Getting Ready to Read: Using Storytelling, Rhymes, and More!

You and your young child can choose from a variety of engaging activities that incorporate all of your senses while learning to read at home. From singing and rhyming to storytelling and acting, these activities will help your child to develop a wide array of reading readiness skills.

Storytelling at every age

From birth through grade school, your child will benefit from conversing, reading, and telling stories with you. You can use combinations of these strategies throughout your child's early years:

  • Listening and responding: You can start to listen and talk to your child when she is as young as a newborn. Acknowledge and respond to the sounds that your baby makes in an expressive way by varying the tone of your voice as you talk to her. Help keep her interested and focused by making funny faces, singing nursery rhymes, and playing simple games like peek-a-boo.
  • Reading together: When your baby gets a little older, you can start reading books to her every day, identifying familiar pictures as you go. Your baby will start to see reading as a special bonding time with you.
  • Asking and answering questions: Toddlers love to use their developing language skills to ask questions. Encourage your toddler's new skills by engaging her in conversations, listening to her questions, and answering them patiently. Ask her specific questions to help her elaborate on stories that she tells you.
  • Sharing family stories: You can also tell your child meaningful stories about yourself or other loved ones, using photos to illustrate your words. Listening to these personal stories will help your child both recognize sounds and develop an appreciation for her unique family history. For more ideas on storytelling at home, take a look at Family Stories.

Rhyming games galore

A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds in two or more different words. Rhyming games help your child start to recognize the vowel sounds in words. You can make up your own rhymes or find rhymes in children's books, poems, and music when you try these activities:

Bilingual Nursery Rhymes

By Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy:

Mamá Goose: A Latino Nursery Treasury

Pio Peep! Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes


By Lulu Delacre:

Arroz con Leche

Arrorró, Mi Niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games (also available as music CD)

  • Guess the next word: Read rhymes and poems to your child, and stop before a rhyming word to let your child guess the word that comes next. You can use this same strategy when reading predictable books, which repeat a familiar phrase throughout the story. The U.S. Department of Education offers a recommended list of English-language rhyming and "predictable" books for children.
  • Sing rhymes together: You can also sing familiar rhyming songs and jingles together. is a great online source for words and lyrics to English-language nursery rhymes.
  • Rhyming around the house: You can even rhyme around the house by saying the names of simple objects — such as chair, toy, or door — and letting your child think of rhyming words.

Bringing stories and poems to life

Help your child express her theatrical side and reading comprehension by encouraging her to act out her favorite stories. After taking time to read a beloved story together:

  • Ask your child whether she would like to act it out.
  • Offer her some props or costumes that she could use to tell the story.
  • Ask her to make different faces to show the way that the character in the story is feeling.

This will help your child connect emotionally to a story and to develop empathy. When she is ready, encourage her to perform the play for her family and friends!

By engaging your child in multiple types of pre-literacy activities at home, you are not only preparing your child to read but you are helping her develop a lifelong excitement for learning.


Note: This information was adapted from the U.S. Department of Education's parent resources section, "My Child's Academic Success."


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