Introduction

Reading is an essential foundational skill for all children. Teaching reading is more, however, than teaching a specific set of reading strategies. Reading comprehension is a complex process that involves knowledge, experience, thinking and teaching.

Teachers and parents need to look at the holistic child. Working on self-esteem and confidence is critical and the results will be evident in children’s reading and comprehension.

If children are to become thoughtful, insightful readers, they must merge their thinking with the text, beyond superficial understanding. Comprehension involves readers thinking about what they are learning, not just what they are reading. This might mean understanding a message beyond the literal meaning of a text; for example, The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. The underlying message is the importance of sharing and friendship.

This series contains pre-reading activities and strategies that focus on building the child’s confidence, exposure and understanding.

It is important that children see themselves as a reader – and have the knowledge that they can be a reader. Confidence is essential to achieve this.

The comprehension elements that we will be working towards are:

Before reading:

  • Prediction

During Reading:

  • Visualization
  • Making connections
  • Questions

After Reading:

  • Determining the main idea
  • Summarizing
  • Checking predictions
  • Making judgments

As with all learning, children must have fun and feel supported. All the activities and strategies I outline take this important consideration into account.

Educators and parents play a critical role in modeling language use and reading behaviors to children. Teachers can:

  • Model useful ways of using language
  • Explain the meaning and purpose behind activities
  • Demonstrate the use of problem solving activities
  • Ask questions to aid comprehension
  • Pause to allow children time to think and express their ideas
  • Offer new content relevant to the theme unfolding
  • Build on children’s interests, and
  • Create opportunities for discussion

Encouraging Reading, Writing and Learning Behaviors

An essential foundational component of all reading comprehension strategies is to encourage reading, writing and learning behaviors in children.

The main goal is that each child will see themselves as a reader. As part of this, they will show enjoyment and demonstrate a willing attitude to read. Children must be able to talk about reading and the reading process as well as demonstrating an understanding that reading has a purpose.

This will shape learning behaviors that will equip children to be critical readers and discern meaning from texts before, during and after the reading experience.

These analytical skills will enable the children to identify connections between texts and their own life experiences. They will ultimately be able to apply a range of strategies that are used by “good readers” and locate and read texts that appeal to them individually.

The critical element is to make sure the children are having fun while reading. It is our role as early childhood educators to instil in the children that reading is an enjoyable experience. We are building fundamental behaviors that will establish competent lifelong readers.

Book Discussion

The ‘Ask More’ Method

Book discussion is an excellent way to assess children’s comprehension. This can be at any stage of reading a book:

  • Before you start reading; after the children have seen the cover and you have read the title
  • After you read each page or at any relevant juncture within the story
  • Upon completion of the book
  • After some time has passed
  • Upon subsequent readings

I use what I like to call the ‘Ask More Method’. Essentially I find that the more you ask, the more the children will be challenged to think about their understanding of the book and further demonstrate their comprehension. In a group setting, it also aids comprehension as the children are listening to each other’s answers.

‘Ask More Method’ questions can be as wide-ranging as you like. It can be a useful engagement technique to shape questions that are relevant to specific children’s current interests.

Calibrate your questions to suit the abilities of the children and the stage of the preschool year. You can expect more detailed answers as the year progresses. Follow direct-answer questions with open-ended questions.

Some ‘Ask More Method’ examples to get you started are:

  • What do you think the book is about? Why do you think that?
  • What will you tell your parents about it?
  • Tell me about your favourite part.
  • What didn’t you like about the book?
  • Did anything in the book make you feel happy / sad / frightened?
  • Which character in the book did you like?
  • Where did that character live or what were they looking for?
  • How would you feel if something happened to you like [X]?
  • Did you hear any rhyming words in the story?

Reading Aloud

Reading aloud is a powerful strategy for reading comprehension and one that I feel is vital for establishing children’s lifelong living skills.

By reading aloud, you are conveying a connection between the written and spoken word.

It is important to have read the book beforehand. This helps ensure that when reading it to the children it flows with appropriate tone and volume of voice. It should be dramatized using different voices for each character.  This way you hold the children’s attention and interest throughout.

