Having Your Child Read Out Loud to You
When it comes to teaching your child how to read, there’s no one-size-fit-all answer. At the same time, teaching your child to read isn’t as complicated as it seems.
You see, every child is different. Every child learns at a different pace and in a slightly different way. So, it only makes sense that each child will learn how to read at a different pace and in a slightly different way.
Now, before you think this is all going to be theory and big ideas with no practical suggestions, let me reassure you: In this 3-part series, we’re diving deep into the practical. Taking a look at what it looks like day in and day out to teach your child to read.
But before you dive into the practical, it’s essential to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. In this case, why reading is important and why you’re taking the time to teach your child to read. Check out this post all about the why and the importance of reading.
Knowing the why behind teaching your child to read is incredibly important. But, let’s face it: You also need to know how, right? You need to have a plan to put this great idea into practice. So how do you do it? Learning to read will look different for each child, but there are 4 main methods that need to be a part of every child’s reading journey. They are:
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
Here in Part 2, let’s dig into what it looks like to have your child read out loud to you and ways you can build this into your day.
Having Your Child Read Out Loud to You
The concept of having your child read out loud to you isn’t a hard one to grasp, right? In fact, when you start thinking about how to teach your child to read, this method probably sprang to mind.
And yet, as simple as it sounds – and is – this method is the one that requires the most patience and time.
You see, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do something for your child instead of allowing your child to struggle through the process of learning. And yet, it’s only in the trying, in the struggling, in the trying again, in the practicing where progress is made and real learning happens.
Let’s break that down a bit more: When a child is first learning to read, they’re not going to start out as a proficient reader. They’re going to start by sounding out every letter. Then, they start to put the sounds of the letters together to form words. In this process, they’ll call out the wrong sound for a letter or say a word is ‘cat’ when the word is really ‘car.’ In these moments, it’s very tempting to spoon-feed them the sounds and words so you can continue on with your day.
Resist the urge to spoon-feed them! Allow them to struggle! It sounds so counter-intuitive, but allow your child to try again before simply handing them the information – or in this case, the sound. Allow them to try and fail and try again. You see, the greatest lessons you learn and remember aren’t the ones that come easy. They’re the ones you had to work for.
It’s the same with learning to read. While the concept is simple, this method of having your child read out loud to you will take time. It’ll require patience and understanding. But it’s so worth the time, effort, and energy you put into teaching your child to read!
The Most Important Key: Patience
As you first start teaching your child to read, it only makes sense to have them read out loud to you, right? This way, you’re right there to help them connect the correct sound to the correct letter. To listen as they begin to put those individual sounds together to form words. To encourage and correct and guide as they begin struggling through the process of learning how to read.
No matter what material you use to teach your child to read (and there are some great options available!), there’s one thing that holds true for every child: This process starts out very slow!
At first, it can feel like you’re repeating yourself over and over and over again. You can feel like you’re reading the same word, the same set of words again and again and again. And the temptation is to get really frustrated and give up quickly or rush the process.
Don’t give into this! Don’t rush the process! If you feel yourself starting to get frustrated, take a deep breath and slow down! Allow your child the freedom and the grace to learn at their own pace. Challenge them, yes, but don’t set your expectations so high that your child gets discouraged before they ever get going.
You see, when you slow down and take it step by step, baby step by baby step, you’ll start to see breakthroughs! Those small, consistent steps over time will begin adding up. And all of a sudden, you’ll realize you’re not making baby steps anymore… instead your child is learning by leaps and bounds!
What Does It Look Like?
Now, when you’re talking about teaching your child to read, there are a few factors common to everyone. First of all, you’ll need to be there since you’re the one teaching your child to read. Second, your child will need to be there. And third, you’ll need something to read.
After that, so many of the factors depend on your teaching style and your child’s learning style. Here are a few elements to think through:
What Approach Will You Take?
Obviously, when you teach your child to read, you’ll need something to read! But what? Now, some people will simply grab a book off the bookshelf and start using it. Some people prefer to start with flashcards and sight words. Some people will take a phonetic approach.
In my book, taking a strategic, phonetic approach to teaching your child to read is best. That phrase sounds really intimidating, doesn’t it? Like you need a lab coat and a clipboard to be able to use it correctly!
