How to Get Your Spirited Preschooler to Enjoy Reading

My Spirited Preschooler ReadingSpirited children are often very intelligent, but (like most kids) they tend to excel at things that interest them. From what I have read and experienced, spirited kids either have an easy time with reading or they struggle.

There may be a number of reasons that reading may be tough for a spirited kid. Some kids have a hard time sitting still. Others enjoy being read to but do not have the patience or motivation to read themselves. Some kids get distracted by the pictures or their minds wonder or they have a million questions or prefer to make up their own stories. Or, there may be a combination of reasons.

If you are having a hard time getting your spirited child to enjoy reading, the solution may depend a lot on why they don’t like it in the first place. These are some of the things I have encountered with my spirited preschooler.

My spirited child cannot sit still long enough to read…

Spirited kids can be very energetic (in case you haven’t noticed). If your child has trouble sitting still, you might try one of the following:

  • Wear them out first. My son does something he calls “Dance Fighting”. I think he picked up the phrase from the movie Puss in Boots. If he is boiling over with energy, I ask him to show me his dance fighting until he wears himself out. Or, I ask him to jump in a big loop around our house or hop on one foot down the hallway or something tiring. Then, I ask him to pick a book or go to the bathroom to transition to reading time.
  • Try popup books, flip books, texture books, or books with buttons that make noises. As long as you make actual reading part of the process, there is nothing wrong with making it extra fun.
  • Switch it up with a flashlight. Sometimes, when we read, I turn off the lights and have my preschooler hold a flashlight as still as he can. It is like putting blinders on a horse because he can’t see other distractions in the room.
  • Try reading books that have accompanying hand gestures (or make some up on your own). Books like 5 little monkeys can give your preschooler the opportunity to move, but still remain focused on the book.
  • Keep a couple of books in the potty. If they are busy pooping, they aren’t running around. (I hope!)

My spirited preschooler likes to be read to, but he will not read himself…

 My son has always enjoyed being read to, but for awhile he did not want to do much reading himself. It wasn’t that he couldn’t read. He was just being lazy.
  • Make it a game. As you are reading, follow along with your finger. Every now and again, just stop at a simple word. See if they can fill in the blank.
  • I read-You read. Make an agreement that you will read all of the words on the left side if they read the words on the right side, or vice versa. Or, let them pick one book for them to read and one for you to read.
  • Find the phrase. Pick a word or phrase that is common in the book, like “the little red caboose”. They have to read that word or phrase every time it appears in the book.
  • Purposefully make an obvious mistake while you are reading and then stop with your finger under the incorrect word. For example, if someone in the book is wearing a blue shirt, I might say green. If my preschooler doesn’t notice, I may say, “Wait…That isn’t right…” Then, he can look at context clues and the first letter of the incorrect word and figure out what the real word should be. He thinks it is hilarious.

My spirited child does not seem to have any interest in reading…

On the whole, Edison likes to read (or be read to), but there are definitely times that he is less interested than others.
  • Weekly themes. If your child goes to a preschool that has weekly themes, go to the library in advance and find books that relate. If you don’t have a weekly theme to mirror, have your child pick one. Sometimes, reading about something familiar seems to perk up interest.
  • “I picked it!” Take them to the library or a bookstore and let them pick out a special book.
  • Try a totally different genre. My preschooler seemed to be getting tired of the same old style of picture book. We switched to non-fiction for awhile and he was a new kid. (Plus, we both learned a lot!)
  • Find similar books. Pay attention to any books they do like to read and find books by the same author or ask the librarian for suggestions.
  • Look for books that match your child’s interests. If your child is not interested in books, what are they interested in? Soccer? Find books about soccer. Trains? Find fiction or non-fiction books about trains.
  • Don’t forget about their favorite preschool shows. Look for books that are based on their favorite TV shows. Most preschool shows have accompanying early reader books.

General Tips for Getting Your Preschooler to Read:

  • Make books accessible. If books are down at their level, they can grab one any time. And, don’t just put them in one room. Make a little space anywhere you can; in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the living room, even in the kitchen.
  • Monkey see. Monkey do. If your preschooler sees you reading, they may just grab a book themselves.
  • Look things up in books as often as you can. Spirited children are full of questions. If you can find the answers in books, they will understand the importance of reading and books will become a natural part of their learning process.
  • Make reading a reward. It sounds silly, but I swear this one works for us. If Edison is hounding me while I am making dinner, I may say something like, “If you can just give me 5 minutes to finish getting this in the oven, I would love to read you a book.”
  • Make reading part of the routine. Reading before bed is an easy ritual to keep, even on busy days.
  • Ask your preschooler’s teacher what gets him going. I was shocked to learn that the big thing in my son’s class was ninjas. Ninjas? Luckily, you can find age-appropriate picture books for just about anything.
  • Get them interested in reading ANYTHING. It doesn’t have to be all books, all the time. It could be cereal boxes, sports magazines, cooking instructions, highway signs, age appropriate comic books, whatever, whenever. As long as they are reading, it is a start.

Great Books for Preschoolers:

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Edison and I love critiquing picture books. Feel free to check out our picks for the best books for preschoolers.

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