The Best Way to Read to Your Kids
We all know how important reading to kids is. It increases literacy, develops vocabulary, models good reading, can increase attention spans, and is linked to higher performance in school across all subjects. Did you know there are some simple strategies for maximizing these benefits?
1. Read books above their personal reading level.
Pick books that your child cannot read on their own. You don’t want to go WAY over their reading level, but 1-2 levels above what they can read and comprehend independently. This exposes them to new vocabulary and sentence structures that will help them reach the next level. Pick books that you loved as a kid or books that you think your kids will love. If you need help, you can ask your child’s teacher (if they are in school), a local librarian, or choose from my recommendations below.
2. Do character voices.
Get into it and make the story come alive. Give each character a unique voice and do your best to keep it consistent. This will help them with comprehension and engage them more in the story. Plus, it’s just fun to be a little silly together. Don’t worry about feeling self-conscious, kids LOVE it.
3. Ask questions.
As you read, ask questions.
You can ask about characters: “Why do you think he did that?” “Is that the best thing to do?” “Did she really mean that?” “Do you know anyone like this character?”
You can ask predicting questions: “What do you think will happen?” “How are they going to get out of this mess?” “What will happen when ____________________?”
You can ask social-emotional questions: “How would it make you feel if that happened to you?” “What would you do if you were [character name]?”
You can ask questions about the illustrations: “What’s happening here?” “What do you see in this picture?”
Asking questions keeps your child engaged, checks their comprehension, and encourages them to make connections.
4. Define difficult words.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what words our children do or don’t know. But, if you see a word that you don’t hear your child use in their daily vocabulary, pause and ask them if they know what that means. If they aren’t sure, ask them if they can guess based on the context and read the sentence again for them or just briefly explain and move back into reading as quickly as possible. You don’t want to turn reading into a formal vocabulary lesson, but you do want to make sure that they understand the story.
5. Track with your finger (mostly for younger kids).
If you have a younger child, it can be a good idea to sit them next to you and track where you are reading with your finger. They will follow along and learn to associate the written words to how they are spoken. It also keeps them focused.
6. Talk about the pictures.
If the book has pictures, allow your child to tell you about what they see and ask questions. You don’t have to force this, let them share what they want.
7. Have fun!
Reading time should be fun and not a chore. Even as a teacher and avid reader myself, I never force reading onto my children. Mostly, your kids want you to spend time with them and reading together is such a great way to do that. Have fun reading out loud, make it exciting, make it silly. Pretty soon it will be the highlight of your day.
Great Books to Read Aloud