We know that you want your little guy or gal to have the best start. The greatest thing you can do for your child is to provide a home filled with love and laughter. Spend as much time as you can with your child. Add lots of great children's books and read and cuddle with him as much as possible. Enjoy exploring his world and showing him things. Cherish each day with him---don't be in a hurry to see him grow, but enjoy what each stage brings. These young years are a gift from God for your benefit---to make "your" memories!
And some of the best memories for us, as parents, are those special, quiet times when our child curls up in our lap, listening attentively to a story he has heard at least 25 times already. This is an extraordinary experience for our children. It is their special time with mom or dad, when everything else is put aside. It's a time to cuddle, speak together, and to discover new things about the world around them. And while we don't say it, our actions show our children that they are worth our attention and that we enjoy their company. We hope that one day they will love reading as much as we do.
In my first article in this series, Teaching Your Child to Read, I wrote about the importance of reading aloud to our children. Reading to children increases their knowledge of the world, their vocabulary, and their interest in reading. From being read to repeatedly, children learn that reading is enjoyable, that pictures provide clues to the story, that stories have a beginning and an end. By listening, watching, and asking questions, they add to their vocabulary and increase their comprehension. Repeated reading aloud not only helps children learn to read but also has an impact on school success. Lifelong enjoyment of reading is directly related to daily reading.
In this article I've summarized some basic reading aloud "techniques." The suggestions are broken down by age level. I hope they are helpful tools in passing on the wondrous gift of reading for enjoyment.
· Reading aloud is an intimate moment that you and your child have together. Snuggle close and share books that can easily be held while your child is in your lap. Read aloud often.
· Find books with large, bright and colorful pictures, exciting sounds, and rhyming patterns in the text (i.e., Mother Goose rhymes). To reinforce the rhyme, sing or recite the stories during the day.
· When your child is a baby, choose books that help him learn the names of all the objects that surround him. Point to the objects in the pictures and call them by name.
· Choose sturdy board books and place them anywhere your child will be, like the highchair, the car seat, the stroller, and the toy room.
· As your child learns how to turn pages, don't be concerned that this often seems like the only way he is interested in interacting with a book. Promote an early appreciation of books by modeling how to handle them with care.
· Keep books handy everywhere (in your bag, in the car, a little box in most rooms of the house) and integrate them in with toys so that children are just as likely to pick up a book as they are to pick up some blocks or a stuffed animal.
· Set a special routine time and comfortable location for reading. Bedtime, while dinner is in the oven, or while a younger sibling is sleeping are some suggestions.
· Demonstrate to your child that reading occurs anytime, any place. Read everything around you such as store signs, road signs, and magazine covers. Create grocery lists and lists of things to do and read them aloud.
· Read the same books over and over. Let your child participate in the story reading by lifting flaps, turning pages, pointing to pictures, and repeating words or phrases that he remembers.
· Always choose a few books to read aloud that are a few levels above their current vocabulary to introduce new words and concepts and build listening skills.
· Choose books with patterns, rhymes and repetitive phrases. Emphasize the rhythmic pattern as you read aloud and encourage your child to "fill in the blank" by pausing before you reach the end of the rhyming line or repeated phrase.
· Try reading a familiar book by covering up the words and telling a story just from the pictures. This shows your child how to use the illustrations to tell a story.
· Sit in a way that your child can see the text while you read aloud. Help your child to recognize that the words you read follow the words on the page by underlining the words with your finger as you read. You can also ask your child to find individual words based on their beginning sounds. These types of "direct learning" activities fit in better when your child has heard the story often.
· Set aside time for assisted reading as your child begins to learn how to read. You read a page to him and then he reads the next page to you.
· Choose a variety of books that include fairy tales; folk tales from different countries; non-fictional books about animals; fictional stories that touch on early science concepts like the seasons, weather, and animal habits; characters that learn lessons about friendship and feelings and look at the world through a child's eyes.
· Often, your child will want to revisit the book by himself after you've read it a few times. Encourage him to read it silently instead of asking him to read it back to you; in this way, you're encouraging silent reading for enjoyment. Grab a silent reading book for yourself and curl up next to him to share a few moments of "shared silent reading."
· Continue to read aloud to your child even though he has already learned to read on his own. Children learn a lot about the flow of language, their vocabulary grows, and they get many opportunities to hear what good reading sounds like.
· Good choices at this age are chapter books, sports stories, riddles and jokes, word-plays and poetry. Encourage your child's interest by reading aloud books in the same series or by the same poet.
· Subscribe to a child's magazine that focuses on particular subjects like Sports Illustrated for Kids, Ranger Rick, or Time for Kids. Visit the library to read aloud from reference books about things that your child may discover in the real world like insects, flowers, and snakes.
· Read aloud the description of various entries in a recipe book and choose a recipe to make together. Choose a particular craft from a craft book and read aloud as you follow the directions together.
· Chapter books (slightly longer children's stories divided into chapters and having fewer illustrations) are a wonderful way to foster longer attention spans, increased vocabularies and a more vivid imagination. Share these books during read-aloud sessions now. When your child gets a little older he will likely revisit these same books to read by himself.
· At this age, children begin to develop an appreciation for mysteries, informational books, tall tales, adventures with real heroes, biographies, and interactive choose-your-own adventure stories. They are often involved in active sports, and developing best friends. Try to select books from these categories so that your child will be given access to a broad range of age-appropriate topics and various literary styles.
· Visit the library and make time for books in between the sports practices, homework assignments, and social activities that your child is involved in. Entice older children by reading the beginning of the book aloud. Just as the tension in the story builds, leave off, and often, children will want to finish the book by reading it themselves.
· If you plan on reading an entire book aloud to a child of this age, choose a book with a reading level a few years higher than your child's current level. This will build his vocabulary and improve his listening skills.
· Find interesting bits of news to read aloud from the newspaper or news magazines. Introduce your child to current events, important social and political figures, new geographic regions and different cultural practices and beliefs.
Tom & Shelley Cooper
Tom is the director of a large humanitarian aid program, and Shelley left a successful career as a financial analyst in order to become an educator. They have a tremendous love for children and have two children of their own. Their children were the inspiration for their website at: