Thursday, February 18, 2010

How to read aloud to your children....

This is the first book Matt ever read to baby Quinn. It was by lantern-light because we were in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. She was days old. The book is "Guess How Much I Love You." Go on, tell me you don't have a little tear in the corner of your eye.

The number one thing you can do to help your children become readers is to read aloud to them from day one (or day 3-4 if you are in a hurricane!).

Here are some tips from one of the leading experts on reading to your children--Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook (which is one of the best "education" books parents can read, in my opinion!!).

And, drumroll please, here are my tips!!
(tips marked with an **** mean that they are appropriate for preschool-age children.)

First, let your child choose the book. If you have a certain book you really want to read, tell your child that you have chosen one you are really excited to read today. If the child has no interest at all in the book, finish reading it quickly or just choose another book.

Find a REALLLLY cozy place to read. Q and I love to read reclined back on the pillows on our bed. She and Daddy read in the rocking chair in her room. Get creative! Read to your kids in the bathtub, under the kitchen table with a sheet thrown over to make a cave, read by candlelight or flashlight, read in a little tent or in lawnchairs, read on your porchswing or on a blanket thrown on the floor. Make it fun!

Start by asking your child to point to the title. If they are a baby or they don't know, you show them! Point to each word as you read the title. Then ask them to point to the author's name (and explain to them that the author wrote the book!) **For older children you can talk about the role of an illustrator and find that name. If the name is the same as someone you know, the kids will LOVE it! :)

**Take your preschooler/elementary child on a "picture walk." This is really important because it sets the stage for their comprehension of what you are going to read. On each page, ask your child what is happening. If they don't know or are completely off base, help them a bit. Say, "Well, I see the fox is knocking on the door. Do you think he wants to come in?" On each subsequent page, encourage your child to describe what is going on. Ask them to make predictions. "Who do you think lives in that house?" "Do you think they will let the fox in?" Don't worry if they are not following the exact same plot as the story, as long as what they are saying matches somewhat with the pictures.
Now, this is not going to be a huge success the first time you do it. They may not be interested in the picture walk or they may throw out all sorts of random comments. Hang in there, just like anything, they will get better with practice.

**If your preschooler or elementary student is learning sight words, look through the book to see if you can find any of these words. I love to use "highlighting tape" for this. Work together to find the words your child knows and cover them with the highlighting tape. Later, when you come to this word in the book it will already be highlighted and will remind your child that this is a word they know! Let them read it when you get to it! You can do this same thing by finding letters your child knows on a page in the story. If your child is learning the "p" sound, highlight all the p's you can find in the title or on one of the pages.

Now you are getting ready to do the actual reading. Ask your child to show you where to start reading. Older children can open the book and find the first page and point to the text. For toddlers, you open to the first page and ask them, "Where are the words?"

Now read! Point to each word as you read it for preschoolers, not for toddlers. If you come to a word your preschool/elementary child knows, stop and let your child read it. Stop along the way to talk about what is happening in the story and to let your child share their comments.

When you are finished ask your child what their favorite part of the book was. Go back to the pictures that match their favorite part. For toddlers, ask them, "where is that bear? Can you find the page with the bear?" This is starting to teach them that the pictures have meaning. They will first depend on the picture for the meaning and as they learn sounds and words, they will depend more and more on the word, but still somewhat on the picture, until they are very comfortable reading and can go to no pictures in later elementary ages.

And that's it! A fun, painless process that will become mechanical over time.

Remember that the picture walk is so important for children getting close to the reading stage. It causes them to begin to use some cause and effect relationships, make predictions, and use the knowledge they have about story structure (setting, characterization, problem, solution). It also prepares them to understand the story as you read.

As for the highlighting and sighword practice, I wouldn't do this with every story. Sometimes you just want to read to them for the pleasure of listening to a story. I might do it once a day or every few days. Usually kids love this activity and specifically ask for it! Keep the highlighting tape accessible so if they ask for it, you are ready!! Remember to make this fun!!