How to Read a Story

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
How to Read a Story Book Poster Image
Sweet, engaging steps for budding readers.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Thoughtful advice on how to approach a book, making predictions, reflecting on what you’ve read, reading aloud with passion and excitement, and handling challenging words.

Positive Messages

Reading is not a solo, passive activity; it’s an opportunity to enjoy time with a friend or loved one, to exercise your imagination, to challenge yourself to persevere. Helpful tips, and a useful reference during storytime. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The young boy patiently searches for a friend to read with; his mom appears too busy, his young sister uses books for teething, and a friend is already absorbed in a story. He cuddles up with his dog, and by book's end he's surrounded by appreciative listeners drawn in by his vivid storytelling.

Violence & Scariness

Storybook illustrations include a man with a sword, a bow-wielding princess, a dragon torching a city, a dragon preparing to eat a sandwich stuffed with a princess and a horse.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How to Read a Story offers warm encouragement to budding readers. Kate Messner, author of the delightful Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, shows there’s much more to enjoying a book than decoding the words and following the plot. Her gentle book prods kids to snuggle up and deeply engage with what they’re reading. 

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What's the story?

In HOW TO READ A STORY, a young boy begins with Step 1: Find a story. Then he selects a snuggly reading buddy (his dog) and a cozy reading spot. Step by step, he guides readers through the joys of reading a book: contemplating the cover and guessing what it might be about, giving the characters life with different voices, working through unfamiliar words, and finally getting to the end ... at which point you can, if you like, go back to the beginning and start again.

Is it any good?

A how-to book on reading a book might seem odd. But families will quickly realize that it’s actually a terrific approach to helping children develop a lifelong love of reading. Author Kate Messner offers easy-to-follow advice, such as, "When you get to the exciting parts, make your voice sound exciting, too," and sample excerpts kids can use for practice. She builds suspense, just as if you were reading an adventure story: "When you and your buddy can’t stand it a second longer," she says, “turn the page to read how things work out."

Bright ink-and-watercolor illustrations by Mark Siegel (Boogie Knights) combine an old-fashioned appeal with a modern vibrancy. This is both a helpful playbook and an inspiring pep talk for young readers just getting started -- and grown-up readers, as well.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what makes a story fun to read. What are you favorite types of stories?

  • Practice reading to each other. Family members can take turns reading the same story and compare how they interpret the characters' voices. You could even try play-acting a favorite.

  • Extend the book by talking about creating a mental picture of what's happening in a story. Choose a book with fewer pictures and pause to talk about what you're picturing in your mind.

Book details

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For kids who love reading

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