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Reading Aloud With Preschool Children

By George M Jacobs

How long should it take to read aloud a book with a class of preschool children? Well, many books for preschoolers are about 12-16 pages long with one sentence of words per page. Even including time to show the children the illustrations on each page, it would be easy to finish such a book in less than five minutes.


So, is “Five minutes” the answer to the question about how long it should take to read aloud a book with a class of preschool children? Maybe a better answer is, “The longer it takes to read aloud the book the better.” Here is why.


First, the book is not important; it’s just a tool to engage the children in a conversation, a conversation about life, about language, about what is on the children’s effervescent minds. Thus, kids should have lots to say, and we should help them to say it, in an organized, polite, and thoughtful way.


Second, please note the preposition with used in our opening question about reading aloud with children. We are reading aloud with preschool children, not reading aloud to the children. A read aloud session is meant to be a cooperative effort with everyone involved. It’s not an active teacher reading to passive students.


Okay, so how can we get the preschool children speaking? We can use the same techniques we use to generate conversation with anyone. The main technique is to ask people questions. For example, if the book the class is going to read has a cat on the cover, we can ask children what they know and think about cats.


That’s right – even before we start reading, we can start conversations about the book. No need to wait till the end of book. Any time is a good time for questions. And, when children answer our questions, we can ask follow-up questions. For example, if a student tells us that a cat lives with their family, we can ask so many follow-up questions: the cat’s name, appearance, habits, and where the cat sleeps. Plus, kids can ask questions, and we can share our own experiences with cats.


To conclude, if we read aloud with kids, each read aloud session can be an adventure, even if we are reading aloud the same book with the same kids for the 10th time. Enjoy!



George M Jacobs – - is co-author of Read Aloud Asia and has done many workshops on reading aloud for organizations such as National Library Board. He has also written books for kids.

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