Reading Tips For Preschool Parents: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Teaching Reading

We all want what's best for our kids; and our vision of what's “best” may not align with our child's desires. I learned that first hand as a former Montessori student whose preschooler wanted nothing to do with learning to read and write! We ultimately started and stopped our early literacy journey a lot and these are the best reading tips for preschool parents, including the mistakes to avoid when teaching reading, born from that experience.

WATCH: Mistakes To Avoid When Teaching Reading To Preschoolers

Reading Tips For Preschool Parents

Read to them daily

A great way to instill a love of reading and books is by planting the seed early. Reading to kids daily may seem silly when they are under a year, or impossible around 2 years old when they won't sit still, but it's incredibly important to read at least one book a day to your child.

[RELATED] 15 Best Tips For Choosing Books For Infants + Toddlers (including our faves!)

It doesn't need to be long. They don't need to sit still. It just needs to happen.

One of the best ways to ensure you read a book a day, is by building it into your evening routine. Choose your favorite book, try on different voices, gather family members around for the special time and watch a lifelong love of reading unfold!

Ask comprehension questions about what you're reading together

With young children, it's important to avoid “quizzing” them as they are still in the information gathering face. Ask your child questions at this stage should be about connection and comprehension.

When reading together, instead of focusing on things like “what's this word? what's that word?” focus on comprehension questions like “what do you think is going to happen next?” or “why do you think that happened?”

After you're done reading, you can ask open ended questions like:

  • What did you think the book was about?
  • What was your favorite part of the story?
  • Were there any parts you didn't like?
  • How do you think the story (or character) could've ended (or chosen) differently?

Let them see you reading

I know as a busy parent it can feel impossible to get any reading for yourself done, but I urge you to find a way to make this happen! Letting your child see you read is such a good thing for them to understand life beyond a screen as they grow.

It doesn't need to be daily, but if you can read for yourself in front of your child, even once a month, you are planting the seed for them to continue reading in their adult years.

Personally, I do this during my kids TV time. I know they are less likely to interrupt me, it's one of the easy ways to practice some self care as a mom, and I don't have to watch a mind-numbing kids show for the millionth time.

Visit the library

Grab your library card, and head to the local library! It can be a magical place and many offer free story time and crafts for kids. Some even have full playrooms with toys working fine motor skills and games.

If you're fortunate enough to live in an area with a great library, try to get there as often as possible!

Choose books that appeal to them

Young children have specific types of books that are “primed” for their brains to enjoy. Use this as a little guide:

  • For babies: choose cloth books, board books books with real children (not cartoons), simple words, and objects as well as “touch and feel” type of books
  • For toddlers and early preschoolers: focus on rhyming books or nursery rhymes with lots of repetition
  • Old preschoolers: longer stories with lots of new words, still with repetition, but suspense is okay, lots of laughs too!

Another favorite with young readers are books with the child's name in them! These are my kids absolute favorites; we have like five of them already! I find they help with phonemic awareness and even helped my oldest with her written words!

Read the same books over and over

While it may seem silly or counterproductive, reading the same book over and over again, it actually helps children's reading comprehension.

[RELATED] Potty Training Books For Toddler Boys + Girls The Montessori Way

The repetition strengthens neuro-connects in the brain to enhance learning, as well as familiarizes the child with the words/sentences. Later, kids can begin to fill in the familiar words and “read” the story themselves which builds confidence and an interest in building the skill of reading.

Know it's okay to wait

While it's important to read to your child, it's okay to wait on formally teaching reading to preschool children – especially if you do not plan to send them to traditional schooling!

In Waldorf education, children are not taught how to read or write until 6 or 7 years old. This is largely due to beliefs about how the mind and body develop during the early childhood period.

Even books read to children differ a bit in order to protect this. For instance, parents and educators will tell stories orally or reference books like this – which feature little to no pictures and just a simple black and white text.

If picture books are used, they often follow the watery imagery of Waldorf like this and focus on a single scene. Meaning, kids cannot look at the pictures and tell the story.

Mistakes To Avoid When Teaching Reading To Preschoolers

Mistake #1: Not following the child

A cornerstone of Dr. Maria Montessori's pedagogy is following the child. The idea here is by letting children lead their learning, you'll cultivate a lifelong curiosity and interest in it.

