The University of Iowa

Reading Goes Beyond Books


Posted on: April 14, 2016

Reading time doesn’t have to be limited to books only. There are many other kinds of materials that offer children the chance to develop their reading skills. Below is a list of 8 reading materials that parents can use to show children how reading goes beyond books and is a skill involved in many parts of everyday life.

1. Letters From Family or Friends

Children enjoy receiving letters and cards, both in paper and electronic forms. Writing to keep in contact with others and reading letters they receive are great ways for children to practice their literacy skills.


Find a family member who would be willing to write letters back and forth with your child. Ask the family member to write a letter or an email. Once your child has read the letter, have him write a response. Have him include some sentences about what is going on in his life and answers to any questions the family member may have asked in the first letter. In addition, have him ask the family member specific questions that can be answered in a future letter.  

2.  Grocery Lists 

Shopping at the grocery store offers many opportunities for children to read environmental print.


Take your child to the grocery store with you. Have her read your grocery list and check off items once you put them in your cart. You also can have her read labels of products as well as aisle signs to help you find the items on your list.

3. Magazines

Magazines offer a variety of short articles and stories. Children can learn a lot of different types of information from reading one magazine issue.


Libraries typically offer a variety of children’s magazines. Take your child to the library and have him select a couple of magazines he would like to read. Check with your library to see if your child can check out the magazine or if he needs to enjoy it while at the library.  

4. Recipes

Using a recipe to cook is a great way to apply reading in everyday activities. Reading recipes helps children pay attention to key details and learn how to follow directions.


Have your child select a favorite food he would like to make. Show him the recipe and have him read it. Have him use the recipe to gather ingredients and help him follow the necessary steps. Talk about the importance of paying attention and reading carefully when cooking. For example, ask your child what would happen if he left out a specific step or ingredient.  

5. Play Scripts

Reading a play script is a motivating way for your child to practice reading with expression.


There are children’s play scripts online. There are many free scripts you can download and print. If you search “children’s play script” online, you will find many sites that have scripts that are downloadable or printable. Have your child choose which character part(s) she would like to read. You can read the script a few times with your child and encourage her to make her reading sound like real conversation.  

6. Catalogs

Catalogs and mail flyers are great ways for your child to practice reading for information.


Set aside catalogs and flyers you receive in the mail to have your child practice reading. Ask your child to look through a catalog for certain kinds of items. For example, you can ask him to find his favorite items in a clothing catalog that are made with a particular fabric. He also might find different items in a gardening catalog that grow at certain time of the year. The idea is to make sure he reads the descriptions and does not just look at the pictures. After he finds the items, ask him to read the details about them and explain how they fit into the category you suggested.  

7. Cereal Boxes

Food products, such as cereal boxes, offer a lot of text for children to practice reading.


Not only do they provide the opportunity to read nutrition labels and product descriptions, cereal boxes often have stories or recipes for snack mixes on the backside of the box. Have your child read the box aloud after she has eaten her morning breakfast.  

8.  Internet Articles

The web offers a quick and easy way for children to read about a variety of subjects.


Help your child search for child-friendly articles on a topic of particular interest to him. There are many websites that are made for children and offer a variety of articles and stories.  

This list offers families easily accessible reading choices that go beyond books. It also helps children learn that reading has a variety of purposes.