Reading Aloud to Your Children: The Loving, Personal Gift
Courtesy of Reading is Fundamental
Published: March 30, 2010
Without doubt, reading aloud is a gift you can freely give your children from the day you bring them home from the hospital until the time they leave the nest. Children’s reading experts agree that reading aloud offers the easiest and most effective way to turn children into lifelong readers. And it’s as much fun for you as it is for your children.
A child whose day includes listening to rhythmic sounds and lively stories is more likely to grow up loving books. And a child who loves books will want to learn to read them.
To spark that desire in your children, we have collected some useful tips for you to consider. Feel free to make use of those that work well for you and your children, and to add your own ideas.
In addition to the usual reading places—a couch, an overstuffed armchair, a child’s bed—consider less traditional ones:
- Outside under a shady tree, in a sandbox or a hammock, or at a nearby park.
- Toss a sheet over a clothesline or table to create a reading hideaway.
- Keep a book in the glove compartment of your car for long road trips or traffic delays.
- Spread a blanket on the floor for an indoor reading picnic.
- Use your imagination. Almost every room in your house offers exciting reading possibilities.
- Start right from the cradle! Reading aloud can help calm a fussing baby or entertain a quiet one, and it can do wonders for you, too. Reading aloud can give you and your baby many moments you will long treasure.
- Continue reading aloud even after your children learn to read. Young readers will enjoy listening to many books that they can’t yet master on their own, and many teenagers like to hear old favorites.
- Set aside a special time every day to read aloud to your children. Before school, naptime, or at bedtime are some obvious choices, but do whatever works best for you.
- Take advantage of times when the family is together—for example, at breakfast or dinner. Ask a child to read to you while you tackle the dinner dishes, or read aloud from the morning newspaper while your children eat their breakfast.
- Be aware of your children’s reactions. If they are restless, they may be trying to tell you they are at the limit of their attention span. Stop reading and try another activity.
- Read whatever is at hand. Books, magazines, and newspapers are great for reading aloud; but so are road signs, menus, mail order catalogs, billboards, cereal boxes, and dozens of other everyday items.
- Mother Goose rhymes and other traditional rhymes and songs are especially good for reading (or singing) aloud because they contain the basic rhythms of the language. Young children love to join in on favorite verses.
- For very young children, look for picture books with stories and artwork that are simple, clear, and colorful.
- After you’ve got the hang of it, be creative with the stories you’ve read. Substitute your child’s name for the name of a character in the story. Make up your own stories.
- Vary your selections, returning to old favorites and introducing your children to new works.
- Occasionally try reading stories that are slightly beyond your children’s reach. But if they seem frustrated rather than challenged, put the stories aside for another day.
- Newspapers offer a broad range of read-aloud possibilities, from news stories, to advice columns, to letters to the editor, to the funnies, to photo captions.
- Poetry makes an excellent read-aloud selection for all ages. Rhythm and rhyme help sustain a youngster’s interest.
- Be flexible. If a child doesn’t seem to like the book you’re reading, drop it and try another. Ask questions to discover the kinds of books your children would like to hear.
- It helps to look over a book before you read it aloud. Shorten or skip overly descriptive passages.
- It takes time to learn how to take pleasure in reading aloud. And your children need time, too, to learn how to listen.
- Read slowly and with expression. Don’t be afraid to ham it up!
- Make sure your children sit where they can see the book clearly, especially if it’s a picture book. Of course, some children just don’t like to sit still and listen—yours may prefer to draw or play quietly while you read.
- Allow time for a child to settle into a story, and allow time after reading aloud to talk about the story.
- As you read aloud, encourage your children to get into the act. Invite them to describe pictures, read bits of text, or guess what will happen next. Dramatize roles in the story with them.
- Expect lots of questions, especially from young children. Take time to answer these as you go along.
- Children like a sense of completion, so finish what you begin, or at least find an appropriate stopping point, like the end of a chapter.
- Keep reading aloud to your children even after they go to school. There is no age at which the fun and benefits of reading aloud end.
- Teenagers may enjoy reading aloud to a younger brother or sister. And you can often whet teenagers’ appetites for reading by sharing aloud short selections from books or articles that might interest them.
Visit RIF.org for more tips and information on helping children discover the joy of reading.