Shorter books can be read through a second time, enabling a discussion about relevant concepts and themes. A second reading also allows you to assess the children’s recall and comprehension.

By retelling or role-playing the story they have listened to, the children demonstrate their comprehension. The children recall the sequence of events; the beginning, middle and end of the story.

Preschool teachers play an important role in explaining to parents the benefits of reading aloud and encouraging them to spend quality reading time with their children. See below for more information on this topic.

Paraphrasing

Encourage the children to develop the skill of paraphrasing, as this will quickly demonstrate their comprehension levels. This could be as simple as asking the children to put a story that has been read to them into their own words.

You can promote this by posing open-ended questions (please refer to my ‘Ask More Method’ above).

Paraphrasing can be based on a written story, as well as aided by pictures in books, or by using catchy rhymes. A picture book without words can inspire children’s imaginations when they retell the story in their own words.

Another method is to encourage conversations related to the book – this can be consolidated by a second reading of the book.

This approach may be applied within a small group or with an individual child, depending on the ability of the children.

Book Experiences

Choose books that are in good condition. This helps children learn to respect and look after the books and enjoy them more. Teach the children suitable places to keep a book, for example; a bookshelf.

You can determine a preschool’s attitude to instilling respect for books by the quality of the books they provide for the children. What attitude are we showing children and their families if we provide a torn book or one with missing pages? It disappoints me when people give children old books because their expectation is that because they are little they will tear them. It is so important to teach children to respect books from a young age.

You can work with the children to make their own books. This could be through photos, paintings, or on a computer or tablet device – there are so many options!

My children and I made a book called “How the kangaroo learned to jump”. We researched the attributes of a kangaroo, its tail, its shape etc. Each child suggested ways that the kangaroo could move. First the kangaroo tried to swim, then he tried to walk, he tried to climb a tree, climb into an aeroplane etc. until eventually he learned to jump. Each child illustrated their own page and wrote their name as author and illustrator. We laminated each page and bound it as a book. It was the prized book on the bookshelf throughout the year and very well read.

Also keep in mind that the books we think are enjoyable are not necessarily the ones children prefer. Children, like adults, have their favorites. I’m sure we all have experience of children wanting the same book every day.

I have written about the best preschool books for children at www.TicTacTeach.com/preschool-books.

As early childhood educators we have the opportunity to expose children to a variety of book experiences. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • library time
  • large group reading
  • small group reading
  • independent reading
  • social reading
  • reading for fun
  • reading for facts
  • rest time reading

Make sure you visit the library. Consider an excursion to the big library in the city as well – all libraries are different and different things appeal to different children.

If children like books by a particular author, then research that author (or illustrator). This can be a fun way to introduce the concept of an “author” and “illustrator” to the children. You can aid this experience by showing the children a photograph of the author. When the children create their own books, this concept is reinforced by putting their name and photo as the author.

For 3 year olds, choose books that:

  • Gradually increase the number of words and sentences
  • Play with rhymes and patterns in stories
  • Show familiar events and start to look at the wider world
  • Have pictures illustrating the words – these show different emotions, including early humor.

For 4 and 5 year olds, choose books that:

  • help children think about how and why things happen
  • have different types of pictures to help children look at detail
  • provide information about going to school and making friends
  • introduce short chapters (for 5 years and older)
  • can be fictional, factual, humorous or imaginative.

Remember, children develop and learn differently and this, as well as the children’s interests and abilities, should be considered carefully when choosing books.

Using Your Community and Surroundings

An important way to encourage reading and reading comprehension is by leveraging your surroundings.

