4-Year-Olds Storybooks

The detailed illustrations and captivating storyline in The Umbrella will take you and your child on an imaginary journey through a rainforest. Use this story and the tips below to strengthen your child's oral language skills, which are a crucial part of reading readiness.

Before, During and After Reading

Oral Language

Do some research on rainforests. The author, Jan Brett, wrote this story after taking a trip to the rainforests in Costa Rica. You might want to do some research on rainforests before reading this story so that you can share photographs and fun facts with your child about rainforests.  

Study the illustrations on the cover and the beginning pages of the book. Tell your child that there are some beautiful and unusual animals in this book. These animals live in rainforests in a place called Costa Rica. You might use a globe or a map to show your child where Costa Rica is in relation to your home.  

Oral Language

Take time to enjoy and explore the beautiful and detailed illustrations. Use the clues in the sidebar pictures to predict what will happen next.  There are also many animals hiding in the full page illustrations. How many can you and your child find together?

Explain new and unusual vocabulary words. The story is rich with vocabulary words like thump, tumble, prowling, tail plumes, frisky, squabbling, pounces and silhouette. As you read the story (most likely, multiple times!), take time to define some of these new words.  

Oral Language

Involve your child in retelling the story. Find pictures of the animals in the story (you can find some at the author’s website or do an Internet search).  Print and glue the pictures on cardstock so that they will be more durable. Use an umbrella for the retelling of the story. As you read the story, ask your child to find the picture of the animal you are talking about and place it inside the umbrella. When the last animal is in the umbrella, invite your child to make the umbrella tumble over and let all the animals fall out, just like in the story.

Let your child retell the story independently. Leave the storytelling props in a place that your child can independently use them to retell the story.  

Learn more about the importance of oral language as a pre-reading skill, 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.