Leveled readers are a great tool to help children develop their reading skills. Leveled books that are on your child’s independent or instructional level allow them to practice and succeed at using word patterns and sight words to read a book on their own. Not matter how great leveled readers may be, there are not the best choice for preschool learners.
While leveled readers or books are great for young readers to practice some reading strategies, like phonics and high frequency words, they are not ideal for many other reading skills that need to be developed such as, comprehension, vocabulary, and creating a purpose for reading. These skills can be taught to preschoolers through age appropriate literature, or picture books.
Quality children’s literature allow young readers to explore their world and so much more. While leveled readers may tell a tale of when a “cat sat on the mat” it won’t tell an engaging and thoughtful story of a kitten who thought the moon was a bowl of milk like in Kevin Henkes’ Kitten’s First for Moon.
So, here are four reasons why I read children’s literature to my preschoolers instead of leveled readers…
Preschoolers are learning new words everyday through conversations with their peers, teachers, parents and books that are read to them. Rather than focusing on word patterns or sight words, picture books provide the opportunity to learn new and interesting words that can be added to learners’ vocabulary.
Before reading a book together, make reading intentional by choosing one or two words to teach your young readers. These words can be necessary to comprehend the message of the text, able to be used in your learners’ lives or appropriate for a thematic unit being studied.
Next, determine how you can teach these new words to your learners. You may be able to ask questions about the book to determine what the word means. For example, if you are reading a book about playing in the snow and the book mentions the word sledding you can probably use the pictures of text in the book to determine what the act of sledding means.
However, if you are reading about a boy who got “frustrated” with his sister you may need to go into more detail to determine what it means to be frustrated and allow the learners to mention a time when they got frustrated to fully develop the meaning of this new word.
By reading a variety of new picture books to children they are able to learn and use new vocabulary that is not available to them in leveled readers.
Comprehension is the ability to understand and connect to what is being read. If child are focusing on sounding out each letter they may not be comprehending the meaning of the story. If an alphabet reader only mentions words that begin with the letter Tt, there is more than likely not much to comprehend other than all the words beginning with the same letter.
In order to develop higher level thinking skills it is important to read literature than provides young learners with the ability to interpret what they have read. This can be done before reading a book, during the reading and after the book has been read.
Before reading a book together, look at the picture on the cover and title of the book and have your learners predict what the book may be able. You can also allow them to look through the book prior to reading or discuss what the book is about in order to activate their prior knowledge on the topic.
During the reading of the book, ask questions that the children may be wondering or regarding concepts that do not fully understand. Allow the learners to make predictions and assist them during parts where inferences may be needed. Discuss what the characters or author might have been thinking during a specific part of the story.
Finally, after the book has been read, ask the learners their favorite part and allow them to elaborate on why they enjoyed that part of the story. Have your learners retell or summarize the main ideas of the story or allow them to draw or write about the story.
Creating opportunities for children to connect and comprehend books that are being read will create a purpose for reading.
Purpose for Reading
Whether are you a teacher in a preschool or a mom looking for bedtime stories we all desire to read books to children for a variety of reasons. There may be time you or a child grabs a book off the shelf to read on a whim, but you can create meaningful learning experiences by being intentional about the books you choose.
Goodnight Moon is a great story before bed, Apple Farmer Annie is perfect when a trip to an apple orchard is planned, Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon might help a child who isn’t feeling very confident and Garbage Trucks will help your learner understand what happens to the trash when their favorite truck goes down the street.
Whether your learners are in need of a story to reinforce a classroom rule, want to understand how penguins can live in such cold temperatures, or have fallen in love with all things princess there should be a purpose for reading a book. By establishing that purpose you are providing your readers with the ability to understand why we read books.
Creating a Love for Reading
Watching children struggle to read can be very disheartening. We want to fuel a passion for books and reading leveled readers doesn’t create that in young learners. Sure, they may be proud when they figure out that tricky word and use the picture to help them read a word, but is a true LOVE for books being created? Probably not.
When you read quality children’s literature with your learners you are able to take them to places they have never been, create new ideas for play, establish a love for a new topic or learn about something new. When a love for reading is creating you will find your reader bringing books to you rather than you trying to get them to sit down and read. You will hear them making up stories by reading the pictures in a book and telling their friends about a book that they read at home.
We want our learners to become lifelong readers and that will not happen if they are not exposed to literature as often as possible. You might want your preschooler to be reading before kindergarten, but what is more important at this age is to create a love for reading. So, put away these leveled readers – their time will come – and find quality picture books to read with your young readers.
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