Some of my favorite ways are listed below:

  • Display drawings and ask the children to describe them.
  • Make a daily weather picture chart: cut out pictures of people in different clothes from catalogs. Each day, talk about what the weather will be like and have the children select a suitable picture to stick to the weather chart.
  • Attend a local library for story time sessions.
  • Collect fall leaves and paste them onto a tree that you’ve drawn. Use this to then talk about leaf colors, shapes and textures.
  • Make a food scrapbook from catalogs. Children can draw a heart on all the food they’ve tried and liked, a question mark on foods they haven’t tried yet and a cross or sad face on the foods they’ve tried at least twice and really don’t like. This activity is great for vocabulary extension as well as comprehension.
  • Visit the grocery store with the class as an excursion (involve parents by inviting them to assist). Take a shopping list of what you need. Refer to the signs above the aisles and point out the words. Encourage awareness of the labels (words and numbers) on the shelves. It can be a useful exercise to look for cereals and similar products that the children will readily identify from home. We went to the food market across the road from our preschool. I was fortunate to have had a large response from my families which enabled one parent for every two children. I made visual shopping lists for each group. Each group had a clear Zip Loc bag containing one coin per child so that when it came time to purchase their goods, they were able to hand over money (the parent had the rest of the money for the items). This was all pre-organized with the shopkeeper for a suitable time. The shopkeeper was very patient serving and receiving money from his 20 little customers.
  • Point out road signs when you go on excursions.
  • Invite your local library to come and visit the preschool; often they have reading programs that they can offer to parents as well.
  • Classroom procedures can be presented in a visual format and have corresponding written words, for example, how to wash your hands.
  • Photo representations alongside words for the daily routine encourage improvements in comprehension; for example, “arrive at school with your backpack”. Ask questions regarding the routine; for example “What do we do next?” or “What do we do before lunch?” This will give an indication of the child’s comprehension of the day’s routine.

The key is really exposing your preschool children to the written word in as many scenarios as possible. Within your conversations with children and through recalling experiences, you can gain an insight into the children’s understanding.

Attention and Concentration Skills

To ascertain the children’s attention and concentration skills, it is essential to first determine if there are any hearing or visual concerns. This is critical, as it will require a response from you – for example, it may affect seating positions within small groups.

You will also need to determine whether English is the main language spoken at home. English as a second language will impact comprehension and other strategies will need to be implemented.

Throughout the day there are ample opportunities to develop and assess how children are concentrating and attending to a task. Within language and music group times, attending to a structured activity, following the day’s routines or playing a social game, it is important to consider the following areas:

Is the child:

  • listening to speech?
  • understanding spoken information and instructions?
  • recognizing rhyming words?
  • speaking (using words, sentences and conversations)?
  • asking and answering questions?
  • following instructions?
  • talking with clear pronunciation?
  • recognizing the difference between words and pictures?
  • drawing and attempting to write (e.g. their own name)?
  • aware that letters in the alphabet have sounds and names?
  • aware of the difference between letters and numbers?
  • problem solving, curious and deep thinking?
  • confident and emotionally ready for trying new things?
  • independent with self-help skills?
  • using fingers and hands precisely?
  • completing a set task with a desired outcome?
  • attentive in group times?

You can download a PDF version of the above considerations at www.TicTacTeach.com/reading-concentration.

Visual Discrimination

A child’s ability to visually discriminate will impact upon their ability to attain reading competence.

There are many fun and engaging visual discrimination activities and strategies that children will love. My favorites are puzzles, matching activities and visual aids.

The purpose of practicing visual discrimination skills is to build the children’s eye for detail through pre-reading activities. It will also help build their confidence.

When children are solving puzzles, they can describe what they are actually doing with the puzzles. Start at the left hand side of the puzzle to familarize the children with directional reading. You can read extended information on using puzzles for preschool children and the progression at www.tictacteach.com/puzzles-for-kids.

Activities that require sequencing or building a story with pictures are extremely beneficial. These activities can be self-correcting activities too.

Auditory

Language is both spoken and heard. Understanding sounds and blends is a critical aspect of reading comprehension. This also refers to articulation and pronunciation. Awareness of sounds we hear and the sound of words helps link to the printed word.

Speaking aloud, singing, finger plays, poems and rhymes provide opportunities for children to enjoy the sound of language.

Have fun with sounds – exaggerate them! I find sounds that animals make are always popular with the children.

It is important that children can differentiate between similar sounds, such as ‘stop’ and ‘shop’.

