Reading Aloud to Your Children
Reading aloud is a gift you can freely give to your children from the day they are born until the time they leave the nest. Children's reading experts agree that reading aloud offers the easiest and most effective way to help children become lifelong readers. It can also be as much fun for you as it is for your children.
A child whose day includes listening to lively stories is more likely to grow up loving books and wanting to read them. To spark this desire in your children, you may want to try some of these suggestions offered by Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), a national nonprofit organization that inspires youngsters to read.
- Set aside a special time each day to read aloud to your children. Fifteen minutes a day is an ideal time.
- Vary your selections. For very young children, look for picture books with artwork and stories that are simple, clear and colorful.
- Read slowly and with expression. The more you ham it up, the more your children will love it. Try substituting your child's name for a character in the story.
- Have your children sit where they can see the book clearly, especially if it is a picture book.
- Allow time for your children to settle into the story, as well as time afterwards to talk about it.
- As you read aloud, encourage your children to get in on the act. Invite them to describe pictures, read bits of text, or predict what will happen next. It is even fun to dramatize the roles in the story or read lines of dialogue.
- Children like a sense of completion, so finish what you begin. If the book is lengthy, find an appropriate stopping point, such as the end of a chapter.
- Continue to read aloud to your children even after they begin school and are independent readers. There is no age limit to reading to your children.
- Teenagers may enjoy reading aloud to a younger sibling. They often like to revisit some of their old favorites.
Since ancient times, storytelling has fired the imaginations of listeners of all ages in every corner of the world. Generation after generation, families have told stories to entertain, instill values, pass on traditions and express their hopes and dreams.
Storytelling is highly regarded as an important step toward developing children's literacy. When you tell your children stories, you are building their vocabularies, giving them a sense of how stories work and exercising their imaginations as they visualize the story.
A family rich in stories has a true legacy to pass along. Here are some suggested storytelling ideas from Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), a national nonprofit organization that inspires children to read.
- Choose an appropriate story for the audience. Make sure young listeners will be able to follow the plot, and that the story can be told within the limits of their attention span. Folk and fairy tales, family history and joyous, silly or painful moments from your own childhood all are good sources.
- Read or rehearse the story until you know it well.
- Tell stories you like. If you are not enthused about a story, your voice will give away your lack of interest. Remember that enthusiasm is contagious.
- Use colorful words. Rich, descriptive language will help your children visualize the story as it unfolds.
- Change your voice. Distinguish among the different voices of your characters by changing your own voice. Speeding up and slowing down or raising and lowering your voice can dramatize story action and mood also.
- Have your children participate. They can say the magic words at your cue, chant repeating lines, or add sound effects. If you are making the story up as you go along, ask them to contribute.
- Use props. Simple household props can liven up a story and encourage children to retell it themselves. Children can also make their own stick or paper bag puppets or play with felt cutouts on a felt covered board.
- Tell it again! Like a favorite book, a good story can be retold over and over. In time, your children may want to tell the story themselves.
Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read - A helpful U.S. Department of Education publication discussing language-building activities that you can do with your child to help them build the skills they need to become a reader. Great for ages birth to six. More ideas from the U.S. Department of Education on how to help develop your child's reading skills (preschool to age six).
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