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Topic: How to select the right type of books for your child and tips on improving your child's understanding of stories

Do you remember hiding a torchlight under your covers to complete that book because you just had to find out how it ended? Choosing interactive books for children will nurture their curiosity about the world and create amazing memories. Do you know that early exposure to reading is a predictor of academic success in formal school years? The more reading opportunities are given, the more your child will reap the benefits of reading. These benefits include building of vocabulary, developing comprehension and improvement in writing skills. How do we get started?

Before buying a book for your child, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are these books age-appropriate for my child?

Babies and toddlers normally find books with single words, pictures and simple sentences engaging. They also enjoy books with repetition. Board books with colourful pictures, sensorial materials, sound/music, lift-the-flap or peek-a-boo also make good choices. Lift the flaps, peek-a-boo, pop-ups and tactile books are a great place to start. You could also introduce concept books such as those on colours and animals; or select books that are relatable to day-to-day experiences, to allow them to make sense of their world. These could include topics such as daily routines and themes such as animals and transportation.

Children from 3 to 5 years old will continue to be interested in stories with repetition. Find books with a simple storyline and clear presentation of illustration and text. If your child is ready, you could start exposure to early levelled readers. Levelled readers are books that start with simple short words and sentences before advancing to longer words and sentences.

At the age of 5 to 7 years old, as your child’s reading skills advance, it is a great time to start exploring more advanced levelled readers or even chaptered books. This can help to facilitate their reading progression over the years. For example, a child will enjoy being read to at five years of age but at six, would prefer to be the one reading the words or phrases to you and by eight, move to independent reading. When they become independent readers, choose books that are challenging yet feasible for them to complete reading without external help.

  1. What does my child take away from these book selections?

By introducing books with basic concepts such as the alphabet, feelings, family, animals and rhyming, babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers will be equipped with the necessary knowledge for pre-reading and reading. For older children, parents can try to select books that will help them develop and build vocabulary and comprehension skills. In addition, such books will help to broaden their minds and develop ideas for writing.

  1. Does the content of the book appeal to my child?

As a rule of thumb, the younger the child is, the more relatable the story should be. For example, reading a book about potty training may prepare a toddler transitioning from diapers to potty. As they grow older, fantasy becomes key to unlocking their imagination and creative skills. Watch closely to find out what interests your child. For instance, if the interest is in sharks, you can get a book about sharks which has colourful illustrations, pop-up features or even tactile books that can be touched or felt. For children who can read by themselves, try to get them to read non-fiction books. Always look out for what interests them.

Aside from reading to your child, it is useful to engage in meaningful conversations with them to stimulate thinking and develop ability to answer questions. Make the reading session interactive. You could have a discussion about the illustrations, characters, setting or storyline. You could also ask questions about the story and get them to predict what will happen. Reading a story out loud with intonations will also engage your child. Stories offer opportunities to expose children to a wider vocabulary compared to what is being used in normal conversational language.

You could also develop writing skills for your older child via such interactive story reading. A good activity is preparing interesting printables that are scaffolded according to their learning abilities (see below). For example, after finishing a storybook, present your child with an activity sheet containing sentences from the book without full stops and a box below each sentence. Get your child to identify the mistake – the missing full stops – and edit it accordingly. While reading a sentence, you could encourage your child to identify the nouns or draw a picture that represents the sentence. Through these activities, a few skills are tapped on: you are getting your child to understand sentence structure, read for meaning, understand nouns and draw according to their interpretation.

Examples of activities based on the book, ‘Papa, please get the moon for me’ by Eric Carle

What about older or advanced readers? After reading a book, you could create four boxes with the headers; introduction, problem, solution and conclusion. Explain what these components are and ask for drawing in the respective boxes. By doing so, you are teaching the flow of writing.


Your child could draw his favourite part of the story and write a sentence below it. You could introduce many aspects of writing to your child. On the first day, you could focus on sentence structure and on the next, on understanding characters and setting and so on and so forth.


There are many ways to go about making a story as interactive as possible. Choosing the right kind of books and coming up with extending activities will enable your child to make the best out of a book. All you have to do is be creative and think out of the box!

Keen to learn strategies to support your child in reading or extending their language in conversations? Join us on the 9th Preschool Seminar organised by the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) to learn tips to help pre-schoolers achieve. For more information, visit

Author Profiles:

Mathana Subhas Balan

Mathana holds a Masters of Education (Special Needs) from the National Institute of Education of the Nanyang Technological University (NIE/NTU) and a degree in Psychology from Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). She has also graduated with a Specialist Diploma in Educational Therapy from DAS Academy. Mathana has been an Educational Therapist with the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) for the past 10 years. Prior to joining DAS, she taught young children speech and drama as well as dance. Her teaching philosophy is to engage children in the way they learn best. She believes that every child is unique and all children should be taught in the best way they can learn.

Weng Yiyao

Weng Yiyao is a Lead Educational Therapist with DAS. She holds a Master of Arts in Special Educational Needs (SEN) with the University of South Wales (USW) in UK, a degree in Psychology and a Specialist Diploma in Preschool Education. She has presented her research under the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) in 2018 on the importance of family literacy programme, the importance and development of early literacy skills at the 2018 UNiTE SpLD Conference, 2016 and 2017 DAS Preschool Seminars, and 2016 Early Childhood Conference. Yiyao is also a member of Register of Educational Therapists Asia (RETA).