Rachael's rants and raves about reading with young children
So…I was that kid whose mom read stories aloud every single solitary night before bed and whose dad took her to the bookstore every Saturday to look at books.
I regularly saw my parents reading. Reading novels, reading journals, reading Time & Newsweek magazines, reading the newspaper, just always reading. Have I been any worse off as a result?! Negative! If anything else, I've accepted the fact that reading is just a part of who I am. I love to read and still read a lot. I read for work. I read for pleasure. I read to kids. I read for kids. I read…
The reality is that there are numerous long-term effects surrounding reading to and with children.
As important as reading is to our children I think how we read to them is also of great importance. Here are my suggestions (my rants and raves) about how we should read to and with our children.
- Show kids what you're reading.
Children love to see pictures and yes even letters and words when they are being read to. Use your fingers, point to the letters, pictures, words. Let them know how reading takes place (i.e. from left to the right) on a page.
Avoid having the book turned to you for the entire duration of the story. Allow the children to see what you're reading.
- Engage them in the process.
Sound out words; ask them to touch a word or a letter or a picture. Ask them a question, let them think and of course encourage them to share a response. Don't simply read to them. They are your audience and sometimes you just have to work your audience.
Children love to make predictions. Ask them what they think. Encourage them to guess what will happen or take place next.
- Use your voice & work your face.
Kids are smart. They know that books tell stories. Kids want to know and hear the changes in voices, they want the excitement leading up to various scenes. They yearn for that enthusiasm which can easily be portrayed through your voice or even through your face.
Play with your voice, use it differently to represent other characters, distinguish the narrator from the characters. Use your eyes to get children's attention, work your face to assist with changes in the scene and to sometimes suggest what will happen next.
- End differently
I like to end read alouds with a Spanish phrase that goes like this "Colorin, Colorado, este cuento se ha acabado." My children have grown accustomed to hearing this phrase and know that this signals the end of the story. Do something different to let children know that the story has come to an end. The end should never be an anti-climax, instead it should be the perfect opportunity to get questions going and connections voiced.
Ultimately show a real interest in the process of reading. Children can read your energy and they can tell if this is something that you're truly excited about and as such will want to ride on that wave of excitement.
Reading is a great way to spend quality time with children. Find the time to read with your children. This doesn't necessarily have to be at bedtime, but can literally be at any time of the day and/or even the week and can take place at the dining table, the bedroom, outside under a tree and yes even in the car while you're waiting. Just do it! Read!
Aunty Rachael McDonald is the director of our organization and has been working with and for children since 1997.