Author: Jane Yolen

3-Year-Olds Storybooks

Owl Moon has been awareded the Caldecott Medal, an award given to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year. John Schoenherr’s watercolor illustrations are a perfect complement to this engaging story about the companionship of a young child and her father. The book is truly a verbal and visual treasure. Reading Owl Moon with your preschooler is a great way to introduce her to important pre-reading skills like oral language and beginning writing.

Before, During and After Reading

Oral Language

Introduce the book.  Tell your child the title of the book and talk about the author and illustrator. Discuss the illustration on the cover. You might talk about what an owl is and where owls live. 

Oral Language

Ask open-ended questions as you read the story. Open-ended questions increase the amount of talk about a book and help your child focus on the details of the story and the illustrations. Open-ended questions require more that a yes or no answer. 

Here are some examples of open-ended questions you might consider: 

The little girl was very quiet when she was walking. Why do you think it was important for her to be quiet?; What is snow?; What kinds of things do you like to do in the snow?; Why are the little girl and her dad dressed in such warm clothes?

Find the hidden animals. See if your child can find the animals in the illustrations (e.g., rabbit, dog, bird, mouse, raccoon, deer, and of course, the owl).

Talk about new vocabulary. For example: My short, round shadow bumped after me. What is a ‘shadow’?; Pa shrugged and I shrugged. What is a ‘shrug’?

Beginning Writing

Draw with watercolors. Tell your child that the illustrator, John Schoenherr, used watercolors to create the beautiful illustrations in the book. Provide your child with a watercolor set and plain white paper (drawing paper works best). Before you set him loose, it’s important to teach watercolor techniques. Modeling is critical to avoid disaster.  

  • Provide a watercolor set, paintbrush, drawing paper and a low small rectangular water container that will not tip over easily.
  • Dip the paintbrush in the water and remove the excess water.
  • Use the paintbrush to wet the paint and then gently apply strokes onto the paper.
  • Rinse the brush well between colors.
  • Be gentle with the brush.
  • Have fun painting.
  • Leave the wet painting flat to dry.

If you take time to teach your child how to use watercolors properly and to clean up afterwards, both of you will be much happier and you will soon create your own art gallery!


Explore more recommended children’s books and at-home reading activities for three-year-olds, or take the Reading BrightStart! Preschool Reading Screener. The screener can help you determine if your child is on the path to reading readiness, and provides a free plan for moving forward.