Pretend Bookshops: Developing comprehension skills through play

There are ways to help children develop comprehension skills without bombarding them with test-like questions and cloze activities.

Playing pretend bookshops is one way for children to authentically demonstrate their understanding of books and stories, but it mainly encourages them to start thinking about books and what is presented to them through words and images.

Take a look at how play and learning took place for my daughter, Cam.

Out of the blue, Cam set up this scene one evening, just before bed.

She told me that it was her bookshop, and she asked me to leave it overnight so she could continue playing in the morning. Of course I left them out, and they stayed there for quite a few days.

A few days later, we attended The Little Bookroom for a special story time. Cam was captivated by Elvira’s storytelling.

Cam was inspired, and decided that her bookshop needed a storytime too.  She set up space for the storytime and the local children flocked to listen to her stories:

Cam talked to the children about books (she needed a microphone to do this) and even asked me if she could hand out lollies at the end of the session.

She picked out her books and read them to the children. (I just loved listening to her speak, rhyme, and interpret the illustrations). Reading to soft toys gives children the opportunity to mimic what they see and hear when you read to them.

Cam instigated this playful scene, and I helped use the play to develop her comprehension in a fun (and subtle) way.

I asked her to offer some book recommendations to the children:

Rookie likes to read about animals. Cam recommended:

Sandy has been fighting with his best friend. Cam recommended:

Jemima Puddle-Duck is looking forward to Easter. Cam recommended:

The children seemed happy with the recommendations:

Without asking her a series of comprehension questions, her book choices highlighted her knowledge of the themes, characters and messages in the books we regularly read in our home.

Her pretend bookshop has been the flavour of the month for Cam. We’ve played lots and it’s given me the chance to ask lots of questions. Some of them include:

  • I’m looking for a book about baby brothers. Do you have any?
  • My friend likes fairies. Do you have any books that she might like?
  • Do you sell any books by Nick Bland?
  • Do you sell any books illustrated by Freya Blackwood?
  • Do you have a book that will make me feel happy when I read it?
  • I like this book. Do you have any others that are like this one?

After some reluctance, Cam eventually let me purchase some of her books.


Pretend Bookshops: Developing comprehension skills through play


  1. Such a lovely idea! Until now we did grocery shopping but this is so good I have to try with my son.

  2. C said: On May 20, 2013

    Great activity for all ages. My grandson frequently takes in books to preschool for show and tell. Thanks for Sharing with the Kid Lit Blog Hop. Cheryl – Hop Hostess

  3. That is so fantastic! Your daughter reminds me of how mine was at that age. The creativity and imagination they have is astounding. It seems like your raising quite the little book lover. I see entrepreneurship in her future! :-)

    Thank you for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

  4. Awesome! Love this pretend idea!

  5. The addition of the microphone into story time is very sweet. This is such a lovely idea and a fun way to rediscover some books that may not have been read in recent times (I’m thinking this may be the case for my children).

  6. This is just such a beautiful post Jackie! How sweet…i remember my teen doing something similar when Cam’s age…a joy to witness isn’t it? Love those pics x

  7. Hannah said: On May 28, 2013

    We love pretend play. Pretend bookshops are the best. What a lucky little girl to have such a wonderful book collection.

  8. Great ideas for learning comprehension, such an important skill :)

  9. Love the pretend play opportunities this provides.
    Great post :-)

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Pretend Bookshops: Developing comprehension skills through play

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