Growing up in the home of an elementary school teacher, there was no shortage of books or bedtime stories. I’ll never forget snuggling in bed with my sister, listening to my mom read “one more chapter” of Island of the Blue Dolphins for us. Every summer she would buy us a journal to keep track of all our adventures in. We even had a family journal in the living room that stayed open for anyone to add to on a regular basis. Looking back now, I see how beneficial these practices were to our language development. In college, I followed in my mother’s footsteps, majoring in elementary education. My “lightbulb moment” was definitely my Reading Methods class. My professor sparked such an interest in literacy that totally changed my thinking on the way a classroom should work. I’m thankful for my experiences working with her and for all my precious past students.
For so long the only strategy I used in reading to Emmy was trying not to let her tear the pages out of books or teeth along the edges. Now, she is an absolute book worm and even Tucker is sitting through small stories and pointing to objects with an, “eh, eh”. 🙂 Although I feel quite rusty on some of my old read aloud habits, I’m happy to be able to put everything I do remember to use with my own little readers.
Today, I’m sharing some things you can be doing with your own children as you’re reading to them. It’s important to keep in mind the point of reading is comprehension and enjoyment. Reading aloud to your kids gives them an opportunity to hear what a fluent reader sounds like, practice thinking out loud, and relate stories to life.
1. Make Predictions. Before you begin a book with your child take some time to discuss what they think may happen. This is something good readers do naturally when they pick a book. Help your child use clues from the title and the picture to come up with some ideas. Comment on how your/their predictions are changing as you read. It’s important for them to feel there is no right or wrong answer.
2. Ask Questions. Conversation is the easiest way to see what’s going on in your child’s head. Teach your child the skill of thinking aloud by asking questions that inspire them to share that thinking with you. Make sure they’re purposeful questions that you really are wondering rather than silly ones that only lead to a yes or no response. It’s not about quizzing with disingenuous questions but rather about spurring on purposeful thinking and conversation. Here are some examples:
- What does that make you think of?
- What does that remind you of?
- Has that ever happened to you?
- How do you think that character is feeling?
- What’s your inner voice saying?
- What are you wondering?
*If your child’s not expounding much, a good way to push things farther is to simply say, tell me more about that. When using questions to prompt conversation, make sure you allow your child to guide the conversation with their creative responses rather than having a set right or wrong answer. Once you hear what they’re thinking you can talk through their ideas and model your own thinking for them.
3. Make Connections. Help your child link what you’re reading about to their own experiences or other books they’ve heard. You can start practicing this by modeling it for them. Ex: “Ohh, this reminds me of when I lost something really important to me. It made me feel so sad…” Make connections purposeful by talking about how the character in the book must feel and how we can relate to them.
I know it’s easy to speed through 2 or 3 books, sing your songs, say your prayers, and lights out. I’ve been guilty of paraphrasing/ skipping pages just to cut our lengthy bedtime routine short at times. Reading to your children really is so important though and will be totally worth making the time for. Have fun listening to your kids’ wheels turn as they share their thoughts with you. Give the characters funny voices, read with expression, and take time to laugh at the funny parts. Enjoy the precious time you have with them cuddled on your lap, soaking in the world around them like a sponge. I know you’ll be blown away at all the creative ideas and thoughts your kids begin to share with you in these moments together. Happy reading!
Here’s a little book list of some of our current favorites if you’re looking to add to your library:
- SuperHero 1st Readers
- Little Critter Books
- Clifford Books
- Picture Bible
- Olivia Books
- Franklin Books
- Arthur Books
- Little Blue Truck Books
- The Napping House
- First 100 Words
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
- Good Dog, Carl
*Check out other books we’ve suggested in the past here.