Preschoolers love to be read to, but not just picture books. Given the right book, preschoolers also enjoy a longer, more suspenseful story offered in chapter books. Here are seven tips for reading chapter books to preschoolers, even the very wiggly kind.
***I received a free set of the series Zoey and Sassafrass in exchange for my honest review.***
These books are sure to keep your preschooler’s interest, plus at the end of this post is a list of my top 25 all-time favorites, preschooler approved, chapter books for reading aloud.
There are a million and a half reasons why every good preschool program includes story time. There are so many emergent literacy skills that can be packed into a short ten minute story time that teachers and parents would be amiss not to include it.
But, have you ever considered reading chapter books to your preschoolers?
I love including chapter books as part of our read aloud time in preschool. Preschoolers can enjoy the more lengthy stories because they are broken down into chapters, and each reading session, as you ask what was read the day before, opens up the most amazing discussions for reviewing the story and using the most simple reading strategies that aid comprehension.
But I have to tell you…not just any chapter book will do.
You are going to want books that are written in short chapters of five to ten pages as most. With some pictures, and a plot the children can relate to.
Here is my most recent pick. It’s a series, in fact, and one of the most enjoyable I have ever read. (And, it turned my reluctant second grader into an avid reader).
Zoey and Sassafrass by Asia Citro. The series has three books, so far, and a fourth in the work. (My kids are so excited for this summer!)
- Dragons and Marshmallows (Zoey and Sassafras)
- Monsters and Mold (Zoey and Sassafras)
- Merhorses and Bubbles (Zoey and Sassafras)
- Caterflies and Ice (Zoey and Sassafras) (coming soon!)
I’ll tell you all the reasons why I love this book series as I also share some tips and tricks for making chapter book read alouds fun for preschoolers.
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7 Tips for Reading Chapter Books to Preschoolers
Even if you’ve been in the teaching biz for years, or even if you are a graying parent, reading chapter books to preschoolers doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Here are seven tips to make your read aloud stories captivate even the most difficult of audiences.
Choose the Right Chapter Book
I listed this first because it is a big one. The chapter book you choose will make or break your read aloud experience. The Zoey and Sassafrass series by Asia Citro is a perfect choice. They are about a little girl who is accompanied by her silly cat, and together they help magical animals and use science to solve their not so ordinary problems.
When you’re choosing out a chapter book to read to preschoolers, you want to find a book with the following elements:
- Relatable characters – Zoey is a fun-loving and curious kid, and her cat Sassafrass is a great pal for her adventures.
- Short chapters – These books have chapters that are on average seven pages, making them the perfect length for reading to preschoolers.
- Some pictures – Preschoolers do love seeing pictures to help them understand the story. The Zoey and Sassafrass books have a picture on nearly every page.
make your voice interesting
When I was in the third grade, my teacher read my class the book James and the Giant Peach. It was wonderful to listen to, in part because my teacher could do voices as well as Robin Williams could. No student’s mind could wander away from the book.
Well, I don’t have awesome voices for characters, but sometimes I try. Preschoolers like that sort of thing, and they honestly don’t care about how good you are at it. The key is to make the language sound interesting. Here are a few more tips:
- Vary your voice by volume – Using various voice volumes while reading will keep preschoolers interested.
- Vary the reading speed – Sometimes read a few sentences fast, paired by reading a few more slowly. This is one of my favorite techniques while reading the Zoey and Sassafrass books.
- Try out different voices – You might feel silly, but a promise your preschoolers will love whatever you try out.
explain new words
And good book is going to have some new vocabulary, and that’s such a great thing. Take a short second to explain those new words to your preschoolers instead of glazing over them. Just a brief explanation will do. The Zoey and Sassafrass books are packed full of useful science words. And get this, these books are aligned to the common core science standards!
Think aloud about the text
This is a favorite tip! When you are reading, think out loud about the text! If a character sounds worried, then say it. “Oh, it sounds like Zoey is worried about how well she will be able to take care of the animals while her mom is out of town.” Or, “Zoey seems confused! Why isn’t there an animal at the barn door? She heard the doorbell ring!”
Talking aloud about the text models for the children who they could be thinking about the text. This is one of the very best things teachers or parents can do to help increase their child’s comprehension.
stop to relate the text to the child
Let’s be honest. Preschoolers are a little self-absorbed. But when it comes to reading books, that can be a really good thing. Try helping your preschooler relate the text back to themselves. “What have you been worried about before?” Yes, asking questions like this may lead your preschoolers into a long diatribe about how much they miss their own mom when she is gone, but this kind of connection is good for comprehension, but also makes children more interested in the book. It means the characters are relatable, which is key for reading chapter books to preschoolers.
Predictions are key to reading chapter books to preschoolers. This requires them to follow along well enough with the story to make a guess about what will happen next. However, you can’t ask, “What’s going to happen?” to preschoolers. Their answers won’t be very meaningful. Instead, use specifics, like, “What do you think Zoey will try next to help the hurt dragon?”
know when to stop
Finally, know when to stop the reading session and move in. This is one of the most important pieces of advice I could offer in regards to anything preschool related! It’s important to take cues from the children and leave an activity when the children are no longer interested and learning. I love the Zoey and Sassafrass books because the chapter length is perfect for preschoolers! Seriously perfect! Not too long, and not so short that you’ve read then entire book in one session. (Although my second grader wouldn’t put it down after his daily 20 minutes fo reading was up).
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I am Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home mama of five! I am the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught range of levels, including preschool and college, and a little bit of just about everything in between. Right now, my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction