Reading with Your Children: How to Keep Your Older Child Engaged

In our last blog, we talked about the importance of reading. Children develop a variety of learning skills when they are read to regularly—vocabulary, memory and comprehension are a few. Reading to kids requires adults to turn off the “screens” and give kids undivided attention. As children get older, being read to gives kids a chance to ask questions, give their opinions and practice critical thinking skills.

Here are some tips for reading to your older child.

Three-Year-Olds are on Their Way to Becoming Abstract Thinkers

  • Three-year-olds are beginning to imagine things they haven’t experienced, so books about things and ideas that are “new” and have more complex plots are appropriate. These can include books with talking dialog between characters.
  • Three-year-olds may also be interested in feelings—their own and those of others. Books that explore feelings and social interaction are great. Look for books about sharing, handling angry feelings, being loved, etc.
  • Keep reading rhyming books and see if your child can fill in the rhyming word at the end of the sentence.
  • Try recording your child’s favorite books to be listened to when you are not there.
  • Your child may become interested in books with a specific topic, such as dinosaurs, horses or cars.
  • You can begin to introduce “concept” books that teach about letters, numbers, colors and shapes.
  • Three-year-olds are famous for asking questions, so be prepared for lots of them as you read!

Preschoolers are on Their Way to Being Readers

  • Four- and five year olds will be interested in a variety of subjects and will enjoy plots that are quite complex.
  • Try asking “thinking” questions as you read: “What do you think will happen if he does that?” “Why do you think she is so happy?” “Do you know anyone who acts like that?”
  • Once in a while, try a humorous approach to a familiar book by changing the words to something silly to see if your child can catch it. This promotes listening skills.
  • Ask your child to “read” a familiar book to you. It doesn’t matter if he or she gets it perfect. Telling a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end gives practice in sequencing
  • Now is the time to begin introducing books that illustrate your family’s values. If your church has a library, that is a good place to start.
  • Help your child write his or her own book by collecting or drawing pictures and writing what is dictated to you. This teaches kids that words can save our ideas.
  • Practice reading the words on familiar signs, food containers, etc. This is called “environmental reading.” The child uses visual discrimination to recognize the colors, fonts, and symbols to tell what is written. This is an important skill for future reading.
  • Introduce a book series—a number of books with the same characters and similar plot formats. Examples are Clifford, Berenstain Bears, Max and Ruby and Curious George

My School-Age Child Can Read. Does That Mean I Don’t Have To?

We hope you will continue reading aloud with your child as long as possible. There are many excellent children’s chapter books or book series that will provide hours of reading enjoyment for your family. Do you have favorites from when you were a child? Start with those. For more ideas on read-aloud books for older kids, try or

Sioux Empire United Way Reading Festival

The 13th annual Sioux Empire United Way Reading Festival will be held Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at the Ramkota Exhibit Hall from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. This year’s theme is “Plant the Seed: Read!” There will be lots of reading-related activities for kids of all ages, children’s entertainment, and a free book for each child. Best of all, this event is FREE. For more information visit

We wish you many hours of happy reading with your children.

By Betty and Doniese

Family Life Instructors at Avera McKennan

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