Part of understanding sounds is developing listening skills. One good way to do this is to develop a sound tape that accentuates different sounds. You could use animal sounds or household items (for example: bells, whistles or keys), the content doesn’t matter; the point is to get the children ready to hear the differences.

A child’s ability to listen will depend on their concentration, their maturity and sometimes their ability to hear. If you are concerned, a hearing check may be warranted. A speech professional can also determine if it is due to the child’s ability to process instructions. A child I had one year had re-occurring ear infections, which affected his hearing and his ability to attend in group times.

Songs, rhymes and listening games are all important tools to develop auditory skills. Rhyming books allow children to predict what will happen next in a story. Playing with rhymes helps children practice sounds.

A great activity is to go on a listening walk with your children to discover how many sounds you can hear outside. Afterwards, you can discuss or draw what was heard.

Below are some of my tried and tested examples of sounds that are fun to recite with the children:

  • Ants on the apple; a-a-a
  • Balls are bouncing; b-b-b
  • Caterpillars coughing; c-c-c
  • Dolls are dancing; d-d-d
  • Eggs in the eggcup; e-e-e
  • Flies are flying; f-f-f
  • Goats are giggling; g-g-g
  • Helicopters hovering; h-h-h
  • Iguanas itching; i-i-i
  • Jelly beans jumping; j-j-j
  • King kicking a kettle; k-k-k
  • Lions licking lollipops; l-l-l
  • Monkeys munching; m-m-m
  • Nanna’s nearly ninety; n-n-n
  • Old orange octopus; o-o-o
  • Popcorn are popping; p-p-p
  • Queens are waiting quietly; q-q-q qu-qu-qu
  • Robots are racing; r-r-r
  • Sausages sizzling; s-s-s
  • Tigers are tiptoeing; t-t-t
  • Up umbrella; u-u-u
  • Violets in vases; v-v-v
  • Wibble wobble walrus; w-w-w
  • Oxen on the box; x-x-x
  • Yak is yawning; y-y-y
  • Zig zag zebras; z-z-z

You can find a PDF version of this list at www.tictacteach.com/reading-sounds.

Fine Motor

Fine motor pre-reading activities prepare children’s fine motor skills for the concept of reading; for example, turning the page. Turning one page at a time is a fundamental concept for interacting with books and is learned very quickly with opportunity and experience.

Start with books that have big, thick cardboard pages and then, as the children become more dexterous, you can use normal paper pages.

Incorporate visual assistance by pointing to words or pictures as you are reading.

For variety, use a tablet device to make up a story. Children can use a stylus, which will help with pencil grip. This will cover many essential skills – finger control, eye/hand coordination and learning the concept of using a tablet device.

Fine motor activities that develop the requisite skills include:

  • play dough
  • threading
  • drawing
  • painting
  • cutting
  • pasting
  • crafts
  • puzzles
  • manipulative toys; for example, small Lego

Children soon learn to distinguish between their drawings and their writing, whether it is scribble or letter-like marks, as they experiment with writing.

Writing

Writing is a creative, as well as physical, activity.

To prepare the children for writing I like to use the following activities:

Creating Books

One fun activity involves making your own books, allowing the children to decide on the content of their book. Once their book is written, the children can make up questions that they would like to pose to the audience. For example “What animal is in my book?”

Creating books is not limited to drawing; other creative art forms and photographs can be used as well.

Dramatic Areas

Dramatic areas are a fabulous way to engage children and develop a variety of skills. Let’s use the example of a restaurant. Children can be involved in setting up the recipes, the menu and pretending to take the orders.

They practice their memory and recall to find the appropriate ingredients for the order.

Conversation

As part of the preschool experience, we need to be engaging children in conversations with other children and with educators.

Some activities to encourage and facilitate conversations are:

Dramatic role play experiences:

For example using puppets made from socks, paper bags, stick puppets, hand or finger puppets. Children provide speech for the puppets. They can make up their own stories or play the part of their favourite character. The children can have conversations and experiment with different voices.

Construction (for example, blocks, Lego, Duplo, construction kits):

The children work together to design plans for their construction.  They can lay out the sequence of steps on paper, either at the beginning or end of the construction (Tip: Avoid interruptions during the creative phase.)