Dr. Maria Montessori believed children enter a natural “sensitive period” for language with certain interest developing from birth to about 6 years old. And while I've found this timeline to more or less be accurate, what I also found is that children's interest ebbs and flows.

[RELATED] Best Montessori Books For Parents and Teachers [+ PDFs!]

As parents, we can focus on having a prepared environment that's ready to teach reading to preschool kids, without forcing it upon them. Remember, while repetition and practicing is critical, you don't have to do it everyday and you can take weeks (or even months) off traditional practicing if that's ultimately what your child desires during the early years.

Mistake #2: Teaching letters with pictures

Often times letters are introduced with pictures, and so the child begins to think the letter is “a – apple!” or something to that effect. This becomes very evident when your child starts to learn to read but keeps adding in the object with the letter sound.

Instead focus on just showing the letters like this:

You find this sort of picture association in some books and often times in flashcards. If you are choosing an “ABC” book, we like this one because the pictures are more of a “seek and find” and the book is interactive for toddlers and young preschoolers.

Mistake #3: Teaching letter names, not sounds

In Montessori they focus on phonics which are the sounds letters make. But if you’ve ever watched a kids show, you know they focus on letter names typically. Even the popular “ABC” song focuses on naming letters, instead of sounds.

Letter sounds were personally one of the hardest things for me to get over/learn myself because it is confusing as you have to figure out the short a and long a sounds. This video is pretty helpful for practicing letter sounds:

After you get the basics, we also like this youtube channel for silly songs and exercises focusing on phonetics (note: It's SUPER cheesy).

Misake #4: Teaching letters alphabetically

Most things (books, tv shows, etc.) focus on taking kids through the letters alphabetically, but this can ultimately make it harder when it comes time to read. It's important to mix up your letters so they actually learn them, instead of just go through an automatic process of regurgitation.

If you’re following montessori this is probably not a mistake you’ll fall into as they use phonetic letter sets. This typically looks like:

  1. c, m, a, t
  2. s, r, i, p
  3. b, f, o, g
  4. h, j, u, l
  5. d, w, e, n
  6. k, q, v, x, y, z

Meaning you teach the first group together, then the next group, and so on.

The idea here is that the sets of letters can typically be arranged into a large variety of 3 and 4 letter words so kids can start blending and building their confidence momentum while learning to read.

Mistake #5: Assuming they can do it

Reading and letters sound SO easy to us, but for kids it takes a lot of brain power. Repetition is key here.

Really check your expectations and frustrations at the door. Keep practicing short and sweet. 

[RELATED] Books On Attachment Theory for Parents, Therapists + Relationships

Right now my daughter is on a huge reading kick, and so we are doing 3 min practices throughout the day with simple moments. Some of the fun ways we are creating positive associations with early literacy skills include:

  • Building with magna tiles and having her “slap” a letter sound or build a basket with a letter on it, and fill it with objects starting with that same sound
  • Using a wall of post-it’s with letters and I have them collect all the “b” sounds they can trade in for their toothbrush.

We're focusing on really simple activities that encourage movement and sound woven into activities we are already doing. 

Mistake #6: Thinking learning happens while sitting still/at a desk

Often times, parents of toddlers may find themselves getting frustrated because their child doesn't sit still while they read a book. But it's still important for parents to keep reading each day. For many toddlers this is a normal developmental phase and you can try involving them more by pointing out different things or turning the pages.

[RELATED] Best Books About Discipline [on Self-Control + Parenting A Child!]

As kids get older and you move into more formal letter work and reading lessons, keep in mind kids often learn best while moving their bodies and playing! Instead of forcing them to sit at a desk with worksheets, try these:

You can also get printouts of their favorite characters, assign funny voices, and make it an engaging reading time where you act out the different characters talking parts.

Final thoughts

There are loads of easy ways to incorporate reading into your daily life as a preschool parent. The preschool years are a great time to focus on reading skills and writing skills, but only when your child is showing an interest. Ultimately, a love of books and lots of books around will lead to good readers. Focus on simple strategies you can make part of your daily routine while laving a lot of fun together and you'll be reading in no time!

I hope these parent tips were helpful and you find yourself rounding up your favorite children's books to read to your young kids tonight!