Educators—teachers and librarians—skillfully stretch and expand what they read to children because books open almost unlimited topics for learning.

As the parent of a preschool child, you don’t need to push your child into academics early, but you can enjoy letting a book lead you to new places with your child.

To take advantage of your child’s desire to read a good story over and over again, think ahead.  Select a book of the week and intentionally read the same book each night. 

Young children often become intense on a particular topic like trucks, colors, or animals. Use the searchable database on the “Parent” section on the Reading is Fundamental website (www.rif.org) to find books on topics that peak your child’s interest.  A librarian near you would love to help too.

Here comes the fun, story-stretching part. Take a minute to preview the book that you chose for the week and write down a few things that you find interesting in the story. Think broadly, for example:

  • How did the artist make the illustrations? If they are photos, read the book and take your digital camera a take some pictures together.  Point out that this is how the artist in the book made the book that you just read. That’s it.
  • Does the book use rhyme? Point out the rhyming words. See if you (together) can come up with more rhyming words.
  • How does the book use color? Are the colors soft or loud? Introduce those words for talking about color. Or point to a color and ask your child to find something that color in the room.

I think that you get the idea. Do not make this complicated or overly educational. The goal is more to enjoy your child’s tendency to want to read the same book again and again.

The primary payoff is that your child comes to see that you can get something new out of a book each time that you read it—which is a crucial part of becoming a successful learner. Another payoff is that you aren’t quite as bored by reading the same book repeatedly.

Here is an example of how you might extend Sam McBratney’s Guess How Much I Love You:

  • Get out a tape measure and measure how wide your child’s arms reach and compare it to how wide your arms reach…you’ll probably end up measure a lot of other things too.
  • Carefully page through the book together. After reading it, count how many mushrooms there are.  You could count butterflies too.
  • Talk about the moon.  How it can be full and circle-shaped or slim and crescent-shaped. (And sometimes not there at all.)
  • Have your child describe his own going to sleep routine.
  • Draw a simple tree shape and describe the simple parts of a tree—the trunk, branches, leaves, and roots.
  • Tell your child just how much you love him and why.

Choosing a good book and thinking about how to stretch it for a few nights does take some forethought; it also creates books that will be family favorites forever.