Tips for Reading with a 4-Year-Old


Stories are a treasured part of the bedtime ritual at our house. Our daughter is no longer content to listen to the story as we read. Now she must see the picture, and often asks to see words as we read. For some stories, those which we have read over and over and over, she will recognize a page and “read” to us.

The effort to stay a step ahead of our daughter is daunting. Just the other day Daddy was reading the bedtime story, and she was following along.

“Now this word here. Do you know what it is? It starts with an F…”

“That’s fish. I know that word already,” was the slightly annoyed reply.

“Okay, then what’s this word?” Daddy pointed to another word on the page.

“Cat,” the confident reply.

My husband looked at me with raised eyebrows, then turned to my daughter. “That’s really great. I’m impressed. High five.”

We want our daughter to remain engaged with reading. Right now she LOVES books. A trip to the library is as magical as a trip to the candy store, and I would like to keep it that way. So, I have been doing a lot of reading about reading. Later this summer my daughter and I will be taking a reading class together so that I can learn how best to support her learning. For now though, I’ll share some simple tips for nurturing a passion reading:

  1. Let her see you reading. Although at 4-and-a-half she is beginning to exit the stage of imitating everything Mom and Dad do, the behaviors you model still have a huge influence on her. If you want her to value reading, she needs to see that you value reading. She needs to see you reading for pleasure, reading to learn new things, reading to follow instructions. It can be a recipe, a newspaper, a novel, but you need to read, and she needs to see it.
  2. Read to her. Even in my daughter’s infancy I was reading stories to her. Now she picks the stories, but we still read every night. These will be treasured memories for her. I still remember how my dad would read the Sunday morning color comics to me each week.
  3. Read picture books and don’t move to “chapter” books too quickly. Books that are well illustrated do several things. First of all, often your child can tell you what is happening in the story or comment on the story as you read. Talking about the story and its pictures develops language skills. Secondly, books with pictures tend to introduce more and varied vocabulary than “chapter” books for extra young readers. Pick up The Little Engine That Could, Corduroy or Some Pig (by EB White). The pictures are magnificent. Then look at some of the vocabulary words; you’ll be amazed at what these simple “picture books” teach.
  4. When you read, interact. Hold the book so that your child can see the pictures. Let your child turn the pages. If there is a repeated word or phrase, have your child join in. The book Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom is a great one for interactive reading. And when your child asks a question, particularly if it is the meaning of a word, stop and answer it.
  5. Subscribe to a children’s magazine or comic book. Getting a magazine in the mail is a great treat. We subscribe to National Geographic Kids, and we keep the magazines next to the bookshelf with the bedtime storybooks. Sometimes our bedtime story is a magazine issue.
  6. Find things to read all around: street signs, signs in the grocery store, shopping lists, the back of the cereal box or milk carton.
  7. Most of all: have fun. I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting some of my favorite childhood books, discovering classics I missed along the way, and finding great new writing as well.

Happy Reading!

©2011 Michele Arduengo All Rights Reserved.

4 thoughts on “Tips for Reading with a 4-Year-Old

  1. Hi Michele,
    I agree about the picture books. My children liked Corduroy as well–and we read lots of books about construction equipment and Dinosaurs. somewhere in the recesses of my brain I still know the name of every vehicle you can find on a building site!

  2. Great tips, Michelle. Bedtime stories were a ritual when my kids were growing up too, and as adults they both still love books and reading. My daughter, in fact, is currently enrolled in a Masters of Library and Information Science program, so I guess she’ll have books surrounding her for years to come!

  3. I don’t remember having a lot of bedtime stories as a kid, but I was surrounded by books and started reading pretty early. Having an aunt who was a librarian helped, too.

    1. Hi Ken,
      I don’t remember bedtime stories, but I know I was read to a lot, and I had many books. My mom also used to take me to the library in downtown Decatur, GA frequently, and I loved checking out books. My favorite books were Green Eggs and Ham, If I Ran the Zoo and Go Dog Go. I had those memorized pretty early on. Bedtime stories work out really well for our family now. Bedtime is pretty much the only time we can guarantee undisrupted Mom and Dad time with our schedules. It’s important for many reasons, not just reading.
      Michele

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