At the end of the activity, educators can converse with the children by asking open-ended questions. Refer above to my ‘Ask More Method’ for guidance.

It will be more challenging if you facilitate the conversation before they undertake the construction. Children need to be confident and competent in their thought processes to articulate the planning and design; for example, “What are we going to build?” or “How are we going to build the boat?”

Social play experiences:

Children can be engaged in conversations through games organized by teachers as well as those they initiate themselves; for example, children might organize a tea party in the garden. This setting facilitates all kinds of dialogue.

Another example is conversations within the routines of the day. If they see a friend struggling with their lunch box, they visually comprehend that the friend needs assistance and take the initiative to help out.

Routines

I like to use daily routines within preschool to enhance the children’s comprehension skills.

I use photos with a description underneath to demonstrate the sequence in routines, so that the children comprehend the visual elements. A good example is the routine of washing their hands.

My favorite method, however, is using a visual schedule or diary of the day, displayed from left to right. This helps the children comprehend what is happening now, and what is happening next throughout their day. This can be related to reading a book for comprehending and sequencing a chain of events.  This is especially valuable at the start of the year, when children are settling in, as it makes their day predictable.

Even within a meal time there are routines: what comes first, what comes next. For example, with my children, we wait until everyone is seated followed by a finger play before we start eating.

Comprehension Games and Activities

Games can be used to support comprehension, and thus reading.

Add games to your repertoire that promote not only comprehension but word structure, following directions, listening and extending vocabulary.

Recognition Games

These games enable children to look or listen – promoting recognition before memory.

  • Special Word: agree on a word which everyone will listen for during a conversation. Every time the nominated word is heard, the children clap their hands.
  • Magazine image jigsaw puzzle: Cut out simple images from magazines and cut into several pieces. Children can then put the image back together and tell you what the picture is.
  • Description game: Describe in detail an animal the children would be familiar with and see if they can tell you its name.
  • Musical statues: Children move while listening to the music. When it stops, they freeze as a statue.
  • Identifying rhymes: Teach the children nursery rhymes and have them identify the words that rhyme.

Visual Discrimination

  •  Puzzles: Children focus on colors, shapes and the detail within the picture to complete the puzzle.
  • Scavenger hunt: Get the children to find objects in the learning environment that have similar characteristics. For example; find objects that are soft, round, green, etc.
  •  Memory game: Show the children a picture for them to look at carefully. Remove the picture and ask them to tell you what they remember. You can then discuss the things that they have missed.

Reading Mechanics

  •  Identifying left and right: use a watch or a ring to distinguish left and right hand.
  • Simon says: this is the perfect game to promote comprehension. It helps children become familiar with left and right as well as body parts. You can start by facing the same direction as the children and later face them.
  • Calendar: Marking off the days on a calendar gets children familiar with the direction of left-to-right and top-to-bottom.

Vocabulary Expansion

  •  Play dough: A fun and interactive activity, with lots of opportunities to facilitate discussion. For example: Let’s make a dog. How many legs does it need? Will our dog have a long tail or a short tail? Is it going to have spots on its belly or on its back?
  • Dramatization: Acting out or role playing songs, rhymes, stories or real life situations. For example: a shop, doctor’s surgery or “Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick. So she phoned for the doctor to come quick, quick, quick. The doctor came with his bag and his hat and he knocked on the door with a ratta-tat-tat. He looked at the dolly and he shook his head…” Or “Five little ducks went out one day…”
  • Dressing up: this encourages imagination and language use in play.

Following Directions

  •  Songs: such as heads, shoulders, knees and toes.
  • Normal Routines of the day: Let’s push our chairs in.
  • Simon Says: Children follow very clear directions to be able to participate.

 Word Structure

  • Syllable Clap: Clap out the beats of the children’s names, for example, Me-la-nie.
  • Rhyming words: For example, reading books by Dr Seuss as they have a lot of repetition.

Remember to check out my 50 Free Preschool Games!

