Research shows that reading books aloud is the single most valuable support parents can provide in helping children learn to read.
- Priscilla Lynch PhD, New York University
Whether you have a young preschooler or an early elementary student, there are many compelling reasons to sit down and take 20 minutes a day to read with them. The benefits of having one-on-one time with you, having isolated time to focus on reading, and building the habit of having a regular reading time are invaluable for your child.
When you read aloud with your child they hear inflections in your voice as you use expression. They can see how you pause for punctuation. They can understand a book for deeper meaning when you stop to explain what is happening in the story.
Even if your child is already a reader, reading picture books with him or her can still be a great way to improve their reading fluency, expression, and help your child identify and understand various reading strategies in larger chapter books such as predicting or questioning.
The following are four wonderful picture books to use with your child to experience all of the benefits discussed above:
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead
A great book with both pictures and words that highlight the gift of friendship. Amos, the main character, spends time with animals at the zoo each day but when Amos is too sick to visit the zoo his animal friends decide it’s time to return the favor. For an older child, this book is great for focusing on the importance of character.
You can ask your child questions about the book including,
- Why do you think the animals went to visit Amos?
- What do you like about Amos?
- How did Amos show you what a good friend looks like?
You Are Special by Max Lucado
A book every child should hear! Max Lucado tells the story of Punchinello, the wooden Wemmick who believes that he isn't good enough because of what others say about him. This story points to how God loves your child for who he/she is, not what they do! The board book of this story is a better fit for kids four-years-old and younger since there are lots of words in the regular version (which is great for older children).
Great discussion questions for your older child could include,
- What makes you special?
- How do you know that I love you?
- How do you show other people that you love them?
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
This book is a classic. If you live in an area where you can go berry picking, you could even read this book and go out to pick berries yourself! For older children, you can focus on the reading strategy of predicting asking children what they think might happen next as you read the story.
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
This is a very sweet book about a little girl named Frances who sees an organ grinder and monkey on the street outside her apartment and invites them to her Christmas pageant. This book is a reminder that Jesus is the ultimate source of Great Joy and that He uses us to share that joy with each other. In addition to being a wonderful Christmas treasure, this book is also a great read on the virtue of compassion.
Editor's Note: The article was updated in May 2018 and refreshed in January 2021.
About the Author
Rachael Urban is Preschool Division Head at Bear Creek Preschool. She has had several years of teaching experience at a variety of levels (preschool – grade 6). She loves Jesus, learning, and children. Her favorite thing to do is to spend time with her husband and two kids. When Rachael is not at The Bear Creek School or Bear Creek Preschool, she also helps oversee the Elementary area at her church. Quaerite Primum regnum Dei! B.A. Elementary Education Pacific Lutheran University M.A. Education and Science Nova Southeastern University.