Frequently Asked Questions and Tips for You
I could write a whole post on each one of these items, but just in case you need a little help getting started with this challenge, I will condense some of the ideas here.
- My child does not like to be read to and/or has a hard time sitting still for a book. Any ideas?
I have a few to try, but ultimately it will depend on your child. The best thing to do is start trying different things so you can figure out what works and doesn’t work for him/her. Here are some ideas to start with:
- Start with short texts—picture books, yes, but also as short as poetry (silly and rhyming is often the preference of children—Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein are great starting places) and children’s magazines. Just as working out more often strengthens the muscles and allows you to work out longer in the future, reading aloud shorter texts strengthens the “listening muscle” in our children and prepares them to be able to listen to longer texts later. Short texts are also less threatening to those who are intimidated by reading.
- Reading aloud doesn’t have to happen curled up in bed or a chair together. Experiment with different situations. We’ve read to our son while he quietly played with Legos in the floor next to us (some kids listen better if they have something to do with their hands—you could even try Silly Putty), in the bathtub, and in the car. If the kids aren’t having it, scrap it and try something else.
- Try different texts till you find something they seem to be enjoying. I have started chapter books with my son, only to realize he’s not getting “into” it, and if I don’t see that changing pretty quickly (i.e., I know there’s not about to be a drastic turn in the way the story is going), I’ll ask him if he’d like to save that one for another time and choose a different book. No sense in wasting precious reading time on books we’re not interested in! It is OKAY to abandon a book; please give yourself and your child this privilege.
- Finally, the only reason a child has to genuinely not like reading (outside of disabilities that make reading laborious, and even then hopefully he/she enjoys being read TO) is that he/she has not yet found the right book for him/her! So let’s get busy trying different genres and topics to help them figure out what they like!
- I don’t enjoy reading. Is that going to affect my child’s (or students’) attitude about reading?
In short, YES. But first, are you sure you don’t enjoy reading? Do you read the newspaper, magazines, a daily devotional, nonfiction related to a hobby, etc.? If so, maybe you actually DO like reading but aren’t recognizing it because you only like to read what you like to read. That’s okay! (Just keep that in mind when your child is reluctant to read what someone else has chosen for him/her.) We would all rather read texts of our own choosing.
If you do enjoy reading—anything at all—now the goal is to let your children see you reading. Your example is more powerful than any words you could tell them about the importance of reading! If you can’t think of regular times your child sees you reading, you may be sending them the implied message that reading is something YOU have to do, but I don’t.
Note: When I am reading something electronically, I make a point to let my kids know that I’m reading an article and show them the screen (otherwise they may think I’m just texting or playing).
If you really don’t enjoy reading, then I still maintain you just haven’t found the right books for YOU. Have you considered trying some audiobooks as a starting point?
- My child is already a reader. Do I really need to be reading aloud to him/her at this point?
My oldest child is seven, but I have taught up to eighth grade, and I can tell you that even those junior high kids enjoyed listening to good books being read aloud to them. So the answer is yes. Jim Trelease (http://trelease-on-reading.com/) suggests reading to older children (through high school) while they do their chores (like loading the dishwasher after dinner). His The Read Aloud Handbook also has wonderful, time-tested suggestions for good read-alouds for all different age levels and interests. (This book has become my go-to baby shower gift, and I encourage you to purchase it; even the older editions of it are great.)
Reading aloud to children can be THE key that unlocks a love of literacy. This is backed by research!
- With homework and extracurricular activities, how can we make time for pleasurable read aloud time at night? And how important is it?
It’s hard, isn’t it? We have these nights too—a couple times a week, probably. Let’s give ourselves grace for those nights and aim to be reading aloud with our children most nights. Even on the nights when my children get in bed too late, they insist on at least a short read aloud—a chapter from Junie B. Jones, a few poems, or a short picture book. Try reading in the car, the bath, wherever works.
This quote from Literature and the Child (Galda, Cullinan and Sipe, 2010) is a favorite and speaks to the importance of reading together. “[Children] enter into books in ways they cannot with television or film; reading is a far more personal and creative experience. When students want to understand themselves, they can use stories to help them do so, experiencing lives vicariously and thinking about how they might act.”
- Read Aloud Tips:
- Try to read or skim the book first so that you know what’s coming. Also, you will “perform” the read aloud more effectively if you know where it’s going.
- Try to read smoothly and with expression (this can also be achieved by reading the book ahead of time). If you don’t feel good about your reading aloud abilities, take a little time to practice.
- A great way to improve your read-aloud skills as an adult is to check out some children’s audiobooks from the library. After I heard the author herself (Judy Schachner) read the Skippyjon Jones books, I never read them aloud the same way again. I did my best to imitate her style because it was so entertaining to listen to!
- Slow down. Stop after reading a section, page or chapter and ask your child questions. This makes sure they are following the story, pushes them to think further about what’s happening and lets them reflect on story events and characters. You might say things like, “What do you think will happen? Do you remember who this is [pointing at illustrations of characters]? Why do you think [the character] said/did that?” Remember that without comprehension, there is really no reading happening. Reading is not simply being able to call words, but also understanding the meaning of what is being read.