Sharing a book with your young child can be a fun experience. (I realize it can also be stressful–especially if your child is having a wiggly kind of day!) Studies have shown that babies who are exposed to books and allowed the chance to touch and explore the book are more likely to appreciate them as they get older. So why not let your toddler and preschooler have the same experience? And by experience, I don’t mean letting your preschooler put a book in his mouth to explore it. No. By this age, preschoolers are more interested in the actual content of the book. And if they aren’t quite there, it’s okay. Maybe they haven’t found the right book, yet. (You can always ask your local librarian for a little help on that front!)
So what do I mean? During story time, read through the book one time just the way it was intended. But as you read it a second or third time, here are a few questions you can ask while reading:
1. Pause on each page. Point to an object on the page and ask your child what it is.
For instance, if you see an apple tree, point to it and ask, “What is that?”
2. Respond to your child’s answer by repeating what he said.
If your child says, “A tree!” you can respond by saying, “Yes that is a tree.”
3. Expand on your child’s answer if possible.
“Yes, that is a tree. It’s an apple tree!”
4. Have your child point to the object.
“Can you point to the apple tree?”
From there, you can also expand on other things that are the page (objects, colors, numbers, letters, shapes, etc.). Repetition is so important, so read the story over and over (not in one sitting). Start leaving words off at the end of a sentence. Let your child fill in the blank. Use the pictures as your guide and tell a story based on the illustrations and not the author’s words. Relate the words or pictures in the story to an event in your child’s life. Ask questions like who, what, where, why and when. If you read the story using more questions and relying less on the actual text, you’ll notice your child may start reading the story to you!
It may seem a little early in the life of a child to start practicing these reading techniques, but when he gets to Kindergarten, these are the same questions teachers will be asking. It’s never too early to start preparing–just keep it lighthearted and fun. When it becomes frustrating, stop and take a break.
For more information on reading techniques, visit http://www.readingrockets.org/article/dialogic-reading-effective-way-read-preschoolers.