Reading Out Loud To Your Child
Reading is important. Teaching your child how to read is important. But how do you do it?
Knowing why reading is important is one thing, But understanding why something is important is only the first step. You can understand that something is important, but still not know what to do about it!
Think about it like learning how to swim. You understand that swimming is an important skill to have. You want your children to be able to swim so they won’t be terrified of water. You want to be able to teach them to swim so they can enjoy the water and be safe in the water. And yet, if you don’t know how to teach them to swim, there’s going to be a lot of splashing and thrashing and no real learning will happen, right? Oh, they’ll more than likely pick up something on how to swim. But if you went in with a plan, thinking to teach them one skill which will lead to the next, and the next and so on, their progress in learning how to swim would be so much faster. It would move in a defined direction.
Learning how to read is like learning how to swim. It’s one thing to understand the importance of why reading is important, but it’s a whole different thing to understand how to effectively teach someone how to read and then put it into practice. (If you missed last week’s post, Why Is Reading with Your Kids So Important?, you’ll want to go back and check it out!)
You see, teaching a child to read is a process that won’t happen overnight. It takes time. It takes energy. And it takes effort….as well as some patience! But the end result is well worth it!
You as a parent have the great privilege of teaching your children to read and to read well. It’s an enormous responsibility…one that can feel rather daunting and heavy at times, right? Because, let’s face it, if you don’t know how to teach someone something, it’s really hard to get started!
On top of that, every child is different. Every child has a slightly different learning style and will learn at a different pace than everyone else. In other words, there’s no one exact formula you can apply to every child to teach them to read and have it work every time!
Now, there are 4 major methods you can use to teach your child to read. And while each child will have a different blend of these 4 methods, all of these methods work together and are foundational for helping each child learn to read. But not just learn how to read! Learning how to read well and to understand what they’re reading.
Setting the Stage
So how do you do it? What are these 4 methods? And how do you even begin to tackle this monster task of teaching your child how to read?
Well, you start with the 4 methods we touched on in last week’s post:
Method 1 :: Reading out loud to your child
Method 2 :: Having your child read out loud to you
Method 3 :: Having your child read silently
Method 4 :: Modeling reading silently to your child
Now, keep in mind: Even though you may use all 4 of these methods in a day, it will take far more than one day to teach your child how to read! This is a long process. But don’t let the idea of the long process scare you! Yes, learning to read is a journey. Yes, learning to read and read well takes time.
But this journey can be an exciting adventure when you approach it in a way that appeals to your child’s learning style…and when you have the big picture of where you’re headed!
But that still leaves the question: How? How do you teach your child to read?
Method 1 :: Reading Out Loud to Your Child
This first step in teaching your child to read seems pretty straightforward, right? Pick up a book and read to your child.
When your child is really young, this is super simple. You grab a book, snuggle on the couch or on a comfortable chair and read to them. The more entertaining and fun you make the book, the more they want to hear it…which means you end up reading to them more.
Keep in mind, though, that when your child is very young, setting aside a solid 30 minutes to sit and read books probably won’t happen. Starting out, it will probably look more like “here a book, there a book, everywhere a book, book” scattered throughout the day. (And, yes, there’s actually a book that has the “Old MacDonald” song in it!)
Yet, the more you do this, the more you stop and read random books throughout the day, the more natural it becomes. Pretty soon, your child will start grabbing books off the shelf and asking you to read and reread their favorites!
Where Do You Start?
But where do you start? On a practical level, how do you make this happen? Well, it starts with (in the words of Dr Seuss):
Fill you house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.Dr Seuss
In order to read books, you need to have books to read, right?
Now, you don’t need to go out right this second and spend a bunch of money you don’t have just to get tons of books to have them in your house. Start with what you have! Pick up a book you have in your house that your child will enjoy, sit down with them, open it and start reading.
That’s it! Just start reading!
Now, the more you read with your child, the more books you’ll want to have on hand. Over time, as you add to your bookshelves, little by little, your personal book collection will grow. But keep in mind, you don’t need to own every book you read to your child! Take a trip to your local library and tap into the incredible resource and vast number of books they have available.
The Cadence of Language
Did you know that the more a child hears language out loud, the more they understand language? They more their vocabulary increases? The more they pick up the cadence and rhythms of speech?
Think about it like this: When you’re learning a new language, is it easier to try pronouncing a new word by sounding it out as it’s written on a page? Or is it easier to hear someone say the words, then repeat the sounds and tones you hear? It’s easier to hear someone say the words first, right?
It’s the same way with reading. The more you read to your child, the more they hear the natural cadence and rhythm of language. This comes out particularly when you read books that rhyme and have a pattern to them.
Hearing this cadence and the conversational tones as you read will teach your child that reading is another way people express themselves in language. And it starts to introduce them to the wonderful world of rhyme.
If you’re looking for some books like this, check out Dr Seuss’s books, the A Little Blue Truck books, and Sandra Boynton’s books. You can also find some incredible rhyming songs in Roald Dahl’s books like ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ and ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ (Click any of these links to learn more about these books. All of these blog posts are also linked at the bottom of this post.)
Don’t JUST Read
While sitting down and reading with your child is the best way to start, you don’t want to JUST read with your child.
Hold up, what? You’re supposed to read, but you’re supposed to do more than read? How on earth does this work?
It’s rather simple: Ask questions as you read!
