6 Reading Tips for Preschool Parents

Chelsea Day

One of preschool parents’ biggest priorities is exposing their kids to as much language as possible. Early exposure to reading is absolutely critical, as children who are properly exposed to books at a young age can hear as many as 30 million more cumulative words than their peers whose families spend less time reading with them, giving them a serious advantage in literacy and personal expression. Did you know that child vocabulary in their preschool years can predict their third grade reading achievement? I mean, no pressure or anything!


Knowing that a young child needs to read and know exactly how to approach that process are two very different things, though. Many parents are absolutely stumped when it comes to selecting which books to read to their preschool children, and which order to introduce them in. It can be challenging to introduce your children to age-appropriate books. This can be extra difficult when kids this age tend to reach for books above their age level due to sheer fascination with the written word.

As your child starts to grow older, they are going to want to become "bigger" than they really are. This includes wanting to learn how to read at what may be a quicker pace than they are truly ready for. When that happens, embrace it and be excited that your preschooler is wanting to learn! Capture that curiosity while you can and encourage them to read in any way, shape or form that works for them.

Head to the library and get age-appropriate books

If you talk to the librarian at your local library, they'll be more than happy to direct you to the preschool book section. While you may want to jump the gun and get different books for your child, refrain and start with the ones that are for their age.

Board books, picture books and books like that are perfect for preschoolers to start reading. If you get too far ahead of the game and grab books that aren't as appropriate, you do run the risk of frustrating them into thinking that they can't read. Stay the course and age level, as much as possible – while also not limiting their curiosity if they DO try to reach for those older-grade books with more complicated words and pictures. I have a preschooler who frequently grabs his 2nd grade brother’s longer chapter, just because he like the more advanced, comic-style drawings.

Take your preschooler to story time

Reading is actually really, really exciting! The earlier you can teach that to your child, the better! And while you can do all the silly voices and faces that you want to at home when reading, sometimes the best way to give your child the reading giggles is to take them to story time at local establishments.

There's just something new and exciting for your child to have someone else read to them. Story times are a great way to instill the love of reading in your child at a very young age. You can find story time groups at the local library, YMCA, churches and through online groups. Many arrange their meetups through Facebook pages.

Use props when reading

Words are important when reading. That said, when the child is young, they love to incorporate fun real-life things as well. Think puppets, crafts, coloring pages...anything that your child might love to play with when reading, use! There are so many great and free resources online where you can download printables or find great ideas.

The internet is a wonderful tool! You can also check out puppets and manipulatives through lots of local libraries, subscription services and swap groups.

Take turns making up your own story

Reading allows your child's imagination to grow and expand so it's important to take that and roll with it. When it comes to reading, who says that the words have to necessarily be on paper? Take turns creating and speaking out your own perfect story with your preschooler. Not only will it encourage them to learn more words, but it will teach them to write their own books as well!

Create stories with familiar characters

With my preschooler, we like to print out photos of various family members, cut their heads out and stick them onto popsicle craft sticks. Then, it’s story time! Let the kids get hands-on with each “character,” playing out their parts complete with voices and puppeteering motions. We often ask our kids to act out their day, act out a movie, and then eventually an imaginary story that they make up. This is how they come to understand that books are largely a reflection of the world around them, be it their own creative interpretation and hopes for the future in fictional style or the factual retelling of something they’ve learned from a visit to the farm. Reading isn’t ALL about books, after all! It’s about helping any story come to life.

Don’t stress about learning – yet

So much of reading is simply about exposing them to books and developing a love for literature. Give them plenty of time to ogle at pictures, trace basic letters with their fingers, and simply thumb through pages. By the time they get to elementary school, they should have a love of reading and should be ready to actually cement their skills. Once they can understand what books are saying, they can transfer from the early learning-to-read phase to the reading-to-learn phase – and THAT is where all the magic happens.

No matter how you approach it, your preschooler is fortunate to have your attention, interest, and dedication to helping them learn to read. Take a step back when needed and know that kids this age are amazing at expressing their needs. They’ll show you the way toward reading, even when you’re doubting your own course. Lean into these years when your kids are little, and you’ll have the most amazing memories to cherish when you look back on your preschoolers’ earliest forays into the wide world of books.

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Helping parents live simple and satisfying lives. Our homeschooling family loves to learn, and in our spare time (hah!) we RV travel and flip houses.

Boise, ID

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