Guest post by Mary Gallagher, author of Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books.
The framed print that sits on my desk features a little girl reading to her dog. The caption summarizes how to help children become better readers: “Read, read more, read more often.”
As a reading specialist and literacy coach, I am often asked what to do to make sure a child is ready to read.
My reply is always the same, “Read to them, everyday, often, whatever they like, and give them associations with reading that are enjoyable and positive.”
It is such simple advice. Many parents think I am not telling them everything. I can certainly understand their concerns. There is increasing pressure on children and parents to be “ready to read,” or “school ready” by the time they are enter kindergarten, sometimes even pre-school!
Still, the research is clear: “The most important activity for building the knowledge and skills eventually required for reading is that of reading aloud to children. In this, both the sheer amount of and the choice of reading materials seems to make a difference.” (Adams, 1990, p.86)
Mem Fox, author of Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever, calls it “reading magic,” and while it may seem like magic, important processes are taking place when one reads to a child, not the least of which is developing a love for reading and books.
Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook is an advocate and resource to parents. He believes that reading aloud is the most powerful tool all parents can utilize.
Adapted from chapter 3 of my book, Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books, the following tips can get you started with a read-aloud routine in your home:
- Begin reading to children as soon as possible: You talk to babies – read to them too!
- Read as often as possible: experts recommend at least one thousand stories read aloud prior to children learning to read on their own.
- Set aside at least one traditional or routine time of the day for a story: your child will learn to associate reading with daily routines and as a pleasurable event each day.
- Start with picture books and build to storybooks or novels: let your child choose with guidance from you.
- Be patient as you cultivate the art of listening in your child: your child will be developing his listening skills as well as his imagination while he listens to you read.
- Don’t continue to read a book once it is obvious it is a poor choice: all readers have the right to reject a book if it proves to be boring or too challenging.
- Vary the length and subject matter of your readings: if you only have a few minutes to read aloud consider nursery rhymes or poetry, for longer reading sessions, perhaps a chapter from a favorite book.
- You can read above your child’s intellectual level but not above his emotional level: reading books that are above your child’s ability level will help develop his vocabulary.
- Allow time for discussion before, during, and after the reading: foster your child’s natural curiosity about print and where the story may take him.
- Use plenty of expression when reading: change your tone and get into character as you read; children love storytelling!
- Try to find out more about the author or more books by the author: children like to learn about the people behind the stories.
- Use opportunities to read: waiting at the doctor’s office, while riding in the car, or even while eating breakfast can be times to share a favorite book.
Thanks for this great post, Mary!
Mary Gallagher is a reading specialist and literacy coach for a public eSchool and co-author of the book: Teach a Child to Read With Children’s Books (New Learning Concepts.) You can read more about her book and reading with young children on her website: www.teachachildtoread.net .
Book Love is Coming Soon!!
What is more important than children reading? Imagination Soup’s Melissa Taylor wrote Book Love to give parents of kids ages three to ten engaging, playful, out-of-the box ideas for learning to read and reluctant readers. Book Love also includes:
- Activities and product recommendations for letter recognition, rhyming, sight words, phonics, and fluency.
- Word attack and reading comprehension strategies.
- The big reasons kids hate to read and what to do about them. (too boring, too tricky, too blurry, too “sitty”)
- Book lists organized by kid-interests.
- Printable sight-word flash cards and word strategy bookmarks.
Download my "Can't Put 'Em Down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
Also, I'll send you a bonus "23 Reasons to Read" printable poster!