Cooking

Cooking is an engaging, non-threatening method to encourage reading comprehension, while at the same time teaching math fundamentals.

One strategy is to commence with a set recipe and read the recipe with the children. The recipe can have visual representations to aid the children’s understanding.

You can then question the children to evaluate their comprehension. Questions such as: “What ingredients do we need for this recipe?” allow children to respond, demonstrating their degree of comprehension. At the same time they are given a measure of responsibility as they select the actual ingredients.

For those children that demonstrate developed comprehension skills, the concept of numbers can be introduced and gauged by their response to directions, for example: “Can you get three eggs please?”

This activity allows children to see the written word and understand that there is a relationship with the cooking you are undertaking together.

In some ways, cooking can be easier to comprehend than a book. Simple procedures can be broken up into sections and most children’s cookbooks have illustrations, which makes them more accessible and engaging.

The cookbook will also typically have a photo of the recipe, so that children can see what they are working towards.

The best part is that the children can enjoy the fruits of their labor! Use this relaxing and enjoyable time to pose further comprehension questions to the children, such as: “What did the recipe tell us to do?”

Tablets and the Use of Technology

As new advances are made in computers and tablets, it’s becoming increasingly beneficial to embrace interactive technologies as an aid for reading comprehension.

I see the benefits of technology as two-fold:

  1. Aiding children’s reading comprehension.
  2. Encouraging competence with technology that will be part of everyday life for this generation.

The International Reading Association (2009) issued its position statement that, in part, read:

To become fully literate in today’s world, students must become proficient in the new literacies of 21st-century technologies. IRA believes that literacy educators have a responsibility to integrate information and communication technologies (ICTs) into the curriculum, to prepare students for the futures they deserve.

Digital, interactive electronic books on tablets and other mobile devices can provide an engaging, self-paced and self-correcting way for children to sharpen their reading comprehension skills.

The use of technology for reading comprehension can require different instructions from educators and elicit diverse responses from children. As an alternate learning and teaching style, it can be potentially very engaging for children who are struggling readers.

One of the most helpful features of using interactive digital devices is the ability to find out the definition and pronunciation of any word on the screen by simply touching it.

These devices also provide a method for physical interaction as children manipulate and transform texts.

Parents at Home

I have a special reading comprehension guide for parents at home here. 

As a preschool teacher, you must engage the parents and encourage them to set aside family time to read and incorporate reading comprehension activities into their daily routines.

Parents listening and providing encouragement builds a child’s confidence and interest in reading. Parents should start with short picture books or books with a catchy repetitious phrase to give the child a sense of achievement. For example, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me. I’m the Gingerbread Man.” Parents should also allow the child to choose books that interest them.

Encourage parents to sit side by side, as close as possible so that they can share the book together. The child is the reader and it is the parent’s role to encourage and provide support where necessary. The child holds the book so, at their own pace, they can:

  • look at the pictures
  • spend time problem solving, and
  • move to the next page.

Parents should read to their child every day simply for enjoyment. Parents also should be encouraged to read every day themselves, in order to provide a good role model for their child.

When parents are reading with their child, it is important that they point to the corresponding words to assist the child with association. Ask open-ended questions to encourage discussion and ascertain their level of comprehension as you go (see Ask More Method above).

Encourage the child’s questioning. This is both understanding questions with ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ and being able to ask questions containing those words. Describing things and grouping them develops the language of classifying. Keep answering the child’s questions, even if they have asked them many times before. Sometimes you can see if they can answer their own questions. Ask for the child’s opinion and, eventually, the reasons behind that opinion.

Parents should guide their children to provide detailed descriptions when they talk. Prompters include:

  • size
  • shape
  • color
  • what things feel like, and
  • for what purpose things are used.

Help the child expand their vocabulary and practice remembering the names of everyday objects. Parents can make up games, like snap or memory, to help. This can be as simple as asking the child to name the items in the shopping trolley when shopping or, while they are getting dressed, asking them to name the items of clothing as they put each one on.

Telling stories gives a sequence of events and encapsulates a beginning, middle and end. Similarly, by re-enacting or re-telling a story, children are required to remember the sequence.

