Pre-Reading with Your Preschooler

Jess Wardell
"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go." - Dr. Seuss

Reading. As a teacher, I would tell you, it’s my favorite. I love to watch my students get lost in the adventures of brave and heroic characters. Reading. As a mom of littles who can’t yet “read” words for themselves….I would tell you, it’s a little less my favorite. 

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that reading with your kids is one of the most important things we can do with them as parents. Honestly. But in the day to day, when I have already read how the very hungry caterpillar ate through the ice cream cone and piece of chocolate cake that I wanted to eat or how brown bear saw a red bird for the 15th time in a row, it doesn’t feel quite as fun. Yet, I know that reading with and to my littles now, will lead them to develop the love for literature that I crave to see in my students. So where is the balance? How do we not drive ourselves to hate Pete the Cat while still encouraging and engaging our young readers’ minds?

Reading with your littles leads to pre-reading of their own. You see, reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar 1,367,454 times will actually benefit you in the long run. Books with patterns, rhyming, and repetition, although challenging on the mom brain, are wonderful for our pre-readers. They give our littles the chance to not just be passive bystanders in the reading of books, but active participants. Our kids learn to anticipate, recite, and even “read” these books to themselves. Bright pictures of familiar concepts, environments, and characters can be “read” and expanded upon through the depths of their little minds. 

I am often amazed at what a steel trap my biggest little is. Not yet 3, she can identify, choose, and “read” books from her bookshelf at her leisure. No she isn’t a genius. She didn’t win the genetic lottery in that department. But, she has been read to. And read to. And read to again, even against my desire to play or do something else. When I say she is “reading” what I mean is she is visually exploring the illustrations and drawing upon her experiences from her own life as well as when we have read together in the past. Rewriting the stories with her own twist. And much of the time, they are eerily similar to the actual words on the page. The pride that beams from her as she flips pages and spouts out words that actually follow a plot, is inexplainable. So much so, she will pick up another book and do it again (and then I get to take another uninterrupted sip of my coffee).  

So, the next time you snuggle up with your little and the same book you can recite from memory because you have read it that many times, remember, its worth it. You are instilling in them the foundations of reading. Page turning, flow of text from left to right, expression and intonation, and the love of stories. Soon enough, they will be “reading” to you and that pride won’t just be beaming from them, it will be exploding from you as well. 

Great Pre-Reading Books:

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • Chicka Chicka 1,2,3
  • Pete the Cat/Kitty Books
  • Llama Llama Books
  • Anything by Caroline Jayne Church 
  • Anything by Sandra Boynton
  • Love you Forever
  • Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
  • The Pout Pout Fish
Jess Wardell
Jess Wardell is a 8 year veteran teacher in Cobb County. With a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education and experience in both preschool and the elementary grades, Jess has a passion for helping children discover and cultivate their own innate love of learning. Her favorite job is being mom to her two girls, Norah and Emma. Drawing on her experiences within the classroom and her own home, Jess desires to help other families discover the joy of engaging in meaningful experiences that encourage both learning and creativity in simple and effortless ways.

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