Both as a reading teacher and later, as a preschool teacher, much of my work has involved reading stories aloud to kids. Over the years, just as all teachers do, I have developed my favorite tricks and techniques for keeping wee audiences engaged. When you read with your child, you are laying the foundation for a love of language and literature, as well as building critical thinking skills, creativity, and imagination. Here are my top 10 tips:
“Beehive Bears” by Oh My Cavalier!
1. Take a little extra time choosing books - If you are having trouble finding good books, try your local children’s librarian or children’s literature sites like The Well-Read Child for reviews and recommendations.
2. Always preview a book before reading it to your child – you don’t want to be stopped in your tracks midway through a story by a too-violent illustration or a theme you do not approve of!
3. Start by reading the title and looking at the cover with your child, then ask her to predict what the story will be about. This can be a very simple, “Hm, The Runaway Bunny. What do you think this is about?”
4. Review what you’ve read so far: If you are in the midst of reading a longer story or a chapter book (any book read in more than one sitting), take a few minutes to ask your child to remember what happened last time before diving in. I have gotten through some very long chapter books with preschoolers by using this technique.
5. Express emotion: If something scary is about to happen, let’s say the character is about to enter a bear cave, you can gasp and say “Oh, no!” Get into it. Show some enthusiasm!
“Honey” by Oh My Cavalier!
6. Do voices for characters. This is something I think many grown-ups are wary of, but there’s no need to be shy! Just do your best; children are easily amused. If you are not sure how a character should sound, you can ask your child – this can lead to some amusing conversations
7. Take time-outs to answer questions. There’s no need to plow straight through a story.
8. Make predictions: During a natural pause in the story, take a moment to ask your child “What do you think will happen now?” This keeps children engaged and flexes those reading-comprehension muscles.
9. If you are reading a long story, stop right at the exciting part. This is a no-fail way to keep up your child’s enthusiasm for the story!
10. Have your child do a tell-back: When you are finished (or at any natural breaking point), ask your child to tell you what happened in the story (or what’s happened so far). This is an excellent way to boost reading comprehension – it works for adults, too!
And just because the story is over doesn’t mean it has to end! If your child loves a particular book, why not try acting it out? This can be as simple as “You be the caterpillar, and I’ll be all the stuff the caterpillar eats” – or as elaborate as you want, drawing in siblings and friends, making props, costumes, and the whole nine yards. You can also extend the story by drawing or painting, or by imagining what would happen after the book ends.
What works for you? Add your thoughts in the comments section