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How to Inspire Your Preschooler With a Love of Reading

You’ve spent hours with your preschooler, rocking in that glider, reading book after book together.

You know reading to him is important. You’ve heard statistics say a toddler who is read to has heard ONE MILLION MORE words …And more-words-heard equals a higher IQ for your little Einstein. (Great! No pressure there…)

You’ve checked out Molly’s fun list of 9 Overlooked Toddler Books, so you aren’t just reading the same book over and over again. (Although, of course, sometimes you are—because it’s your little Hungry Caterpillar’s FAVORITE! —and who can say no to that face?)

Then there are those days when you can’t. turn. another. page. You’re run off your feet, and it’s just easier to put him in front of a screen…because, hey, they have people reading on there, right? There’s probably even an APP for that!

Mommy Confession: I LOVE to read. But when I read to my kids? I couldn’t stop YAWNING! Way to inspire them, huh??!! Ugh!

Maybe you’re like me and you love to read. Or maybe you’d rather wait for the movie. But when it comes to your baby, you want the best for him. You don’t just want to rock and read. You want to rock at reading! You want to inspire your child to love reading!

  • Rocket ships…
  • Dinosaurs…
  • Magic Princesses…
  • Pirates…

Your little adventurer can enjoy all kinds of Wonderlands in the pages of a book. But first, you’ve got to motivate him to jump down the rabbit hole.

Today I’ve got 10 ways for you to inspire a love of reading in your preschooler beyond just turning pages. The story will LEAP off the paper. Before you know it, he’ll see books as his new Playground of Imagination and be motivated to read on his own!

Inspire A Love of Reading #1:
Pour over the Pictures

Moms like pictures because they often mean fewer words to read on the page. After all, at some point, little Susie needs no more bedtime excuses! But there’s another reason kids start reading with picture books.

The artwork helps tell the story!

Those pictures aren’t just pretty, they help her predict what will happen, what causes what, and what words make sense…all skills that help her comprehend what she’s reading, instead of just having words go “in one ear and out the other.” When you understand something, it’s MUCH easier to love it!

Bored with your old books at home? Check out these beautiful Caldecott books (winning awards for their creative illustrations). They work great for “picture walk” story telling:

Inspire a Love of Reading #2:
Tap Out the Rhythm of the Words

If you don’t do it already, start pointing to words as you read them so your little bookworm can make word-to-word connections. It will help her begin to identify words in the story.

But stories don’t just have words. They have rhythm and expression. Sometimes it’s a rhyme. Sometimes it’s a cadence. Sometimes it’s a gentle drift of the tide. So, tap your finger to the pulse of the  words. Or let it lilt and linger with their hum.

Better yet, let her get up and dance the rhythm with these fun cloth streamers. (Or make your own with colorful paper party streamers and jumbo wood craft sticks.) Twirl the streamer FAST in tight circles for intense, forceful sentences, then SLOOOOW, graceful pirouettes for soothing, peaceful lines. BIG spins for giants, teeny tiny twists for mice.

Why? Well, along with getting out all those wiggles, she’ll also begin to hear the flow of reading. (aka “Reading Fluency”) Who knew reading could be an aerobic workout?!

You don’t need a special type of book for this. You’re teaching your little twirler that every book has expression and some type of flow. That said, if you’d prefer some reading inspiration, here are a few of my favorite rhythm-readers.

  • Try a sing-song rhymey-type, like There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. Pam Adam’s version even lets you see inside the Old Lady’s tummy.
  • Or a non-rhymer rhythm reader, like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. What would that twirly ribbon look like when the Pigeon begs, “Please?” or steers, “Vroom-Vroom Vroomy Vroom-Vroom?”
  • Of course, with Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever, you can have a little bit of both. When that story’s little boy is acting crazy, those colors can race around the room! But when his mother rocks him back and forth, back and forth, the ribbon will just float… (and maybe be used as a hanky *sniff*).

Inspire a Love of Reading #3:
Word Play, Tongue Twisters, and Other Noisy Words

Playing with words is like having a whole band of pop rocks on your tongue! Let that verbal excitement feed your kiddo’s love for reading.

Give his mouth a double workout with some quick-tying tongue twisters like Tongue Twisters for Kids or the Dr. Seuss classic Fox in Socks! Chances are you’ll both end up on the floor rolling with laughter (which in my house usually turned into entirely tumultuous tummy-tackling tickle fights!)

Then there are those words that are just fun to say all by themselves, like Blueberries for Sal’s kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk. (Those kinds of words are called onomatopoeia, a name that’s fun to say, but NOT so much to spell! Don’t worry. No spelling tests here! Bonus: I bet if you record your toddler trying to say onomatopoeia, it’d go viral!)

For more word sounds that your little Pip won’t be able to resist, try Slop Goes the Soup or Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!

Want an extra-special really zany reading time? Try reading them with these limited edition Firework Oreos which actually give your child that Pop Rock feeling on his tongue!

Inspire a Love of Reading #4:
Retell the Story

You know those books you’ve read a zillion times to her? Give your voice a break and let her tell the story to you. She’s practicing sequence of events, choosing what’s important in the story, and, of course, remembering details (recalling). All of these things work together to build Reading Comprehension. You’ll totally see if she gets the story she’s heard so many times.

Why not Audio Record your little miss’s storytelling with this easy app —because Grandma will want to hear it, too!

Need some new inspirational stories for her to practice retelling? She’ll love Aesop’s Fables, especially this kid-friendly pop-up edition.

Inspire a Love of Reading #5:
Act the Story Out

Retelling a story is great, but acting it out really makes it come to life! (Think Night of the Museum, but with BOOKS!)

