10 Great Books to Read Before Kindergarten

books to read before kindergarten

Preparing your child for kindergarten can be exciting, nerve-racking and overwhelming – all at the same time. Luckily, there is a wealth of children’s literature to help with soothing those first day jitters, introducing your child to essential early learning skills, and guiding them towards a lifelong love of reading.

Here are ten great books to read with your child before Kindergarten, from stories that yield practical lessons to the ones that have become a rite of passage for children around the world.

1. Countdown to Kindergarten, Alison McGhee and Harry Bliss

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A five-year-old girl struggles with her fears in the ten days leading up to her first day of kindergarten. The young heroine channels her fears through the anxiety caused by her inability to tie her shoe laces, a requirement for kindergarten. This light-hearted take on pre-kindergarten anxiety is sure to help you bring some gentle laughter and ease of mind to your worrying youngster.

2. Froggy Gets Dressed, Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz

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Rambunctious Froggy hops out into the cold snow but is called back by his mother to put on some appropriate clothing. The boisterous young frog returns to the house repeatedly to put on essential articles of clothing to keep him warm, such as socks, boots, a scarf, pants, and a coat. The playful sound effects for each item of clothing he puts on makes this book perfect for reading aloud.

3. Ten Apples Up On Top!, Theodore Lesieg and Roy McKie

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This hilarious Dr. Seuss book about a dog, a lion and a tiger showing off how many apples they can balance on their heads makes learning to count a delight. The three competitive characters try balancing the apples as they skip, walk the tightrope, and rollerskate their way through the book.

4. Are You My Mother?, P.D. Eastman

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This simple, amusing and endearing story is perfect for children who have just started to read, combining large print, easy vocabulary and bright illustrations. The story follows a baby bird’s quest as he asks everyone and everything he meets, “Are You My Mother?”.

5. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle

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This classic story follows the transformation of a hungry little caterpillar, as he eats his way through the days of the week before becoming a butterfly. Early readers will enjoy the clever die-cut pages that show what the caterpillar ate on successive days, graphically introducing sets of up to 10 objects and also the days of the week in rotation.

6. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury

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“We’re going on a bear hunt. / We’re going to catch a big one. / What a beautiful day! / We’re not scared.” So begins the award-winning children’s book, perfect for reading aloud as a family or in a group. The suspenseful and rhythmic structure of the story will give your child an opportunity to predict what is going to happen next.

7. Wemberly Worried, Kevin Henkes

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Wemberly the mouse has a habit of worrying about things, like spilling her juice, shrinking in the bathtub or finding snakes in the radiator. But most of all, Wemberly is worried about her first day of school. The fretful little mouse worries her way through her first day, until she learns how easily fears can be overcome, especially with the help of a friend.

8. The Kissing Hand, Audrey Penn

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School is about to start in the forest, but Chester Raccoon doesn’t want to go. To help ease Chester’s fears, Mrs. Raccoon shares a family secret called the “Kissing Hand”, which gives young Chester the reassurance of her love any time his world feels a little scary. This heartwarming and reassuring book deals with separation anxiety in a way that will resonate with many parents and young children who are preparing to start school for the first time.

9. First the Egg, Laura Vaccaro Seeger

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Which came first – the chicken or the egg? The simple die-cuts featured in this book magically present the concept of transformation and explore the stages of development in the natural world – from seed to flower, tadpole to frog, and caterpillar to butterfly. Finally, the book turns away from nature to look at the transformation of a story (“First the WORD … then the STORY”) and a picture (“First the PAINT … then the PICTURE”).

10. Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

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This widely beloved and well-known story follows the adventures of a young boy named Max, who puts on his wolf suit in pursuit of some mischief and gets sent to bed without supper. When a forest grows in his room, Max takes a boat to the place where the wild things are. This classic story is fun to read aloud, widely imaginative, and reaffirms the notion that there’s no place like home.

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Raising a Reader through Pretend Play

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If you have an imaginative preschooler at home, chances are you’ve seen how easily children can transform the living room into an elaborate jungle, turn paper scraps into currency, or re-purpose the remote control as a navigation stick for a spaceship.

Pretend play (or imaginary play) refers to a type of play where children accept and assign roles, and then act them out. For a long time it was considered fun but with limited educational value. However, more recent studies have found how pretend play can support early childhood development, including early literacy skills.

