There are SO many benefits to reading to your children, I can’t even begin to number them. We started reading to my 5-year-old when he was 6 months, and I don’t think we have missed one night of bedtime stories. It’s so much a part of our routine that he can’t sleep without it. I will say I have seen his love for reading and writing soar over the years, and I know a lot of that is due to being read to on a daily basis.
Yet it can be a bit nerve wracking to start reading out loud. Especially if you don’t feel confident in your own reading. So here are a few tips from Doug Lemov, author of Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy on how to start this process.
1. GET COMFORTABLE – At home, it’s good to mix reading with warmth and affection. You can express that in the way you sit. Tuck in on the couch or in a comfy chair. Snuggle with them both young and old. Even if your child is behind in reading and there’s pressure to make progress, try to make reading time feel comfortable and caring.
2. READ SLOWLY – Stop for a couple of seconds about every half page or so to give them time to absorb it. You can stop and look at them and smile. It allows them the space to draw their own conclusions about what’s happening. They may say nothing, smile back, or sometimes comment on the characters emotional state. Continue nice and steady to let the words sink in. There’s no rush.
3. GIVE THEM A FEW WORDS TOO – My kids love it when I say, “And the next chapter is called…” and they get to read the title of the chapter to me. Look for little moments when your child can help you read a more advanced book and see that it’s within his or her range someday. Even if it’s just reading the word ‘I’ or ‘and,’ it helps. “See, you’re on your way!” is a powerful message.
4. EXPRESS YOURSELF (as much as you can) – The power of reading aloud for kids is in developing their ear for language, for what words sound like and how sentences work. Capturing that is key, and it’s simpler than it might sound. You don’t have to act out the roles and make it theater, you just have to capture the sound of language and the cadence of words—which ones run together, which ones get a bit of emphasis.
5. DON’T FREAK OUT – Ok, maybe you’re great at reading aloud. But maybe you’re not. Maybe you fear it. It’s ok if you’re not confident in your own reading. The night before you read to your child, preview the book and find those challenging parts. It may make you feel confident to know where things are going. If you’re nervous about reading, it will help you, as well. Reading to your child is a marathon not a sprint.
What are your favorite books to read to your child?