Pretend reading

What does it mean when your child pretends to read?

Learning Stages

By Melissa Catalano


Melissa Catalano is a schoolteacher and runs My Play Place, a play-based parent-participation toddler program where kids learn, create and socialize in a fun and safe setting. She holds a B.A. in Human Biology and an M.A. in Education from Stanford University. In a day filled with teaching and running a business, parenting is the job that still provides the most challenges and rewards.

One of the most wonderful things about living with preschoolers is watching them develop their imaginations in new and exciting ways each day. After watching you cook, a child will pretend cook for her baby dolls. A child in the backseat will pretend he’s driving to the grocery store. Like driving and cooking, reading is one of those adult skills that children want to emulate before they have the skills to do it for “real.”

One of the most joyful moments for me as a mom was watching my children gravitate towards books and pretend to read them even before they knew all their letters. To me this said that my kids loved books and wanted to become readers.

Children who are read to early and often know that books are magical. They crave cuddling with a loved one and being read to. They look forward to story time in preschool. They will flip through books to explore the story told in pictures. And they will eventually pick up books on their own and pretend to read.

What does it mean when your child pretends to read?

Just like when a child pretends to talk on the phone, he might also pick up a familiar book and tell the story with a stuffed animal in his lap. Kids who pretend to read display many of the first skills in becoming readers. They demonstrate that they know how to hold a book and turn pages. They know that stories progress as the pages are turned and that each book has a beginning, middle and end. Most importantly, they understand that books hold stories and that stories are fun and interesting. It might not seem like much, but motivation, the desire to read, is one of the first steps in learning to read.

How can you promote even more interest in reading?

The best way to get young children excited about reading is to read to them. Let them see you read for pleasure. Take them to the library and check out a variety of books. Have books in the car, in the stroller, near the bed, next to the couch…you get the idea. If your child does not already pretend to read, ask him to tell you the story from a picture book. Choose a book that he already knows or that he has shown an interest in. You can model this by telling the story from the pictures instead of reading the words yourself. This shows your child that this is also a legitimate way to read. Pre-readers who are given permission to make up stories develop their imaginations and seldom will say, “But I don’t know how to read.”

What do you do in your home to promote an interest in reading among your young children?