Why on earth would you do that? Why would you interrupt the flow of the story to ask your child questions about the story you’re reading?
While it is important for a child to hear books in their entirety, to hear the cadence, the rhythm, the flow that comes with reading a short book from cover to cover with no interruption, there’s also another element at play here: Understanding!
You see, when you read, one of the big keys is to understand what you’re reading, right? If you don’t understand what you read, the words on the page just become a form of background noise: They’re there, but they really don’t mean anything. They’re not making sense.
So, how do you take the words in the book from background noise to engaging and intriguing? By asking questions.
Try this: As you read a book with your child, pause and ask them, ‘What just happened?’ This sets the stage for them to respond. And their answer will let you know if they are listening and understanding or if they’re completely lost and not paying attention to the story.
You can ask them questions about the story itself, encouraging them to tell you details about the story. For instance, in the story ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ you could ask your child, ‘What color is the ham?’ You could also take it from a different direction and say ‘The ham is blue, right?’ and allow them to correct you.
There are a million little questions you can ask to help your child pay attention and start to understand. But you’re not simply asking pointless questions as you do this! You’re setting the stage for them to improve and increase their listening – and reading – comprehension as they continue to grow. Here’s some suggestions to get you going (using ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ as the example):
- What just happened?
- What color is the ham?
- What animal did the book just say?
- What’s going on in the story?
- What does Sam-I-am want his friend to do?
- You could change the name of ‘Sam-I-am’ and call him ‘Bob-I-am’ or ‘Max-I-am’ and wait for your child to correct you.
- You could change the color of the ham as you’re reading and keep going, expecting your child to interrupt and correct you as you go on.
Grow With Them
Now, let’s be real, Dr Seuss books are incredible when your child is young, but not many 8- or 9-year olds are going to want to sit down and have someone read Dr Seuss to them every day! They want more of a challenge! So, what do you do?
You let the books grow with your child. Just like when your child grows in height and you need to get them a new pair of jeans that reaches all the way to their ankles (again!), the books you read out loud to your child need to grow with your child.
In fact, you should read books to your child that are above their reading level! Now, I’m not saying you should sit down and dive into Jane Austen with your 6-year-old. But you should read fun and engaging books that are beyond their own reading level.
The A to Z Mysteries. The National Park Mystery Series. The Secret Garden. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. All of these books are a bit beyond where the typical 6-year-old is reading, but they can understand the story line when someone else reads the story out loud to them.
As an added bonus, as you continue to read out loud to your child and as you continue to read books that are a little more challenging to them, you will end up expanding their vocabulary. As you read, when you come across a word your child doesn’t know, they can interject (politely, of course!) and ask you what the word means. This gives you an opportunity to help them understand what the word means in the context of what you’re reading.
Build It Into Your Day
Okay, so when your child is 2 and they stop you and ask you to read a book, the book they choose is typically not very long, right? It’s not a massive time interruption to pause and read ‘A Little Blue Truck.’
Even as they grow and the books get a bit longer, reading a Dr Seuss book doesn’t take an hour each time!
But what happens as your child gets older and the books continue to get longer and turn into chapter books? How do you intentionally make time to read to your child while still finding the harmony of getting all your other homeschool work, house work, and everything else you need to accomplish in a day done?
The best way I’ve found is to build it into your homeschool day. Each day, make a point to read a chapter or two of a good book out loud to your child. You can even make this a family activity if you have multiple children you’re homeschooling. Now, here’s the best part: Those questions you used to ask every other page when you child was younger can still be used!
When you pick up the book to start reading for the day, ask your child, ‘So what just happened? Where did we leave off?’ Allow them to catch you up on where you are in the book. This has two big benefits: First, everyone knows where you are in the story as you start reading for the day. And second, you know that your children are listening as you read. But not just listening…understanding!
The Final Chapter
Now, this has been a deep dive into the first method of how to teach your children to read: Reading out loud to your children. And before you think that I’ve forgotten about the other 3 methods, let me assure you that I haven’t! But if I put how to use all 4 methods into one post, it would get far too long!
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be diving into how to have your child read out loud to you, how to facilitate having your child read silently, and how to model reading silently to your chid. In other words, keep you eyes open as the conversation continues!
Books to Read
It’s great to talk about reading books, but where do you start? What are some good books to start reading with your children?
First up, check out these two posts that give you a list of incredible books you can read with your children:
- Escape in the Pages: 21 Books for You to Enjoy
- Travel the World Through Your Imagination: Over 100 Books to Transport You Without A Passport
Throughout this post, many different individual books or book series have been mentioned. Here is a list of some of my family’s favorites from youngest to oldest. All the book titles are hyperlinked and will bring you to a review of the books on this blog so you can decide whether or not it’s a good fit for your family.
- A Little Blue Truck Series
- Sandra Boynton Books
- I’m A Little Teapot
- Dr. Seuss Books
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach
- The Secret Garden
- The Chronicles of Narnia
- The A to Z Mysteries Series
- The National Park Mysteries Series
- The Laura Ingalls Wilder Series
- Liberty and Rush Revere Series
- Travels with Gannon & Wyatt Series
- Why Is Reading With Your Kids So Important?
- How To Teach Your Child to Read in a Simple, Easy Way, Part 2
- How To Teach Your Child to Read in a Simple, Easy Way, Part 3
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.