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It's never too early to turn your child on to books. Kids can learn to love reading even before they know how to read on their own. Here are some different 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.
For physical learners
Make an alphabet poster
If your child likes to look through books and magazines on his own and seems interested in the names of letters, he may be ready to start learning the basics of reading. Draw each letter on a piece of poster board, then go through magazines and catalogs and cut out pictures of things that begin with each letter and glue them down. This is a great hands-on way to learn the alphabet. (Don't force it, though – if he doesn't seem interested, you're better off waiting until he's ready.)
Go to story time at the library or a bookstore
Nothing beats listening to a professional storyteller – especially one who gets the audience up from their seats and acting out part of the story. Going to story hour at the library or a bookstore 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. 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. You can also roll felt or paper for the body and then glue on eyes, noses, smiles, and hair. 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, 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 Goldilocks and the Three 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. Pack books about picnics, like We're Going on a Picnic! or Teddy Bears' Picnic.
Throw a party with a book theme
Read over your child's favorite books and think about what elements would work as a party theme. Can you decorate his room like a jungle to represent Where the Wild Things Are? Can you collect hats and host a party about the Cat in the Hat? Whatever you come up with, you'll be sure to get your child and his friends excited about books.
For auditory learners
Set a family reading time
For 15 or 20 minutes a night, have everyone in the house read a story together. If friends or neighbors are visiting, ask them to participate. Show your child that reading is fun for the whole family.
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 at bath time. Try reading your child awake, rather than to sleep. Altering the times you read makes reading spontaneous and fun, and you'll encourage your child to read whenever and wherever she's in the mood.
Join the summer book club at your library
Most libraries arrange summer programs with read-aloud sessions for younger children and lists of recommended books for each age group. Your child will share the joy of books with other kids – and might even win an award for reading a certain number of books.
Listen to audiobooks
You can check out audiobooks from the library for free, buy them at your local bookstore or use a digital download/streaming service. Kids love listening to someone new 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 fit of giggles.
For visual learners
Read a book that's also a movie
Read the story together, 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. (If this doesn't seem like fun for your child, he's probably not ready yet.)
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 T-shirt at a print 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 during story time at home, too.
Illustrate a song
Write down the words to your child's favorite song and, with your child, draw pictures to go with each verse. Then read the song together.
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.