Creating Readers from a Very Young Age

Hi lovely readers! It's Melissa from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late. Usually I like to share ideas and lessons for the classroom, but we've been out of school this entire week for snow and nothing seems to be motivating me there that hasn't already been said a million times. Today, I'm writing as a mommy.

I have the sweetest little three year old boy, and it has been such a joy to see his love for reading begin. The process is truly amazing, and it has really made me admire preschool and early elementary teachers all the more for the building blocks that you take our little ones through! I wanted to share a few tips/lessons that I've learned along the way. Many of them are tips you've probably heard, but I want to talk about WHY they are so important also.

1. Start reading to them from an early stage. I'll be honest. I held off a little while on this one. I didn't start when he was a baby because I was too exhausted to want to do anything. Then he got into his grabby phase, and I was too afraid that he would rip my precious books. I finally got smart and invested in some simple board books. Really, they can be anything, and you can find them CHEAP in Target's dollar spot, Dollar Tree...anywhere! You don't need to get a ton. Just have a small collection and start pointing out items. You'll feel foolish, but they're soaking it in.

2. Repetition is key! I know that I share with my students about how being "voracious readers" is a good thing. But sometimes I don't really feel that way. Especially when my son asks for me to read him the same crappy book for a month straight. (And yes, you will get these - those books that you find yourself editing as you read.) Let me explain.

My grandparents gave Keagan this book for Christmas last year, and I honestly have no idea where they stumbled across it. I would've never spent my money on it and actually joked that I was going to take it in to my 5th graders to show as an example of what not to do in writing for sentence variety. BUT after reading it every night for what felt like an eternity, I began to notice that he was repeating after me. Then I could leave out words and let him fill in the blanks for me. Y'all, he was barely two. I was floored and felt like I had a child genius! Of course, I'm sure many of you mothers have seen similar things, maybe even at earlier ages. But for me, it finally clicked. Repetition is one of the first steps of reading!

3. Build a strong library. This was fun for me! I love books and already had a decent collection at home way before Keagan came along. But having the variety also means that there are even more books for Keagan to fall in love with. We have fortunately moved on from The Bedtime Book for Dogs, and, although we still have favorites, I don't have to worry that I will be stuck reading the same two or three books for the rest of my life. Here are some cheap and easy ways to build that library though:

  • See if your parents/grandparents saved books from your childhood. If they're anything like mine, they saved EVERYTHING! And being the only teacher kid, I stole them all before my siblings could lay claim on them. I *may* share one day if they ask really nice...
  • Visit yard sales and goodwill stores. You may run across a lot of junk, but every once in a while, you'll find a true gem.
  • Ask friends to give books instead of toys for birthdays. This works best when they're younger and won't get upset, but I know we have more toys than we know what to do with. Books are easier to store :-)
  • Save books from Chick-fil-A and cereal boxes. I have a few multi-lingual books from Cheerios. Not sure if they still do it, but it's a simple way to collect books and they were kind of cute. As far as Chick-fil-A books go, you can request the toddler books (which are tiny board books) for the kid's meal prize. They're short and great especially for those nights when I don't want to read but now "have to" because it's become an expectation at home. Seriously. You won't regret it.
  • Scholastic. I try to buy one or two every few orders. Of course, last time I did this, they actually sent me a preschool catalog which was a complete waste for me, but that's okay. Their prices are awesome.
4. Set up a routine and STICK TO IT! Like I said, it took me a while to start reading to Keagan, but we eventually got into the habit of one book a night. Now if I don't read to him when he goes to bed, he will cry and pitch a fit. This time has become important to him and is such a part of his routine that he can't do without it. There are nights when it can be frustrating, but I know that he's learning and will eventually be able to do this all on his own. And, of course, then I'll miss it. It's a great bonding time for the both of us.

I'll leave you with a story from Friday morning. One of the books I read to him is from my own childhood...

I haven't read it in at least a week, but while I was getting ready, Keagan went to the door of the bathroom and said, "I'm too small! I can't reach the doorknob." (which is a line directly from the book). He then went to his bookshelf and found the book to bring back and "read" on the floor. Using the pictures, he was able to read almost word for word what every page said. And we laughed because he used the exact voices that I use when I read (which are the exact voices my dad used when he read it to me years ago).

Be intentional about reading with your child. You won't regret it!


  1. I know Keagan's kindergarten teacher will be thankful for all the reading y'all have done! I bet he won't have any trouble with reading left to right or how to hold a book or using pictures to help him figure out unknown words. What a great post!

    1. Thank you! Now will you please move up here and be his teacher? :::big puppy dog eyes:::

  2. Yes, yes, yes! I LOVE seeing my kids develop into readers! You will be so excited when he starts school! I'm glad you mentioned repetition. It can get old for us as adults, but it is so valuable for kids. We probably ought to do more rereading of favorite read aloud a in the classroom.
    Not very fancy

    1. I think that has been the biggest eye-opener for me. It's rd to want to re-read books, and I used to even fuss at my students for doing it because I felt like they were being lazy. Eek! How wrong I was!