How to Read Aloud with Children in Child Care

Navy officer reading to children

There’s magic in children’s books. Well-selected and well-read children’s books add to the child care curriculum by opening children to a world of fun and wonder. Books can help children learn about the world and themselves, expand their imaginations, connect with their child care provider, and build important skills that will help children read alone later on.

Reading with others is a learned skill. Child care providers can help children enjoy books by reading in ways that capture and build on the children’s interest. Here are some tips to make read-aloud time more engaging for the children in your child care.

Before Reading the Book

Planning reading times and choosing books are the first steps to a positive reading experience. Consider the following tips as you prepare to read with children. For more information on selecting books, check out Suggestions Child Care Providers Can Use to Choose Books for Young Children.

  • Choose stories that are appropriate to the age group.
  • Select books that fit the children’s interests. Once you have read a few stories with children, you will begin to understand what they prefer.
  • Pay attention to children’s desire to read. A child who is looking at books or brings you a book is excited to share the book. Show the child you respect her interest by taking the time to read.
  • Read the book to yourself first. Knowing the story will help you know what comes next. This will also help you to come up with questions before you read the story.
  • Choose a regular story time for preschoolers and school-age children. Circle time or quiet times are great times to read.
  • Create a cozy, quiet place to read stories. Call it your “reading spot.”
  • Rotate books regularly. Add new books as children’s interests and the curriculum themes change.

Reading with Babies and Toddlers

For infants and toddlers, sharing a book is a wonderful way to build a warm, secure relationship between child and teacher. Snuggling together while reading a good book is a wonderful way to share one-on-one time. Here are some ways to make sure your reading time fits the needs and abilities of very young children.

  • Find a quiet place to snuggle up and read to infants and toddlers.
  • Expect babies to touch, feel and taste books while reading; this is how they learn.
  • Let babies and toddlers try to turn the pages with your help.
  • Clean books often, especially when children place them in their mouths.
  • Talk about the pictures in the book. Name objects, colors and actions.
  • Encourage children to repeat the words you say when you are reading aloud.
  • Read for a few minutes, several times during the day. Have books available and they will want you to read many times.
  • Follow the child’s interest. Don’t be surprised if babies and toddlers do not sit still for a whole book.
  • Calm babies with nursery rhymes and songs.
  • Read books before rest or nap time to help children relax and go to sleep.

Reading with Preschoolers

For older children, reading is an important part of the daily curriculum. Reading can happen individually, in small groups, or in a large group setting. Try the following ideas to help your preschoolers learn to enjoy books.

  • Build in daily reading times. Increase daily reading time gradually as children’s attention span increases.
  • Take time to read to individual children outside circle time. This makes them feel special and cherished.
  • Before you start reading, walk through the book looking at pictures without the text. Ask children what they think is happening. This helps them develop their imagination and problem-solving skills.
  • Make sure all of the children can see the pictures. Hold the book up or lay it in your lap.
  • Try using different voices. Make the word “scared” sound scared or the word “tired” sound tired.
  • Encourage children to help say repeated words or phrases.
  • Ask who, what, where, why and how questions about the content of the book. Encourage children to predict what will happen next.
  • Watch children as you read the book. Are they happy, sad or interested? See how they follow the story.
  • Ask children to retell the story in their own words. Older preschoolers may also be able to suggest new endings for a story.
  • Find ways to incorporate the story into other parts of the day.

Child care providers can help young children build a strong foundation for later reading skills. Sharing books at an early age will help children develop language skills, a love of books, and a life-long interest in learning.

For More Information

To learn more about ways child care providers can encourage young children’s language and literacy skills, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:

To find activities to build on your favorite children’s books, check out the database of Story-Stretching Ideas for Child Care. Each book in the database has a read-aloud guide and 8 – 10 activity ideas that expand the story.