The why’s and what’s suddenly become clearer for your little Oscar-winner, helping him draw conclusions, which again helps him —you guessed it— with reading comprehension. Suddenly words leap off the paper by magic, and what kid doesn’t love magic?

Some studies even show that kids who act out stories are better at understanding math word problems. Gotta LOVE that outcome!

So, what book can be the basis for his first Broadway production? Here are several everyone will love:

No matter which book your little thespian chooses, his production will build a passionate love for reading—and possibly acting!

Wise Mommy Tip: You MIGHT want to steer him away from acting out Five Little Monkey’s Jumping on the Bed. All those doctor calls get expensive!

Inspire a Love of Reading #6:
Throw in Some Utter Nonsense

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of kidney beans. Say WHAT??!!

See? Made you look!

Every now and then in your reading, throw in something that makes absolutely NO sense—the sillier the better. It will keep her ear glued to the story, listening for what it means, trying to predict what it should say! She’ll be ready with a “MOMMY! That’s not how it goes!” but her giggles will prove she loves it!

For more nonsense poetry, nobody does it better than Shel Silverstein. Get ready for some belly-aching laughter! Honestly, coming from your child, is there any better sound?

Inspire a Love of Reading #7:
Read the Book Backwards

Yes, you read that right: Read the book BACKWARDS. Not every day, but every once in a while.

Completely goofy? YEP! But when your little scholar stares at you like you’ve lost your mind, he’ll soon recognize English stories ONLY make sense left to right and top to bottom.

Want more help with left-right “directional reading?” Try Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. It’s a completely wordless book—but the pictures show the flow. Another wordless, fun book to teach this concept is Press Here. Your child “pushes” the button, then has to turn the page to see what happens!

Now that he knows which way to read, why not do a mock “Michelangelo?” Lie upside down and read the book together, in the correct order, of course.

While there may be one direction to read, there’s not just one spot to read it in. He can read anywhere. Get comfortable, get creative, and enjoy it!

Sometimes having a special “reading spot” can help calm active kids down and help them get ready for reading, especially if they’ve dropped their afternoon nap. A comfy chair with a pillow will do, or set up a Reading Teepee or Special Swing.

Inspire a Love of Reading #8:
Read Other Versions of the Same Story

Book by book, you have inspired your little librarian towards a love of reading. You’ve shown her exciting new worlds literally at her fingertips — like Pots of Gold at the end of every rainbow!

But can you imagine a world with just one shade of blue? Talk about boring! Spark her imagination even further by reading the same story in slightly different ways.

Not only does it keep YOU from yawning through the same old same old, it also helps her discover similarities and differences—building blocks that don’t just help future reading skills, but also lots of other learning skills, like squares versus rectangles, addition versus subtraction, and, maybe one day…all those different bones in medical school!

How about starting with The Three Little Pigs

Find yourself able to quote Disney’s Cinderella in your sleep? Try a new rendition!

Or, how about reading a familiar story, only from a different Point of View?

Inspire a Love of Reading #9:
Make the Story Come Alive in Your Kitchen

Wet your preschooler’s appetite for reading by making the Gingerbread Man JUMP out of the book and into your oven! With Jim Aylesworth’s version of the book, the recipe is included on the back. 

Anytime you can make something from a story come to life for your Sugar Pie, you are helping him love reading that book.

And who doesn’t like eating when you’re learning? In other words, have your book and eat it, too!

You could also try making Patricia Polacco’s Thunder Cake. It’s the perfect recipe to help your little one not be afraid of thunderstorms while baking up a special “yummy together” memory! (And you won’t believe the secret ingredient. Who would have guessed?!)

Inspire a Love of Reading #10:
Write Down a Story that She Tells You

Together, you and little Alice have danced, acted out, read upside down, and baked stories, not to mention reading different versions and getting a mouthful of words! Now, inspire her to love reading by helping her imagine her own Wonderland.

Write down a story that she makes up and read it back to her. Then let her illustrate it. Seeing her own words in print will build reading confidence and inspiration like nothing else.

Use this Draw & Write Children’s Journal or cut paper into a shape book that matches something from her story. (If the idea of trying to cut your own freaks you out, you can print great FREE shape-book templates from this Eduplace website.)

Whichever you choose, your future Newbery winner will LOVE reading her very own book to everybody she meets. (Make sure you’ve got enough battery on your phone to record it!)

Stoke His Inspiration:
Fill Your House with Things to Read

Now that he’s completely revved up for reading, fill your house with books. You can buy them—because you can NEVER have too many books, right??—or get a library card.

Better yet, get him a library card. He’ll be so proud to check out his OWN books and put them in his OWN library bookbag.

I would definitely start with one of my favorites: Lorna Balian’s THE AMINAL. No, I didn’t misspell that—I guarantee, you and your preschooler will love the story!

Want more ideas to build great reading skills into your little Hobbit in just one picture book? Pick up Kate Messner’s How to Read a Story. She turns reading comprehension strategies into a top-notch kid-friendly adventure, lions and dragons and knights, oh my ….

Reading is not just watching hungry caterpillars eat or saying goodnight to bunnies. Reading is EVERYWHERE! Even in movies!! (Have you noticed how many movies actually show text messages that the audience has to read?)

Spur on an interest in words by exposing him to cookbooks, sports magazines, ads, song lyrics, and, of course, MIGHTY MOM ARTICLES! *wink*

Learning to read is good.

LOVING to read is inspirational!

How will you and your preschooler make a book come alive today?

Have You Read These Yet?

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