If you asked just about any person on the street if reading aloud was good for kids, they would probably say yes. We all know there are linguistic and cognitive benefits to reading to your child. But reading to your child doesn’t have to be passive for them. It’s actually quite easy to engage and involve your child in reading even before they know their ABCs. Here are ten tips you can put into practice today.
1. Judge by the cover
We have all heard it – never judge a book by its cover. But the cover of a book can tell you a whole lot about what you’ll read about inside, especially when you’re looking at a picture book. Often times, covers tell you who the main character is, where the book is set, and what problem the characters will be facing in the story. So before you read your next picture book, take time to look at the cover and talk with your child. What do they think this will be about? Can they tell where the story happens or what the problem might be? What do they see that makes them excited to read the book? All these questions and many more are great ways to get your child excited about what they will find inside.
2. Well, you see…
I feel silly even mentioning this one, but make sure your child can see the pictures. You don’t have to force them to look at every page, but make sure they have a good vantage point for the pictures and the words you will be reading. Hold your book up high enough so your body doesn’t block any of the page, and make sure it’s at an angle that your child can see.
3. To everything turn, turn, turn
Why should the parent do all the work when it comes to reading? Let your child turn the pages. Seriously though, letting your child turn the pages is actually highly beneficial to them. Not only do they begin to associate the marks on the page with the words you are saying, it also gets them physically involved in the reading of the book. And the more senses you can involve when reading to your child, the better. Digital books are becoming more popular than ever, but even on screen you can let your child turn the pages. What kid doesn’t like to swipe a phone or tablet and see it react to their touch?
4. No news is…
Kids love repetition. It’s actually of great value to them when you read the same book to them over and over. (Unless, of course, it’s Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie.) Once you have a read a story at least once, let your child be part of the reading. Stop at certain points as you read and let them say the words that come next. These should be key words for the story or rhyming words. So for example, when you say, “Brown bear, brown bear what do you…” your child will eagerly pipe in with “See!” The more you have read the book, the more often you can let your child fill in the missing words. Bonus points if you point to the word as they say it.
5. And then…
If you are on your first read through a new book, this is a fun way to engage your pre-reader. Stop a one or more points in the story and ask your child, “What do you think happens next?” It doesn’t matter whether they get it right or not. What matters is that they are making guessed based on what they have already read.
6. Read in 3-D
Whenever you can, include a nonwritten element in your story experience. This might mean listening to a certain instrument or song, tasting something mentioned in the book, or even going to a place where the book happens. For example, when you read The Day the Chocolate Melted Away have a Sarris’ chocolate bar handy and enjoy it as you read, or take your child to the park when you read about children playing there. Engage as many senses as you can and your child will learn more and love more about the books you read.
7. Get physical
Sitting still to listen can be challenging for some children, and it doesn’t come naturally to all kids. It’s okay to give your child some crayons and paper to draw as they listen to you read. Your child might also like to move around while they listen. Reading to your children shouldn’t be like punishment for either of you. So if your child isn’t fond of sitting still, know that it’s okay for them to move around. They will still benefit from your time reading together.
8. Google that
Children benefit from reading both fiction and nonfiction books, so vary your reading when you can. But no matter what you are reading, your child may ask you questions about something the book brings up. This is a great opportunity to involve your child in finding the answer to their own question. Have your child ask their question of Siri or Alexa, or do a simple Google search and explore what answers come up with your child. This not only gets your child more involved in the story itself, but it also shows them the value of research and looking for the answers to your questions.
9. No pop quizzes
It’s tempting, after you have finished reading a book to your child, to ask them factual questions in a quiz type mentality, but there are far better ways to process what you have read with your child. Ask your child what the book made them think, feel, wonder. Talk about their feelings, their hopes, their fears and discoveries. Let your child express themselves by talking to you, writing (if they are able), or using art materials. Even something as simple as drawing a picture after reading a book can be of great value to your child as they process what they read.
10. Measure up
Do you read your child one book a day? Two? More? Whatever your number is, you can make that number less abstract and more concrete for your child by creating a visual to show how much (and you) have read. Draw a train engine and post it in your child’s room ( or download this one by Uncle Dave ). Then add a car to the train for every book you and your child read together. Make a pop-pop caterpillar and one pom each time you read a book. Keep your tracker where your child can see it frequently. You both might be surprised when you see just how much you have read together.
Reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and the more involved your child is as they read, the greater their love of reading will grow to be. Try one of these tips or all of them and see if your child doesn’t get even more excited to hear you say, “Why don’t we read a story?”