There has been much discussion about the value of reading to your children. Most parents understand that this is a desirable part of the childhood experience and one that can offer both educational and emotional advantages. However, parents are not always clear on exactly how to read with their children. Every situation is different, depending on the skill and maturity of the child, but the suggestions below may offer you some guidance in this area.
- Reading with Your Toddler and Preschooler
When your child is too young to read at all, you can still create interest and excitement by reading to the child. Use picture books so that the child is involved visually as you read the story. You can use the pictures to ask your child what they think will happen next.Read the story with expressions, making different voices for the different characters, if possible. Just have fun with the story. Your child will likely have favorites he or she will want to have you read over and over again. He or she may even begin to be able to recite the story with you. If so, try running your finger under the words as you read them so that the child begins to connect the words with the written symbols.Another method you can try is the use of rebus books. These are book that have little pictures in the place of certain words. Your children’s librarian should be able to help you find these in your local library. This way, your child can “read” the pictures as you read the words. This gives them a sense of participation and makes them more excited about learning to read.
- Reading with Your Early Reader
As your child begins to read, continue reading to them, but now you can let them help read as well. Your school may assign books on the child’s reading level that he or she can read to you. But these books will necessarily be thin in plot and character. After school assigned reading is done, you can read regular children’s books to your child, but have them help more and more as they learn.A good way to start is with the words “a, an,” and “the.” These words (they are actually articles) are some of the most common in the English language and are also some of the simplest. As you read a page, have your child follow along and tap the articles when you come to them. This is your child’s cue that it is his turn to read the word. Of course, you do not have to do this for the entire story, but it is a good way for an early reader to get involved and it helps build confidence. As he or she learns more words, add those to his list of words for the child to read.
- Reading with Your Elementary Age Child
Once your child has a good grasp of the basics, you can have the child participate more by alternating reading pages or chapters with you. This way, you get a break and you also get to see how your child’s reading is progressing. Of course, there is still no harm in reading aloud to the child at this age. You may be able to read books to him or her that are above their own reading level, but will open up new reading worlds before their eyes and incite their desire to read even more. Children often like to hear more complex stories than they can actually read.
- Reading with Your Teen
By the time your child is a teen, he or she should have a good grasp of reading, and the focus can be on expanding literary horizons. You can either read a book together and discuss it, or if time is short, use audio books on car rides together. Sharing a book in common allows the two of you time to not only discuss ideas about literature, but also to discuss the issues of life that the books raise. You may find that connecting over a book creates some of the most special and meaningful time you have together.