But here’s the thing: All this phrase means is that you have a plan (strategic) and you’re teaching your child to read based on the sounds of the individual letters (phonetic), not by having them memorize words on flashcards. Oh, memorizing words will come the more they read, but in a phonetic approach, you’re teaching your child the building blocks of every word in the English language.
My absolute favorite resource for this approach is the BOB books. These are short, fun, simple, easy to read books that your child will enjoy reading. And when you work through the 5 box sets in order, you’re walking through a strategic, phonetic approach to teach your child to read. In other words, they put the plan together for you, all you have to do is follow it by reading the books in order.
What Materials Will You Use?
The most obvious materials to use when teaching your child to read is something to read, right? But is that the only thing you’ll need? In many cases, yes.
But don’t discount using some other tools to help your child fully connect the sound with the letter. This could be some alphabet flashcards with the letter and a picture on them nearby to help your child with some of those tougher to grasp letters. (Can you say p, d, and b?) It could be a poster with the letters on it or some sight word flashcards.
The exact materials you choose will depend on your teaching style and your child’s learning style as well. If the extra materials will help your child, go for it! If they are going to cause confusion, skip them. Remember, this is all about helping your child learn to read in the way they will understand best.
Where Will You Work?
Does your child learn better and stay more focused when they’re sitting at a table working through letters and sounds? Or would it be more relaxing to sit on the couch and read? Would sprawling on the floor on your stomach be better?
Keep in mind, where you work isn’t as important as the work of learning to read, but allow the place you choose to work to help you in the process.
How Long Does It Last?
Learning to read is a lot like learning to play the piano. You’re diving into a completely different skill set. You’re learning how to read markings on a page that you never understood before. And it will take practice to get where you want to go.
But you don’t decide to learn piano and sit down and do nothing but play piano for 6 hours every day, right? No! You practice for at least 15 minutes a day, but it’s in the consistency of practice. It’s in the repetition day after day that your skills begin to grow. And as you continue practicing consistently, playing the piano becomes second nature to you.
It’s the same way with teaching your child how to read. Planning 6 hours where you’ll sit down and teach your child how to read is not going to be effective. Plus, when your child is young, they’re not going to have a 6 hour focused attention span! In other words, you’re setting both yourself and your child up for failure if you take this approach.
On the other hand, what if you sat down with your child and had them read to you for 10 minutes a day? It sounds a lot easier to build into your day, doesn’t it? On top of that, it’s much easier to stay focused for 10 minutes at a time than for 6 hours at a time. And just like practicing the piano for 15 minutes a day will start to improve your piano playing skills, reading for 10 minutes a day will improve your reading skills.
You see, small, consistent steps taken over time will add up to a massive impact!
Now, keep in mind if your child doesn’t do well with time increments, you can use a set number of pages to mark your reading time. For example, you can have your child read 2 pages to you a day. As their skill and pace increases, you could increase this to 4 pages.
The option you choose depends on your child and their learning style. Some children thrive under knowing a set time and others thrive under having a set goal and knowing their reading time is complete when they accomplish their goal. It’s up to you as their parent to know which way is best for you and your child. And don’t be afraid to try both ways! Again, sometimes finding that sweet spot of teaching your child how to read takes some trial and error!
How Do I Build This Into My Day?
So, how do you begin to incorporate this into your day? How do you make time every day to have your child read out loud to you? And when do you do it?
First of all, you need to realize that teaching your child to read will take focus and being intentional. This isn’t something you can throw onto your “If it happens, it happens” list of things to do. This needs to be a priority.
One of the easiest ways to be intentional to sit down with your child and teach them to read is to build it into your homeschooling day. If you make this 10 minute (or 2 page) reading block a part of your school work that needs to get done, there’s an automatic focus and priority that comes with it.
When Does It Happen?
Now, it’s one thing to be focused and place a priority on sitting down with your child every day, but when do you do it?
This piece can be tricky – particularly if you have multiple children! But don’t give up before you even start! This is possible! You can find a spot in your day to sit down and teach your child to read.
The question becomes: When is the best time in the day for your child to sit down and read? For some children, first thing in the morning is best for them. For others, it’s right after lunch. For others, it’s mid-afternoon. For others, it’s right before dinner. Now, this piece will take some trial and error, but it’s worth it to figure out what time of day works best for your child to learn to read. You probably won’t find that ideal spot the very first time you try – or you may not know it’s the best time until you try some other ones! But you can find this sweet spot.
You see, when you find this sweet spot, this time when your child learns best and is least distracted, teaching them to read becomes easier because you’re capitalizing on the time when they are naturally focused.
But keep in mind, this timing sweet spot might not look the same for all your children! You’ll need to take some time to figure out this sweet spot for each child!
When you break it down, reading comprehension simply means understanding what you’re reading. In other words, as you read, you’re not simply reading words on a page, but understanding the story or the information those words are telling you.
Reading comprehension can also feel like one of those areas that is incredibly hard to teach. Can I let you in on a secret? It doesn’t have to be!
All you have to do to start teaching reading comprehension to your child is to ask them questions. That’s it! Simply ask questions!
As your child reads out loud to you, ask them questions about what they’re reading. This can start right when your child is beginning to read. Even when there are only 3 words on the page, ask questions to find out what happened in the story.
The more you do this, the more natural it will become. The more you do this, the more the concept that the symbols on the page are not just letters and sounds, but put together, those letters form words that tell a story will become deeply embedded in your child’s heart and mind.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- What just happened?
- Who is this story about?
- What did they do?
- What color is the ____? (fish, car, whatever the story is about)
- What did ____ (character) just do?
Keep This Reading Time
As your child makes progress in their reading skills and starts to read better and better, it’s easy to think about giving up this reading out loud time. After all, your days are busy and this is one area where you have to sit down and focus to listen to your child read to you, right?
Even though the temptation is real, don’t give up this time of having your child read to you. Even after they master the basics of reading, there’s still a lot to be learned in how you read.
Think about it: Is it more interesting to listen to someone read words that sound like a robot reading a story or someone who’s invested in the story and reading with great expression? It’s far more interesting to listen to the person who reads with expression, right?
But how do you learn how to read out loud with expression? By practicing! This time of having your child read out loud to you is the beginning of that practice.
You see, when you first start reading out loud, it feels awkward. Yet, the more your child reads out loud, the more comfortable they become reading out loud, and the more natural it feels. You can actually hear this change starting to happen. As your child becomes more comfortable with reading out loud, they’ll begin adding emphasis in different places. They’ll begin feeling the cadence and the rhythm of the written words on the page and this will come out in how they read. They’ll begin adding those ‘storyteller’ elements as they read, showing they aren’t just reading flat words on a page, but telling a story to their listeners through the words they’re reading.
Grow With Your Child
As your child grows and their reading level and pace increase, the books they are reading and the amount of time you spend listening to them read out loud will change.
The books they read will move from the simple BOB books with 4 words on a page to books like ‘Go, Dog! Go!’ and Easy Readers. You see, as they master reading skills, the books they read need to pose a bigger challenge while at the same time being easy enough so they don’t discourage your child.
Some of our favorite books to read include the Dr Seuss books, Level 1, 2, and 3 Easy Readers, the Clifford books, the Fancy Nancy series, the Curious George books, the Berenstain Bear series, and the Amelia Bedelia series.
Now, don’t forget to use the resource of your local library! Your library will have a huge selection of these books for you to tap into. First of all, this means you don’t have to purchase each and every book. And second, it means you have access to a huge variety of topics and new material that will keep your child interested – and keep them from quoting a memorized book back to you as they read!
The Final Chapter
Keep in mind that even as you use this method of having your child read out loud to you, every child is different. Find what works best for you and your child. Remember, the goal is not to follow a certain pattern perfectly, the goal is to teach your child how to read and to read well.
It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen in a week. It won’t happen in just one year! Teaching your child how to read is a process that happens in small, consistent steps over time.
And don’t forget to celebrate the small steps, the small wins! You see, even when you’re taking small steps, if they’re small steps in the right direction you’re getting closer and closer to the goal each and every day. Many times it’ll be very messy and you’ll wonder if any progress is being made at all! But hang in there! The day will come when all of a sudden, you’ll begin to see all that hard work, all that time invested begin to pay off.
You’ve got this! And you can teach your child to read and to read well!
- Why Is Reading With Your Kids So Important?
- How To Teach Your Child To Read in a Simple, Easy Way, Part 1
- How To Teach Your Child to Read in a Simple, Easy Way, Part 3
- How to Make Reading Fun and Interesting
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.