Pre Reading Skills with I-Spy Books

Pre Reading

Look & find, or I-spy, books are a favorite around here and they have a great dual purpose of promoting visual discrimination, a key pre reading skill.  Visual discrimination, or the ability to see how two things are different or the same and how they relate to each other, is how a child eventually learns to tell the difference between an "a" and an "o" or a "p", "b", "d", and "q".

Playing more advanced levels of the traditional Montessori I-Spy games using beginning and ending sounds combines auditory and visual discrimination.  All of this can happen developmentally before kids need to be looking at the letters at all!  In fact, the more you play these games before (long before!) introducing letters and sounds the more easily your child will be able to make the jump to writing and reading.

Which teacher-geeks me out just how cool the brain really is.

It's ok if you don't get quite as excited about this stuff as I do.  You can still reap the many advantages of I-Spy without all the nerdy back information about what effect it is having on your child's brain.  Look and find books are a great way to do that.   Here are a few of our favorite collections.

For Toddlers

This collection of Can You See What I See board books, have a simple rhyming text and reinforce vocabulary in a fluid way.  They are short and easy to read, but have big pictures of each thing to find so that the child can easily see what they are looking for.  The pictures are not as crowded as your traditional I-spy books. The dinosaur title is Tomas' current favorite book in the world- one of the only books he lets me read from start to finish.


Walter Wick also has a collection of hardcover I-spy books that are well done for older kids, along with a couple of early reader versions.

For Preschool/Kindergarten

My favorite I-spy books for this age are the Look & Find series.    What I love about them is that, while busier than the Can You See? books, they are still less cluttered than the classic Where's Waldo books.  There is some text, but we rarely read it because the sidebars have such clear lists of items to find in each picture.  They are great for independent as well as shared reading.  What I don't like is that these books are all commercial characters.  For this reason, we tend to check them out from the library instead of buying them ourselves.  If you simply can't stomach it.  These Curious George titles are equally enjoyable, there are just fewer of them and this age group likes to repeat the same activities as many times and ways as possible.

Another favorite for this age is the Usborne 1001 Things to Spot series.  I like that they add the step of counting to find a specific number of each item.  These are some of our favorite car books.  (Don't buy them on Amazon though, find a local consultant and pick them up there.  I only linked so you could see what I was talking about!)

For Big Kids

Can you get more classic than Where's Waldo? If you have an extra ambitious seeker, don't forget about Highlights, another classic search and find that I believe you can even still order a subscription to!  We love magazines like Highlights for long car rides and waiting rooms.

For Fun

These are some just-for-fun I-spy titles that my kids really enjoy.  The big kids enjoy the Can You Find Saints book so much that we have to sometimes remind them that books at Mass are for little people who still have a hard time sitting still!


If you don't want to invest in a new library of specific search and find titles, think about titles you may already own and incorporate the same concept.  Even Goodnight Moon can be used as a search and find with an interactive reading!  Happy searching!

You may also enjoy Favorite Books for Babies, Quilt With Me- I Spy Style, and Montessori Games to Play.  

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