Are you making the most of reading aloud to your child? There is a tremendous amount of teaching and learning that can take place during this familiar bedtime ritual.
For most parents, the moments of reading books to their children are some of the most treasured memories. Moms enjoy the quiet of reading to their children, and dads love the soft snuggles before bedtime. Let’s make these tender moments even more impactful by making the most of reading to your children.
How to Read With Your Child
It’s no secret that reading aloud to your child has many benefits. We’ve all seen the info-graphs on social media about the increased rate of language and vocabulary development that comes from spending time to read to and with our children.
How Children Benefit from Being Read To
The benefits of reading aloud to your child are near limitless. It’s good for their brain development, for their social and emotional development, and it helps children when learning to read. Here are some specific ways in which reading to your child will help them learn and progress.
- Better recognition of sounds and letters
- Differentiation of words and pictures
- Knowledge of a wider range of vocabulary
- More developed speech skills
- Increased listening skills
- A deeper understanding of how stories work
- Increased print awareness skills
- Encourages paying attention to details
But not all story times are the same or of equal value.
The Three Parts of Reading Aloud
Effective read-alouds (reading aloud to children) take place in three parts: before reading, during reading, and after reading, and require active involvement from both the parent and the child.
Each of these periods provides parents and teachers with opportunities to teach important reading behaviors; things that all active readers do. These are called reading strategies and skills and they are vital to success in reading comprehension. Modeling such behaviors teaches your child how to read effectively and getting started may be even easier than anticipated.
How to Prepare Your Children for the Story
- Ask your child to look at the cover of the book and explain what he/she thinks it is about.
- Read the title, author and illustrator. Then model a “think aloud.”
- “This book is called “To the Rescue.”
- It has a picture of a fire truck and some firemen carrying ladders.
- Maybe it is about firemen rescuing, or saving, someone from a fire.”
- Invite your child to look at the pictures in the book and discuss what she/he sees.
- Point out details in the pictures and talk about what they could mean.
- “In this picture it looks like the fire bell at the station is ringing. See how the firefighters and putting on their gear? It looks like they have gotten a call.”
Don’t skip these important activities before reading! They only take a few minutes and your child will be so much more invested in the story.
What You Should Do During Reading Aloud to Kids
- Read the story in a natural voice.
- Read slowly as though you are speaking to your child, and with slightly exaggerated expressions.
- Voices are always fun, too.
- Stop to explain difficult words.
- “The firefighters turn on their sirens because there is an emergency. That means someone needs their help really, really badly.”
- Point out details in the illustrations to help your child visualize the story.
- Invite your child to make predictions.
- “Oh, no! A cat is stuck on the top floor of that burning building. What do you think the firefighters will do?”
- When appropriate, stop to check or revise those predictions.
- Ask you child questions to check their comprehension.
- As toddlers, this means mostly yes or no questions, or your toddler may be able to answer name questions.
- Once a child is closer to preschool age (three years), he/she can begin to answer how and why questions, which are more open ended.
These steps may sound technical, but the purpose is to encourage your child to engage with the story. This will help them recognize important printed words as well as increase their comprehension and critical thinking skills.
And don’t forget to ask your child to turn the pages for you or hold the book! This makes them physically involved, too. (And toddlers love holding board books themselves).
After the Story is Done
- Invite your child to retell the story.
- It is ok to use the illustrations and walk through the book again.
- If your child is relying heavily on the illustrations, they may need more practice in listening comprehension.
- Ask your child what his/her favorite parts were. Then, share yours.
- Get personal with the characters by sharing with your child your thoughts about them.
- “I think it would take a lot of bravery to help someone like the firefighters did. I bet they were a little scared, but they were brave and saved that kitty anyway. Have you been brave before?”
- If desired, do an extension activity relating back to the story, such as a science experiment, craft, or small world play.
This kind of reading interaction models for children what active readers do. Active readers are excellent readers.
They naturally participate in reading strategies and develop reading skills that are formally taught in schools and research based curricula. This jump start in reading is beneficial to all children and don’t be surprised if once you start incorporating these strategies that your child may begin asking to read the same story over and over again. His understanding of the story has increased, thus making it more enjoyable to read or listen to stories and that is motivating.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.