In my 34 years working as a special educator and reading specialist, I found without exception, that kids of all ages love a good story. From younger children with short attention spans to seemingly tough and unapproachable 8th graders – all enjoyed being read to.
Reading to (and with) kids creates a pleasurable, shared experience. It familiarizes them with “book language”. It is a fantastic way to introduce them to new vocabulary, different places and new ideas. Reading aloud to children provides an opportunity for bonding and open discussion.
When choosing a book to read aloud to children, choose a book appropriate to their age and interests. Very young beginning readers/listeners (preschool – kindergarten) respond to stories with a strong pattern, rhyme and repetition. Colorful illustrations are a must. Older children enjoy listening to good stories with strong characters they can relate to, interesting plots and rich language. Kids of all ages love stories involving animals. It’s great fun to select a few books you think your kids will enjoy and allow them to choose which book they would like to hear. You will probably eventually end up reading them all, but this gives them an opportunity to make a choice.
Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of reading aloud to your kids:
- Read with expression in your voice. Let your kids hear and feel how much you are enjoying reading and being with them!
- Stop briefly halfway through the book or chapter and allow your kids to predict what they think might happen next. (Accept whatever they predict without judgement.)
- (*For younger children) When the story is over, agree to reread it, if they are begging you to. The second time around you can leave out a rhyming or obvious word and let them say it.
- After reading, ask the kids some open ended questions: What do they think the characters might do next? What were their favorite parts of the story and why? How did the story make them feel? Have they ever felt like _____ character, or had a similar problem? How did they handle it?
- Listen to, and accept their answers and comments. You can share your ideas and values as well, as long as you create an open and comfortable discussion where everyone feels included and accepted.
- Create an activity to do together after the story. You can work together on a picture of a favorite character or setting. Or, it can be as simple as watching the clouds together after reading “Cloud Watchers”.
- Use examples from favorite stories for problem solving when relevant situations arise. “What do you think Baylee would do?” etc.
The importance of reading to children cannot be overstated. It increases self-esteem and strengthens their development as readers. It allows you to create a shared bonding experience that enriches their lives and yours.