Below are some simple, affordable and fun activities that parents can do with their child (or as a family) to encourage reading comprehension:

  • Put the child’s drawing on the fridge to display. Ask them to describe their drawing. If they like, parents can write the description on the drawing.
  • Make a daily weather picture chart. Cut out pictures of people from clothes catalogs. Each day talk about what the weather will be like and have the child choose a suitable picture to go on the weather chart.
  • Visit their local library as often as possible; attend story time sessions.
  • Make a food scrapbook using pictures from catalogs. Have the child draw a heart shape near all the foods they have tried and liked and a question mark near the foods they haven’t tried yet.
  • Make a shopping list together and have parents ask their child to check whether specific items are nearly empty. When shopping ask questions like: “which milk do we usually have?”
  • Play ‘I Spy’ with rhyme, for example: “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with book”.
  • While out and about, look for license plates that have the same letters as in the child’s name.
  • Make a photo album or scrapbook with the child and have them tell their parent what to write about for each photo or picture.
  • Find some chalk and both parent and child can decorate a paved path outside.
  • Let the child explore drawing with a stick (or their finger) in different mediums; for example, mud, sand or a plate of sugar.
  • Give the child rich and varied experiences; for example, visit the zoo, museums and funfairs.
  • Find books about the child’s hobby to read together.
  • Allow the child to select books as gifts for friends.
  • Cook or make things that involve reading instructions.
  • Encourage the child to read words displayed around them, e.g. menus, signs, food packets, TV guides.
  • Parents can write messages to their child – put them on the fridge or in their lunch box. Encourage children to write notes to their parents in return.
  • Allow the child to write the shopping list. When shopping, parents can ask their child to read it to them.
  • Have the child write and read letters or emails (ask the grandparents to help out!)
  • Use reading as a tool for communication in the house; for example, placing notes to each other on the fridge.

Parents can read the letters they receive to their child.

  • Read incidental materials; for example, labels, cards, recipes, instructions booklets or TV captions.
  • Give books as a reward for a job well done or as a gift.

Many parents hold concerns or are unsure how best to read books to their children. As a preschool teacher, here are some tips you can share with the parents:

  • Choose a special time each day for reading; for example, bedtime.
  • Children enjoy stories and books about other children and events that are relevant to their lives; for example, the arrival of a new sibling.
  • Before reading the book, talk about the book – its title, the pictures, what your child thinks it might be about.
  • Share your child’s enjoyment of the story. Make the book come alive with different voices, facial expressions, actions, tempos and tones. Stop and ask questions about the story to allow your child to predict what will come next.
  • Take the opportunity to practice critical thinking and problem solving. For example, what would your child have done in the same situation as the character?
  • Allow your child to interrupt and ask questions. This is a good opportunity to research with your child to find the answer.
  • Invite your child to read the story to you – it will not be word-for-word, but you might be surprised by how much they can recall!
  • After reading the book, encourage discussion. This could involve reading or looking through the book again.

When parents select books for their preschool children, consider enjoyment, as well as developing reading skills. Favorite topics and special interests, such as bears or dinosaurs, will keep their interest. It is also important to introduce other topics to increase the child’s understanding of the world.

Books with repetition and rhyme help children build their language skills and allow children to predict what will happen next.

Choose books with clear illustrations so that children can tell the story for themselves, even from an early age.

Finally, allow children to handle and care for books. Children’s first experience of reading should be fun and enjoyable for both the parent and child. Children need to be supported with realistic expectations to be able to build their confidence for future reading. Parents need to avoid putting pressure on their child to have specific reading skills before entering school. Encourage parents to have conversations with preschool teachers for guidance and support.

Conclusion

Reading is very possibly the most critical skill that we can teach pre-schoolers – and the younger we introduce them to reading, the better their achievement throughout school and into later life.

Building strong reading comprehension skills during a child’s time in preschool will set a foundation for success in future years. But of course we understand, as early childhood educators, that not all children learn the same way.

PS I’ve also written a Reading Comprehension Guide for Parents of Preschool Children.