Tips for Shared Reading with Children Three to Five

Tips to make shared reading a time for learning and connection.

Reading with young children is a wonderful way to both nurture their budding reading skills and also connect one-on-one. Picture books offer rich opportunities for children to imagine, explore, and build their understanding of the world around them. A caring adult can help them make the most out of the shared reading experience. 

Here are some tips for making the most out of reading time:   

Create a Reading Ritual 

Create a reading ritual to help your child feel connected, supported, and at ease while reading.  

  • Choose a consistent reading time. Reading at bedtime is tried and true, but you could also make it a tradition to visit the library every Saturday morning or read together every day after school.  
  • Choose a special reading spot. A reading spot can be as simple as a dedicated space for reading. But you and your child could also make it special with favorite pillows or stuffed animals.   
  • Come up with “rules” for choosing books. Maybe you select one book, and your child selects another. Maybe your child selects one new book and one old favorite. Or how about leaving one “bonus” book selection up to chance? Have your child pull a book from a bin without looking! 
  • Decide on the details of the reading ritual with your child, so reading time feels sacred to you both. 

Build Good Reading Habits 

Let your child see you read and interact with books the way good readers do.  

  • Tell them what you’re doing as you read! Show them how you turn each page, find where on the page to begin reading, and correct your reading when you make a mistake.  
  • Model expressive reading! When you read dialogue, try using different tones and pitches for different characters. You can also use your voice to show feelings the characters are experiencing like sadness, joy, anger, or excitement. 
  • When you read familiar books, invite your child to say the words that they know along with you. Eventually, they might be able to take a turn and read whole sentences by themselves.  

Read for Connection and Understanding 

Help your child build understanding of the book through talk. 

  • Give your child time to explore the pictures on each page and notice the details that interest them. Help them name and describe those details—and don’t forget to share in their excitement. You might ask: What do you notice on this page? Which part is your favorite? What does that remind you of? 
  • Help them connect the book to their lives. Are there characters that remind you of people you know? Or have you ever been in the same situation or felt the same feelings as the characters? Discuss! 
  • Build on what your child says about the book. Ask follow-up questions about what characters are feeling, thinking, and doing. Talking about characters helps children build empathy for others and better understand themselves. 

Keep in mind that reading time is, above all, an opportunity for you and your child to enjoy a good book together. Give these tips a try as you explore the books you and your child love. As long as you’re reading together, you can’t go wrong!   

Mia Hood, Literacy Specialist and Lecturer, Queens College