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Reading aloud to kids is one of the best ways to encourage them to become lifelong readers. From the very beginning of life, providing kids with books and the opportunity to share them together can create a love of reading. I started reading to my daughter on her very first night home from the hospital (a tradition started by my parents). I read her a one minute fairy tale from the same book my parents read to me on my first night. She was sleeping and will have no memory of it, but it was the start of our nightly read aloud time; a tradition that she now loves at the age of 21 months.
The benefits of reading aloud to your kids are plentiful. Besides teaching them that reading is important and fun, it also provides you with a set amount of time together where the troubles of the day don’t matter. Shut off the electronics, curl up on a chair or bed and dive into new worlds together. Whether you have a toddler who is just discovering books, or a middle-schooler who already knows how to read, reading aloud together is a great way to bond as a family. There are so many easy ways that you can boost your read aloud to guide your kids toward becoming great readers themselves. You may already be modeling reading strategies for your kids and not even know it! These strategies will help them when it is their turn to read. This can be as simple as asking them questions or looking at the pictures together.
Asking your child questions while you read is an easy way to get kids into the book, while also modeling an important reading strategy. Good readers ask themselves questions while they read, which help them to interact with the story and gain a better understanding of it. As you read aloud to your child, ask them questions to make them think about what you are reading. This also gives you an opportunity to have a conversation with your kids about their thoughts and feelings on certain subjects.
Check Out the Illustrations
There are some amazing picture book illustrators out there doing remarkable work with different styles and mediums. When you read aloud with your child, take note of the illustrations and talk about what they see. My daughter loves to point out familiar objects while I am reading to her. I love this because sometimes she says words I didn’t even realize she knew yet! If you have a child who is creative and artistic, sharing your interest in the illustrations may encourage their creative side. Preview a new book together by flipping through and looking at the illustrations first. Without reading the story yet, do they think they know what the book is about? This skill of previewing and predicting is another important reading strategy.
Wordless picture books are another fun way to encourage your child’s creativity. While you can’t “read aloud” a wordless book, you can use the illustrations to create your own dialogue and story. Having kids use the pictures to tell the story encourages them to think about story elements and use their imagination to fill in the blanks.
We all have those books that our kids love to read over and over again. (I’m looking at you Llama Llama Red Pajama). While you may want to roll your eyes when your child takes it off of the shelf, it is actually a good thing! Beyond the fact that it means your child enjoys the book, it also helps them to hear the same book repeated to them. While you are rereading the story, they are picking up new vocabulary words and learning the rhythm of the language. The more times you read a story, the more they may understand the plot each time. Just as you have probably memorized the words, they are memorizing it as well. This increases their confidence in their understanding of books and encourages them to want to read it as well!
Let Your Child Lead
It is true that reading aloud with your kids may not always be easy. You may get frustrated when they want to get up and down off your lap, or switch books after a few pages, or seem like they aren’t listening at all. This is all okay. Your read aloud time doesn’t have to fit any certain mold. You don’t have to sit down and read one book all the way through while using these reading strategies and discussing the story.
My daughter is almost 2. Some nights our read aloud time involves her standing next to the chair or in the crib, and me reading the first 3 pages out of 5 different books before she decides to let me finish one. And that is okay! She will grow up remembering that we had reading time every night and that we enjoyed reading different books together. Don’t force a “perfect” read aloud time. It will just end up frustrating everyone, and that is not the point. Reading should be fun and this is your chance to teach that to your kids!
Share the Reading
As your kids get older and start to read on their own, you can share the read aloud responsibility. I remember when I was starting to read and I was able to bring home a book from school and read it to my parents during read aloud. I was so thrilled and proud of myself. Letting your child read to you, or read with you, encourages them to read and increases that bond! Change up your read aloud depending on your child’s interests and reading level. Try reading a chapter or two of a chapter book every night. By continuing to read aloud to your kids even as they start to read themselves, you can introduce them to new books at a slightly higher reading level. This can increase their vocabulary and comprehension, and help them to reach that next level.
When they get to a stage where they don’t want to read aloud with you (I’m hoping this day never comes!), suggest maybe reading a book or a series together. While you may be reading it separately, you can discuss the book together and keep developing the relationship and the love of reading.
Bring Books to Life
My goal in starting to write about children’s books was to help bring books to life for kids and encourage a new generation of bookworms. There are so many fun and easy ways to bring reading alive at the end of a book. Do a craft or create a yummy snack inspired by the book. Learn a new skill together. Go on an adventure like your favorite characters. I love taking a new book and seeing how I can use it to increase my daughter’s knowledge of the world and provide her with new memories and experiences. I hope you and your kids see reading as a way to enhance your lives, and I hope it starts with some great read-alouds!