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Making the Most Out of a Read-Aloud
Sandy Siegman, M.S. Ed.
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Today, an abundance of research demonstrates that reading aloud to young children promotes their language development and other emergent literacy skills. During a read-aloud, children learn to extend their attention spans and increase their comprehension and vocabulary. As they listen, they acquire strong language skills, picking up correct word pronunciation, word usage, and proper grammar. As children are read to, they strengthen their imaginations by visualizing a book’s events in their minds.

Reading aloud builds many important foundational skills that help prepare children for school. The skills and knowledge a child acquires before embarking on his or her early educational years play a major role in their reading and writing development. The more adults read aloud to children, the more the child benefits. Reading aloud rewards children with a developed interest in books and greater desire to read. As a parent, you have the power to boost your child’s learning potential by making books an integral part of his or her life. Here are some strategies to make the most out of reading aloud to young children:

  • It’s never too early! – Reading with your infant creates a special bond. Babies enjoy hearing the comforting cadence of your voice, feeling your heartbeat, and smelling your familiar scent. They likewise enjoy nursery rhymes and other stories set to rhythms. As your babies get older, consider reading simple stories about routine events, such as eating, taking baths, or going to bed. In time, your babies will associate books with close, intimate time with mom or dad. Always remember: “Being close means the most!”
  • Children can acquire concepts about print! – Children need to learn how books work, including moving through text from left to right, telling a book’s front from its back, and identifying the top and bottom of a page. A child who sits on your lap can even benefit from participating in page-turning.
  • As children get older, focus on the conversation before, during and after the read-aloud session. – It is believed that the discussion surrounding the storybook reading is what gives it power. It helps children connect the story to their own lives.
  • Remember that children love to hear stories over and over again. – The more they have books read to them, the more likely they are to develop vocabulary. It’s always a good idea to start with a picture walk, a preview of the pictures in a book done to familiarize the child with story elements prior to introducing the text. This activity teaches emerging readers to use pictures as context clues.
  • Identify and name things they see. – This is a good time to assess what your child knows.  Use “wh” questions — ones beginning with what, who, where and when.
  • Move past labeling by using their acquired language to tell the story. – Use more open-ended questions, such as, “What is happening on this page?” Give your child ownership of what he or she wants to talk about. Use “why” questions.
  • Connect reading to real life! – Talk about cause and effect, make predictions of what may happen next, or sequence a series of events. Discuss characters, setting, and plot, and relate these elements to your child’s life. Let your child draw a picture of the book.
  • When expanding on a response from your child, keep it small. – You can correct less mature grammar to more mature language. Give right answers without telling them they are wrong.
  • Introduce books in new scenarios. – You don’t have to wait for bedtime. Mealtime and bath times are also great times to enjoy a story.
  • Add some playacting. – Use lots of expressive gestures and different tones of voice, and let the emotions of the story show on your face.
  • Let their attentiveness grow gradually. – Toddlers may initially become distracted, but eventually, they will learn to stay focused throughout the entire story.

Here at The Learning Experience, our Fun With Phonics® program is a comprehensive phonemics-based literacy program that embraces the active world of a 3-4-year-old. Child phonological awareness has been described as “…..the best single predictor of reading performance.” (Gillon, 2003) The Fun with Phonics curriculum gives children a solid phonological foundation through interactive tasks and authentic reading experiences that put phonics to use. Phonics activities introduce children to essential language concepts in a fun way while fostering the excitement of early reading.

Books have the power to benefit young children in many ways. Always seek to make reading fun, and remember the hundreds of daily opportunities to recognize words. Reading storefront signs or food labels is a creative way to promote reading, and it will help your child grasp the significance of reading in the real world. Few things are more rewarding for a child than to own a life-changing skill that opens doors to new adventures and experiences. Fun With Phonics is a complete early literacy program providing a solid knowledge base upon which a child can build the skills to become a lifelong reader and writer.

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