When I taught kindergarten and first grade many parents would ask me questions about reading with their children. What books should they read? What questions should they ask as they read? What should they pay attention to? How often should they read, and for how long? The answer is, “it depends,” but that parents are even thinking these questions they are probably already doing enough and doing it well enough. I have complied some simple ideas you can use for the next time you pick up a book wth your child.
- Point to each word in the title. Take a look at the cover and talk about what you notice.
- Sometimes you can turn through the pages and look at the pictures making guesses about the story, this is called a book walk. It can prime the mind for reading, especially for a trickier book.
- When you turn a page point to the first word then begin reading. This shows children left to right directionality, as does letting them turn the pages left to right.
- When children are older (4 or older) it can help to point to each word as you read. They will start to see that words are separated by spaces.
- Share what you are thinking! When you turn a page and are taken back by the beautiful picture, anounce it. “Wow, look at those colors, oh and did you notice that little mouse in the corner? Beautiful!” Then continue reading.
- Take time to wonder. Say, “I wonder what will happen now that they are stuck.” Show your child the reading process is about thinking beyond the text. Reading is about thinking.
- Laugh at the funny parts, cry at the sad parts. Model that reading is about connections.
- Use voices for characters because how we read aloud is how they will read in their minds later.
- If it is a book that teaches a lesson talk about it. What did you learn? What are you thinking about?
- Let your child page through the pictures again.
The most important thing you can do is read many different books to your child and read favorites again and again. We aim to read for 20-30 minutes a day. Reading in our house includes time when we are reading to Lavin and when he is paging through board books on his own. Even though the words aren’t being read, the colors on the pages are lighting up his little mind. We don’t time our reading but we are aware of it. When I get home from work I usually sit down with Lavin and get out a book, before bed we read at least one book, often two before settling in. Add that with a bit here and there throughout the day and we have easily read for 30 minutes.
If you have a care provider let them know your wishes for reading. We have a little list of to do’s we would like Lavin to do each day no matter who is watching him. The list includes reading, listening to music, getting outside and tummy time. If you are worried you’re not reading enough track your time for a week and see, if it averages out to 20 minutes a day you are reading to your child about twice as much as the average dual income household.
The best thing we can do in regards to building literate children is to offer them many opportunities with books. Go to the library. Spend a morning at the bookstore. Order a special book online and check the mail each day until it arrives. Model an enthusiasm for learning through reading! Have fun and connect through a great book, once you get in the habit it will be one of the best parts of your daily routine.