ways teachers invite them into the
world of reading, I have seen how
teachers can emphasize such connections and foster comprehension with
children right from the start, even as
children are still learning to read.
Preschoolers bring a world of experience to the printed page. Early educators can introduce them to reading as a
place to make meaning and explore the
human adventure, to step into a story
and make it their own. Our goal should
be to help children approach books
with the expectation of making sense,
not simply making sounds (Lindfors,
Most teachers know the limitations of
emphasizing phonics instruction
without embedding it in the context of
real reading. Stressing only decoding in
the early grades can lead, by 3rd grade,
to students who parrot back text with
little understanding. Many teachers are
also aware that research has uncovered
important strategies students can use to
learn from a text as they read it. The
groundbreaking work of Keene and
Zimmerman (2007) and Harvey and
Goudvis (2007) has translated these
findings into a collection of strategies
for comprehension instruction that
educators around the United States now
use, such as connecting to background
knowledge, making inferences, and
summarizing (Duke & Pearson, 2002;
But preschool and kindergarten
teachers wonder how they can adapt
these strategies to help students with
little knowledge of the alphabet or
phonics. More and more students come
to their first school experience with
scant background involving books or the
English language. Yet it’s crucial that we
introduce preschoolers, even those still
learning English, to reading as a
meaning-making process that’s
connected to their lives (Cunningham &
Shagoury, 2005). Teachers can do this:
I have seen teachers stimulate
preschoolers to use strategies like
making inferences and bringing their
own life lessons to bear on a text in
conjunction with the following practices.
Choosing Thoughtful Readalouds
Even at 4 and 5 years old, children can
negotiate meaning using comprehension
strategies. If teachers establish this
meaning-seeking habit in students with
the books that we read aloud to them,
they will likely transfer this habit to
their own reading once they can decode
text on their own (Cunningham &
Shagoury, 2005; Miller, 2002).
Kelly Petrin’s readaloud of The Teddy
Bear shows the rich conversation that is
possible with preschoolers. When Ivy
notes that the man in the green coat is
like people she has seen who are home-
less, she is making a text-to-self connec-
tion, an important comprehension skill
that activates schema (Keene &
Zimmerman, 2007). She also shows
empathy and the ability to understand a
character’s perspective. Brayden and
Nori are making inferences when they
state that the little boy is sad, although
the book does not contain that word.
They use his tears as evidence and
connect this detail to their own experi-
ences of sadness.
Good Classroom Readalouds
As the Crow Flies: A First Book of
Maps. Gail Hartman and Harvey
Stevenson. (1993). New York: Aladdin.
At the Beach. Huy Youn Lee. (1998).
New York: Henry Holt.
Baby Rattlesnake. Lynn Moroney, Te
Ata, and Mira Reisberg. (2006). New
York: Children’s Book Press.
The Day of Ahmed’s Secret. Florence
Parry Heide and Judy Heide Gilliland.
(1990). New York: William Morrow.
Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter
Poems/ Isguana en la Nieve y Otras
Poemas de Invierno. Francisco X. Alarcon
and Maya Christina Gonzalez (2001).
San Francisco: Children’s Book Press.
In English, Of Course. Josephine
Nobisso. (2002). Westhampton Beach,
NY: Gingerbread House.
In My Family/En Mi Familia. Carmen
Lomas Garcia. (2000). New York: Children’s Book Press.
The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear. Don
and Audrey Wood. (1997). New York:
Llama, Llama, Mad at Mama. Anna
Dewdney. (2007). New York: Viking
Me on the Map. Joan Sweeney and
Annette Cable. (1998). New York:
Owl Moon. Jane Yolen. (1987). New
Radio Man/Don Radio. Arthur Dorros.
(1997). New York: Rayo.
Tar Beach. Faith Ringgold. (1991). New
York: Random House.
The Teddy Bear. David McPhail.
(2005). New York: Henry Holt and
Too Many Tamales. Gary Soto. (1996).
New York: Putnam Juvenile.
The Two Bobbies: A True Story of
Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and
Survival. Kirby Larson and Mary
Nethery. (2008). New York: Walker and
Visiting Day. Jacqueline Woodson and
James Ransome. (2007). New York: