Prek Educational Links

Teach A Child To Read With Children’s Books

by Mark B. Thogmartin, Ph.D.

We believe any phonics program must be balanced with plenty of children’s books. Reading to children from a very early age is essential for the awareness of story progression, and phonemics and vocabulary development, not to mention just plain fun. This practical guide tells you everything you need to use this successful approach:

  • How to prepare a child for reading success, long before formal lessons begin
  • How to use children’s literature to promote learning and enjoyment
  • Why combining book experiences and phonics is better than either approach alone
  • Ways to use writing to enhance a child’s reading progress
  • Why reading aloud is so important
  • Which books to use with children at each stage of their reading development
  • Includes easy-to-use record-keeping and lesson plan forms!

The key to using real literature at the very beginning of formal reading instruction is in using books that are predictable. In an article by Lynn K. Rhodes (1981) titled “I can read! Predictable books as resources for reading and writing instruction,” she discusses the characteristics of predictable books. They are as follows:

  • Predictable books have a repetitive pattern.Children can quickly follow and read along with the book after the first few pages.

  • They are about concepts that are very familiar to most early readers. The children can easily identify with the story line and the characters.
  • There is a good match between the text and its illustrations. This is an important key in a book’s readability. In the selection from Brown Bear, Brown Bear above, the pictures that accompany the text essentially tell the story for the child after he has become familiar with the pattern.
  • Many predictable books use elements of rhyme and rhythm to increase the overall predictability of the book. Once the child catches the rhythm or the rhyming pattern, it enhances his ability to predict what will come next.
  • Many also use a cumulative pattern as the story progresses. A familiar example of a story that has a cumulative pattern is The Gingerbread Man where each of the fugitive cookie’s pursuers is added to the narrative as the story reaches the climax.
  • Stories that are familiar to a child also enhance their predictability. It is easy for most children to predict what the wolf will say in The Three Little Pigs because of their prior experiences with the story.
  • Familiar sequences are often characteristic of predictable books. Eric Carle, in his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, uses two sequences that are familiar to most young children: numbers and the days of the week:

On Monday he ate through one apple.
But he was still hungry.

On Tuesday he ate through two pears,
but he was still hungry.

Why use predictable books?

The primary reason for using these books in the earliest instructional sessions has to do with motivation. In traditional phonics-based programs, the child has to wait until he has mastered some basic elements of reading before he is able to venture into the world of “real” books. Because of this delay, he may become confused about the purposes or value of reading. The rewards of learning to read may be perceived as being so far off into the future that the child gives up hope. It is not unlike having to wait until one is sixteen years old before being allowed to drive. With most six-year-olds, delayed gratification equals no gratification!


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To find out more about using real books in your child’s reading program, check out Teach a Child to Read With Children’s Book’s by Mark Thogmartin and Mary Gallagher.