How to enhance parent-child story time, any time

Nothing beats the read-aloud experience for fostering a love of literature in children. What is more pleasurable, soothing (or riveting) than a great story read with relish by a parent to his or her child? But a love of books is not the only thing gained by reading aloud. Add to your child’s developing language and reading skills by including the following read-aloud techniques in your story time routine:

Read It Again, Dad!

Preschoolers request their favorite books again and again. Even though this can be tiresome (“The Cat in the Hat,” for instance, is 64 pages long), it’s important to give in and reread. Why? Children are often memorizing their favorites, making them the first books they can “read” on their own.

It’s Polite to Point

Help your child find the printed words you are saying by pointing to them. When you and your child are side-by-side, both looking at the opened book, you can point under each word from left to right as you read it. This allows your child to make the spoken-word written-word connection and reinforces the concept that we read from left to right.

Make Mistakes on Purpose

Kids get a kick out of correcting adult’s mistakes. So make silly errors while reading aloud your child’s favorite story. Instead of reading “I don’t know why she swallowed the fly,” say “I don’t know why she swallowed the sky.” Not only will you produce giggles, you’ll ensure your child’s strict attention to the story. You can do the same thing with an unfamiliar story. For instance, if the illustration shows a monkey character, call it a “donkey” when you read the text. Encourage your child’s insistence that reading should make sense!

Boost Vocabulary

You can add to your child’s store of words by providing brief help with unfamiliar words as you read. Just remark on the meaning as an aside and move on, so you don’t interrupt the flow of the story too much.

These examples come from “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey:
Read: “Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live.”
Say: Mallard – that’s a good name for them. They’re ducks and a mallard is a kind of duck.
Read: “Just as they were getting ready to start on their way, a strange enormous bird came by.”
Say (as you point to the swan on the Swan Boat): Wow! That is a very big and funny-looking bird.

Think Aloud, Discuss

Raising questions and attempting to answer them as you read maintains attention and is an important strategy for story comprehension. It also allows you and your child to interact with story ideas, enriching the reading experience.

The following might accompany a read aloud of “Corduroy” by Don Freeman:
Read: “All at once he saw something small and round. ‘Why, here’s my button!’ he cried. And he tried to pick it up. But like all the other buttons on the mattress, it was tied down tight.”
Say: Oh, I see. Corduroy thought that the button on the mattress was the missing button for his overalls. I wonder if he’ll be able to pull it off. (Turn the page, then continue.)
Read: “He yanked and pulled with both paws until POP! Off came the button – and off the mattress Corduroy toppled, bang into a tall floor lamp. Over it fell with a crash!”
Say: Goodness! What do you think will happen next?

Try any and all of these techniques and I think you’ll find the Read Aloud Experience a joy and a stepping-stone to increased language and reading achievement.