Fun activities for pre-readers

Kids can learn to love reading even before they know how to read. Here are 19 ways to make reading fun for your preschooler. Because children learn in different ways, we’ve arranged these activities by learning style. But any child can benefit from the suggestions in all three categories. Written by Maile Carpenter.

For physical learners

Make an alphabet poster
Draw each letter, then go through magazines and catalogs and cut out pictures of things that begin with each letter and glue them onto poster board. This is a great hands-on way to learn the alphabet.

Go to story time at the library or a bookstore
Nothing beats listening to a trained storyteller — especially one who gets the audience up out of their seats and acting out part of the story. Going to the library or a bookstore to listen to a tall tale is a fun outing for a preschooler. As a bonus, you may pick up a few tips to jazz up your own read-aloud sessions.

Play dress-up and act out a book
Dressing up like the characters in your child’s favorite book can really bring reading to life. You can invite some of your child’s friends over and make it a playdate.

Make finger puppets to go with a story
Cut the fingers off some old gloves and use fabric markers to draw the characters on together. You can also roll felt or paper for the body and  glue eyes, noses, smiles, and hair on them. If your art skills could use some work, make color copies from the book, cut out the characters’ faces, and glue them onto the glove fingers or rolled paper or felt. Once you make the puppets, you and your child can use them to help tell a story.

Build a reading fort
In your child’s bedroom, drape blankets over a couple of chairs to create a tent. Grab a book and a flashlight and climb in with your child for story time in the dark. Your child’s probably too young to read along, but he’ll enjoy flipping through the pages, holding the flashlight, and looking at pictures. One caution: Keep the stories light and fun. This is no time for anything scary or serious.

Serve a meal from a book
Use food coloring to make green eggs and ham, try to re-create parts of the Grinch’s Christmas feast, or make your own batch of porridge for the Three Little Bears. You can even get a basket and fill it with goodies for Little Red Riding Hood to take to Grandmother’s house.

Have a reading picnic
Take your favorite food and your favorite books to the park. You’ll reinforce the idea that reading can be fun anywhere.

Throw a book-related party
Read over your child’s favorite book and think about what elements would work at a party. Can you decorate his room in a jungle theme to resemble Where the Wild Things Are? Can you collect hats and host a Cat-in-the-Hat party? (Dr. Seuss’s birthday is March 2. Why not celebrate?) You’ll get your child and his friends talking about books.

For auditory learners

Join a summer book club at the library
Most libraries arrange summer programs with lists of books for each age group and awards for completing the books, as well as read-aloud sessions for younger children. Your child will share the joy of books with other kids — and might even win some prizes.

Listen to books on tape or CD
You can check out tapes and CDs from the library for free or buy them at a bookstore (to save money, stop by your local used bookstore). Kids love listening to someone else tell them a story, and they can follow along in their own books.

Sing a book instead of reading it
Preschoolers love to make up little songs and memorize them. You can make this game even more fun by altering your own singing voice — try to mimic an opera singer or a country star. You’ll both end up in a giggle pile.

For visual learners

Read a story that’s out as a movie
Then rent the DVD. Your child will love seeing characters he already knows from a storybook up on the big screen. 

Make a blank counting or alphabet book
Staple together some plain white or light-colored paper. Put a number or letter on each page and ask your child to draw a corresponding picture. Or make an alphabet book in which each page shows one letter of your child’s name. Ask your child to make drawings of things that begin with each letter.

Turn a book into art
Make a color copy of your child’s favorite picture in a book and frame it for her bedroom, or have it put on a shirt at a T-shirt shop.

Buy a big book
Teaching supply stores sell giant books for teachers to use in the classroom. They’re great for group reads because all the kids can see the pictures, but your child will love the huge oversized pictures in your one-on-one story time, too.

Illustrate a song
Write down the words to your child’s favorite song and, with your child, draw pictures to go with each stanza. Then read the song together.

Set a family reading time
For 15 or 20 minutes a night, everyone in the house reads a story together. If friends or neighbors are visiting, ask them to participate. Show your child that reading is fun for the whole family.

Write a book of “my favorite things”
Staple together ten blank pages and ask your child to think of that many favorite things. Help with ideas. What’s your favorite food? Who’s your best friend? What’s your favorite book? Write one thing on each page and have your child draw a picture to go with it.

Start a new reading ritual
Think of new ways to add reading into your day together. Ideas to try: Read a book at breakfast, or in the bathtub. Try reading your child awake, rather than to bed at night. Altering when you read will make reading spontaneous and fun and you’ll encourage your child to read whenever and wherever she’s in the mood.

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