The Magic of Making Stories:

Reading aloud to your kids

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Reading Aloud

What makes reading aloud so wonderful is that not only do you help your child’s brain to grow, you also share in the process of discovering a good story. For those of you who have a touch of the actor in you, reading aloud gives you the most appreciative audience. Studies show that reading aloud aids the growth of a child’s language, understanding of how a story works, and even self-image.

What I have found surprising is that once one starts, it’s hard to stop -- even when kids are grown. I read picture books to my three-year-old, J.R.R. Tolkien to my ten-year-old, and humorous travel books to my teenagers. Great fun!

Here are some ideas for getting started. I also have links for lists of good read-aloud books if you need them.

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Tips for Reading Aloud

For pre-schoolers

• Start your kids early.
• Try to read aloud every day. Even just ten minutes.
• It’s a process. Just as you learn how to read aloud, they’ll learn how to listen.
• Read with feeling. See yourself as an actor – slow down or speed up depending on
that part of the story. You are an actor on a very small stage.
• If reading a picture-book, make sure the kids can see the pictures. Laps are perfect
for this.
• Don’t worry about interruptions. Allow kids to think aloud about the story.
• Get your child involved. Let them guess what happens next, or to finish a sentence
they’ve learned from repetition.

For School-age Kids

• Don’t stop reading just because they have Reading in school.
• When you move to chapter books, keep the selections short enough to hold their attention. Leave your audience hanging.
• Try reading in different settings. I once read The Summer of the Monkeys to my kids during short trips to local parks.
• Be enthusiastic. Kids will love what you love.
• Remember, not all great books are great read-alouds. Tom Sawyer is a classic, but it’s also a challenging book to listen to. (I know this the hard way.) There are lists of good read-aloud books available on the web.
• Make some books seasonal traditions. My kids love to hear my wife read The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever every couple years.

Teens

• Encourage them to read to a younger brother or sister
• Read to them short passages of books you’re reading. “Hey, listen to this!” Humorous writing is usually an easy sell to a teen.
• Have a read-aloud night when each member of the family can read a short portion
of a favorite book.

For more advice, the Reading Is Fundamental website is very helpful.

all material ©2003 Bruce Van Patter

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