Wednesday 2nd February 2022 is World Read Aloud Day!! The purpose of World Read Aloud Day is to celebrate the power of reading aloud.
I love reading aloud to my children but often I worry if I should be doing it more, if they are really listening, if I'm choosing the right books and perhaps if I could be doing a better job at it. I've been reading a ton about reading aloud and here are some of the best tips and quotes I've found that have put my mind at ease.
"Reading out loud is probably the least expensive and most effective intervention we can make for the good of our families, and for the wider culture." - The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon.
"When we pull a child onto our laps and break open the pages of a book, we're taking them by the hand and walking them into a quiet garden in the center of a noisy, polluted city. We are enveloped by the respite for one another's company in the garden. And we rise out of the heat of a hard day and seek something better for each other." - The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie.
"A tsunami of neurochemical benefits gets unleashed when a parent and child cuddle together over a book. Stress and anxiety downshift, for starters. As soon as the parent put his or her arms around the child hormones flood their bloodstreams, relaxing them and engendering mutual trust." The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon
"When we take the time to read aloud to the children in our lives, we bond closely with them in a secret society associated with the books we've shared. The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks that fly when a child, a book, and the person reading make contact." - Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.
Tips for reading aloud with children:
- Get comfortable - read in bed or with the child in your lap or with the child next to you, add cushions, blanket, stuffed animals, snacks, whatever you need to feel just right.
- Find the right book - the more engaging the story the longer the child will listen, keep on reading to a higher level (higher vocabulary words as the child ages) to improve oral literacy.
- Make it a part of your daily or weekly rhythm - do it regularly. Routines can help build children's trust in the world. Think same spot, same time.
- Ask others to participate - perhaps a visiting Grandparent or close family friend can read aloud, leave out some books for the babysitter to read.
- Set aside uninterrupted time - if possible, prioritise reading time, put away phones and protect this small pocket of time.
- Observe your children - are they engaged or interested, if not it might be time to switch books, we can always ask the child if they want to quit and read another book.
- Read ahead or beforehand - not always necessary for older children, it can be useful for children's books where cadence and rhythm are important, always read a picture book first so you know if the content is appropriate for the young audience at that particular time.
- Encourage conversation and interaction - ask open-ended questions, encourage discussion (time permitting).
- Give the child a moment of quiet - give the child a moment to think and perhaps comment without prompting after reading.
- Do voices, make the story come alive - but only if you want to.
- Introduce the book - we can tell the child the title, the author and perhaps even a little about the book.
- Talk about the text - for picture books is the text large, heavy, wavy, does it go up or down.
- Point to the words - when the child begins to show an interest in the words we can point to them as we read.
- Allow the child to anticipate and say the next word - for books the child knows well or that are rhyming.
"Read aloud a rhyming book - one of Bill Peet's rhyming stories or a favourite Dr. Seuss - and leave out the rhyming word for your child to fill in. Is he reading it? Is he guessing it? Is he playfully suggesting a word he knows isn't on the page? Doesn't matter. It's fund and it's reading, in its way." - How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo.
"If we want our children to enjoy reading - if we want them to read not just because they can, but because they want to - then we must do more than merely teach our children how to decode text. Even more important than teaching our kids the actual skill of reading is to cultivate a deep love of stories. After all, a child must love reading if he is to do it of his own volition throughout his life." - The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie.
When can we start reading our children?
"The best time to start reading aloud to a baby is the day it is born. The lilting rhythm of a simple bedtime book on that first thrilling, exhausting day is soothing for both the tremulous parents and the new child, and adds to the bonding between them. It gives parents and child something to 'talk about' together. And much to the surprise of most adults, newborn babies love books. They respond to the brightness of the pictures, to the rhythm of the words, and to the presence of a loving adult." - Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.
What time of day is best for reading to children?
"You should read whenever it feels right. If you're at home all day when your children are small, there may be lots of odd, fugitive moments when you could pick up a book. If you're working outside the home, it may be easier in the early years to piggyback reading onto other hands-on activities, such as during breakfast or bath time... As children get older, bedtime is usually best for corralling purposes. That's what worked for my family." - The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon.
"Daytime reading is easier if you make sure books are a significant physical presence in your home and you remember to bring a few with you when you're out and about. Stick two or three in your stroller or diaper bag for your child to look at in the car, on the bus, in a cafe, in a doctor's office. Rather than passing your child a cell phone or toy while you're standing in a long line, you can give him a familiar book that he loves and knows by heart, or squat down and read a new story to him." - How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo.
