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9 Tips for Reading to Children

In a previous post,  I wrote about why you should be reading to children.  This week I thought I would talk about some tips to help increase the value of reading.

1. Have children pick out the books to read.  They will be more interested in the book.   Take them to the library to choose some different books.  Many libraries have free memberships for young children. 

2. Don't worry if you have read the same book "hundreds of times."   It's important to read a book more than once.  They will get a better understanding of the story, learn more vocabulary and pick up on small details that they might of missed the first few times they  heard it. If a child gets "stuck" on a book (i.e. the only book they will listen too and you really have read it hundreds of times), then try first/then statements.  For example, "First we will read book X, then we will read your favourite book."

3. Pick out a variety of fiction and non-fiction stories.  If they are like Thomas the Train, then also have a variety of books about real trains available too.  

4. When picking out a story book, pick ones with good "story structure." Let it have a beginning, a middle and an end. You can then ask questions like, "Who is Thomas?" or "What do think is going to happen?" or "What else could Thomas do?" or "Why was Thomas in the forest?"

5. Don't hurry through the book.  Read slowly and pause at the end of a page.  This is like talking, you need to let children have time to understand what they have heard and they need time to come up with comments or questions.

6. Think about the children's language levels when picking out a book.  You may not want to read a book with lots of text if your child is understanding and/or talking in short phrases.  If you have a book that you feel has too much text, it's okay to edit.  You don't have to read every word.  Shorten the story as much as you can or just look and talk about the pictures.

7. Highlight new vocabulary.  Books often use words children may not hear everyday.  Talk about what that unfamiliar word means. For example, "Gloomy is another word for sad." If you can, act out the word (e.g. pretend you are sad when you read the word "gloomy.")

8.  For teachers and daycare staff, read in small groups (i.e. three-five children in a group).  This will allow you to gage whether the children are understanding the story.  Also it will allow the children to talk about the book.  Let them interrupt you.  Teach them to put up their hand and then respond when they do.  This shows they are interested in the book and are learning.  I will fully admit that it is a pet peeve of mine when adults shush children  when the children have questions or comments because the adult is reading.  Children get more out of the book when their questions/statements are being acknowledged and answered.  

9. Lastly have fun and enjoy this time. Don't be scared to be a little goofy.  Get animated.  When you show that you are excited, then children will be excited. This is not just about helping them do well in school.  This is a great time to bond and have fun.