • islandmist1 says:

    this is very helpful..good ideas

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