Should we ask the child questions after reading the book?
"Discussion after reading aloud a story is of critical importance, but it doesn't have to last forever. Just a simple, "What do you think" How do you feel? What do you wonder?" question might prompt lots or little discussion. However, the point is to provide time to think and talk about what resonated with the listener." - Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease and Cyndi Giorgis
"Be interactive. Talk about what's happening in the story; ask your child to guess what's going to happen next; point out interesting details in the illustrations." - Raising Readers: How to Nurture a Child's Love of Books by Megan Daly.
"Always begin with the title of the book and the name of the author and illustrator. This will teach an appreciation for the creation of books and allow the child to begin to identify favourite authors and pick up on some similar artistic styles. Spend some time looking at the cover and talking about it. If it's appropriate, ask, "What do you think this one is going to be about?"." - How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo.
"Reading with young children should not always be a formal learning experience; however, it is great to get into the habit of creating dialogue around literature by asking questions and having informal discussions about the content, context or connections you have or can make with a book." - Raising Readers: How to Nurture a Child's Love of Books by Megan Daly.
What if my child keeps on interrupting?
"Interruptions show that your child is engaged. Don't get so caught up in your own reading that you ignore your child's comments and queries. If you find yourself saying, "Just let me finish this page," stop and ask your child to repeat the question." - How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo.
How can we use our voice?
"We can do at least seven things with our voices to keep our listeners engaged. Six of these seven vocal gymnastics are contrasts: loud and soft, fast and slow, and high and low. And then we can pause. The words on the page will tell us which of these to choose. We don't need speech training. We simply need to pay close attention." - Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.
"The way we deliver the first line should be sensational. The aim is to grab our audience immediately and never let them go." - Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.
What if my child won't sit still?
"Your kids don't need to sit still to get the most out of your read-aloud time. In fact, they may get more out of it if you let them fidget or doodle while you read." - The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie.
"You may be amazed at how much better your kids listen, how much longer they stay focused during read-aloud time, and how much more peaceful the experience is for you, the reader, when you free up your kids to move around during reading time." - The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie.
"When idealistic visions pop into your head, when you find yourself thinking about that Instagram post by a mom whose kids all appear perfectly content to listen to her read a classic for hours, stop yourself. Shut down the idealistic visions, because when you're reading aloud, even when it looks imperfect, you are going all-in. And you'll never regret it." - The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie.
"A small child may be babbling, playing, sleeping, or seemingly ignoring you, and you are left wondering if he is even paying attention. How can this possibly make a difference? Let me assure you it is making a difference - the ripple effect of reading with a child under four is astounding." - The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie.
Can we involve siblings?
"Having an older sibling read to younger ones can provide another reading role model." - Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease and Cyndi Giorgis
How do we make it happen?
"Plunk a few read-aloud books on your kitchen counter in the morning, and see if that doesn't inspire you to read a little more often than if the books were tucked away, alphabetized on the bookshelves, or stored neatly in a basket under the table in the living room. Put your books front and center. Keep them handy." - The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie.
"If you're convinced that reading aloud with your kids is worthy of your time, then the simplest way to make it happen more often is by turning it into a habit." - The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie.
Where do we start? We start with books!
"According to studies that measure the likelihood of a child growing up to be a reader, the most important factor is not how well reading was taught in the child's school, nor the numbers of hours spent reading aloud to the child. Regardless of the parent's income level or education, the statistic most highly correlated to literacy is the number of books present in the home." - How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo.
"We shouldn't expect children to learn to read easily unless they have books in the house. Without books, where will kids see the print they need to see? When will they hear the language they need to hear? And how will they expand their understanding of the world in the way that it needs to be expanded? A read-aloud session can't take place without something to read. Books and stories have to be in the house - that's the first requirement." - Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.
"So it's worth remembering that there is no 'correct' way to read aloud." - The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon
"The big thing to remember is to read aloud with happiness in mind, not education. We'll get it all wrong if we think only about education. Learning to read comes from the happiness of reading." - Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox.
There is no doubt reading aloud works. In the last two weeks, I've been making an extra effort to read aloud to my four-year-old and surprisingly, it has renewed his interest in all of our language work. His favourite read-aloud picture books right now are The Detective Dog, There's a Snake in My School and This Is Not My Hat. The board book pictured in the very top image is I Went Walking.
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