Parents and children reading together is a relaxing and relationship-building part of the day, but it’s not just a fun bonding activity. Reading aloud is one of the best ways to boost children’s language development and pre-literacy skills.
Here are some easy techniques that you can incorporate into your read-aloud routine that will help make the experience as enriching as possible.
Make your child aware of the parts of a book
This is something that even infants begin to pick up on. For instance, babies who are read to eventually know how to hold a book and flip through its pages. With slightly older children, you can begin pointing out the book’s cover, title, and the difference between the pictures and the words. In the end, a proclamation of “The end!” helps reinforce awareness of the various components of the book.
Point to the text as you’re reading
Simply pointing to the words as you’re reading aloud draws your child’s attention to the fact that the words you’re saying are prompted by the text on the page. This is the beginning of linking written words and spoken words, a fundamental building block of print awareness and ultimately, literacy.
Choose repetitive texts
Books that follow a repeated and predictable pattern are great for young children because they can quickly learn and remember what comes next in the story. They can even help you “read.” Pause as you’re reading so they can fill in the blanks. For instance, in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? you could say, “I see a …” and allow your child to answer. In this way, children become engaged with the story and internalize the idea that they are active participants in reading. The feeling of accomplishment that’s tied to reading also strengthens the connection of positive feelings with reading, an emotional link that will help children become life-long book lovers.
Encourage joint attention
Parents and children sitting together, paying attention to the same book is already an act of joint attention, which refers to two parties being focused on the same thing. Joint attention is a critical component of emerging social skills and a precursor to healthy language development. You can encourage even more practice with joint attention by pointing to pictures, text, or the parts of the book and talking about them, or asking your child questions about them. Asking your child to turn the page, which is usually thrilling for them, is another example of practicing joint attention while you read aloud.
Use the pictures
The pictures in picture books allow further opportunities to engage your child in the reading and meaning-making process. Ask your child to point to objects that are referenced in the text, or ask them to describe what she sees happening in the pictures. One way to help children pick up new vocabulary is to first ask them to point to the shovel, for example. After a few sessions where you name the object and have them find it, try pointing to it and asking them to name it. To further reinforce these new words, and even the stories themselves, look for parallels in your everyday life and mention them to your child. This helps connect the world of the book to the outside world and lays the groundwork for weaving what’s gleaned from literature into the everyday.
By knowing and practicing specific ways that reading aloud fosters language development, parents can elevate a fun activity into a rich learning experience and do so without sacrificing any of the joy found in sharing a good book.
About the author:
Shifrah lives in Tallahassee, FL with her husband, four children, two cats, and dog. In the midst of mothering and writing, she enjoys reading, lifestyle photography, sewing, going to the beach, and documenting it all in pocket scrapbooks. She drinks her coffee black.