Here are some ways you can support your preschooler’s early literacy skills through pretend play:

Add functional print into the mix. Functional print includes things like newspapers, menus, signs, coupons or labelled items. By surrounding your child with functional print during pretend play, you are creating an environment in which your child can interact with print as adults do. Your child will see how texts are used in a variety of different ways. One study showed that classrooms rich in functional print material inspired more literacy-focused pretend play, which resulted in children achieving higher literacy levels.

Re-enact stories. When your child acts out or retells the stories you’ve read together, they’re demonstrating and enhancing their comprehension skills. Encourage your child to act out a story in the right order and take on different roles. This will help them gain an understanding of narrative structure, and consider how different characters have different personalities and motivations.

Choose books that enhance pretend play. Observe what your child likes to do in pretend play. Do they like to pretend to be a doctor, a firefighter, a dancer, or a dinosaur? This gives insight into their interests, which will help you choose books that not only capture their attention but also their imagination, equipping them with more knowledge, vocabulary and material to use in pretend play.

Provide a variety of symbols. During pretend play, a doorstop could become a slithering snake. A slip of paper could become money. By assigning a purpose to different props, your child develops an understanding of symbols. Opportunities to create and use symbols will help your child use other symbols, such as letters and numbers. As they get older, provide writing materials like pencils, crayons and paper to help them create their own symbols to which they can assign meaning.

Role-play with your child. Role-play is a fun and powerful way to expand your child’s vocabulary and encourage their language development. Role-play scenarios involving different characters can introduce new related vocabulary words and encourage your child to use expressive language. For example, if you pretend to be a teacher, include as many related words as possible (e.g. classroom, students, blackboard, desk, books, learning, reading).

The most important thing to remember during pretend play is that it should be fun. Fun matters. It’s what motivates your child to stay engaged, curious, and inventive during play, which enables them to reap a wealth of educational benefits in the process.

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10 Easy Ways to Build Your Child’s Phonemic Awareness

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Understanding that words are made up of individual sounds is the very first step towards becoming a reader. Children who have developed a fundamental understanding of this will have a much easier time learning to read printed words. This is where phonemic awareness comes into play.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to understand how sounds work in spoken language. It is one of the five essential components of learning to read, and can be explicitly taught through a range of strategies and everyday activities.

Because phonemic awareness comes before learning to read text, it is mostly developed at home. Parents play a significant role in developing their child’s phonemic awareness.

Here are ten simple ways to build your child’s phonemic awareness and take those first steps towards learning to read.

1. Sing songs and nursery rhymes. Rhymes help children understand that sounds in our language have meaning and follow certain patterns. Have fun reading and reciting songs and nursery rhymes together, and exaggerate the rhyming words to highlight the different sounds in each word.

2. Encourage listening. Encourage your child to listen closely and pronounce the sounds in words. Help them listen for individual sounds in words, pull them apart and put them together.

3. Speak slowly and use repetition. If your child is struggling to hear sounds within a word, say the word slowly and repeat the word if necessary. This will make it easier for them to hear the individual sounds. The goal is to help them develop an “ear for sounds”.

4. Create word cards. Write some words that have three sounds on separate pieces of card, e.g. cow, bat, dog, lip, sun, pot. Let your child choose a card, read the word together, and then hold up three fingers. Ask them to tell you the first sound they hear in the word, then the second, then the third.

5. Create a print rich environment. Printed words allow children to see and apply connections between sounds and letters. Make an effort to draw your child’s attention to sounds by saying and pointing to letters at the same time.

6. Play “I Spy the Sound”. “I Spy the Sound” is a fun way to build phonemic awareness. In this variation of “I Spy”, spy words that begin with a certain sound, rather than a letter.

7. Word games. Have fun inventing word games based around listening, identifying and manipulating the sounds in words. Begin a word game with your child by asking questions like, “What sound starts the word __________”, “What sound ends the word __________”, “What words start with the sound __________”, or “What word rhymes with __________”.

8. Write together. Sit down with your child to write a greeting card or a shopping list together while slowly sounding out the word sounds you write. This will help your child understand that words are made up of different sounds that come together to create meaning.

9. Play board games. Family board games like Junior Scrabble or Boggle are fun ways to play with words and sounds. Place an emphasis on the sounds in words and encourage your child to do the same.

10. Read aloud regularly. Read slowly while pointing to each sound, and encourage your child to repeat them too.

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