I have talked about the importance we place on reading aloud at TASIS and the advantages it provides young people in developing vocabulary, comprehension, and reading and speaking skills.
Reading aloud with parents also has other advantages, such as creating child-parent bonds and common interests, providing an opportunity for children to compare themselves and learn from their parents, and an opportunity to investigate the background knowledge needed to fully comprehend a story, using a parent's reservoir of experience. It also creates a partnership, with each having an equal responsibility in the activity, which children often enjoy. And this is true for children of all ages, not just in the early years.
For those of you who have not read aloud much (and even those who have), here are a few helpful tips (source: Lane, H. & Wright, T. (2007) I suspect you may have more time with your children these days and I hope these are useful.
1. Preview the book to ensure it is worthy, appropriate, and at the correct level for your child. The idea is always to introduce some new vocabulary to young readers and reading material that is below their reading level will not accomplish this goal. At the same time, starting with books in which students know fewer than 90% of the words will add unnecessary challenge, and may discourage reading.
2. Set the stage. Create an environment in which young people feel safe, comfortable, and not distracted. For example, a warm and comfortable chair or nook, or even bed if children are not too tired. Phones and external noise should be eliminated for both parties. Sharing a big chair or pillows on the floor are my favorites. Outdoors on a sunny day can work well too.
3. Research or read about the author (often their biographies can be found on the inside back cover). Knowing the author’s perspective can be illuminating and make the content more interesting. Other works by the author can usually be found online and can expand the activity from reading to researching.
4. Read with expression. Teach children to role play or imitate the characters in the story. Don't rush. Allow children (and yourself!) to build mental models of the characters and the settings, the more descriptive the better. You can even pause and ask each other questions about the location if you have been there before, or what it might be like ... the colors, smells, and sounds. Again, this is an opportunity to do some internet research on the location or similar locations.
5. Take turns so neither party reads for more than 1-2 minutes. It keeps both of you from getting too relaxed or distracted.
6. Read stories more than once. This allows children to better master vocabulary (you can quiz each other about new words and their meanings) and build confidence.
7. Read historical nonfiction or current events as well as fiction. Fiction and fantasy are great for younger ages; however, reading about real people and events can be far more interesting. This inspires young people to dream about their own lives, careers, and expeditions.
Look for an upcoming blog post in which I will add a list of suggested age-appropriate books from our Core Knowledge curriculum. Of course, if you have your own favorites, please include them in your itinerary and discuss with your children why you enjoy the book so much.
During times of duress, reading aloud with your children can be one of the most soothing activities. Happy Reading!