5 Things to Keep In Mind as You Read to Your Little Ones
Bed time stories can be such a treasured part of the family routine for young children. The ability to listen to stories and imagine and learn new words is truly magical. However, sometimes as parents, we may find ourselves going through the motions and missing out on some of the deeper level connections and meaning we could begin modeling for our children.
Here are a few strategies and things you can be thinking about as you are reading with your child. Keep in mind, you don't have to be presenting ALL of the strategies EVERY time you read. Pick and choose so it doesn't feel like it has become a school lesson :)
1. Use your finger to follow along with the words as you read.
Especially when your child is not yet school-aged they don't actually understand the words/print have meaning. Your child actually thinks you have memorized the story to read beautifully every time they choose that book. By using your finger to trace the words they start to connect the words to print.
2. Think aloud while you read.
When you get to a point where you might be able to question or reflect on the story, the plot, the characters - ask the question to your child. Something like I wonder why the mama duck was moving so quickly with her baby geese! You can use this opportunity to predict what might happen next or why certain things are unfolding in a specific way. The key takeaway here is to move beyond the simple print in the book.
3. Point out specific letters and sounds as it makes sense.
For example, if your child's name is Joe you might say, "oh, look! A J, you have a J in your name - J says /j/ like in Joe and J says /j/ like in juice. How neat your name and juice start with the same sound." Beginning to tie letters to sounds is a great way to make the connection between the alphabet and the sounds they are learning and real print. It's crazy, but sometimes this connection doesn't happen automatically.
4. Talk about Picture Clues
Is the picture telling us something important about the story? Does it give us any clues about how characters might be feeling? Does the character look happy or sad? Is a character hiding? What does the weather look like? Would that make the characters feel cold or warm? You can use pictures to help your child begin to develop inferring skills. In the beginning when they are still very young you can model this by talking about how the picture helps support your comprehension of the passage.
5. Help your child to make connections to the text.
Does this story remind you of another book you have read? How can you draw parallels between the two stories? Did the characters feel the same way in a similar situation? Differently? If so why might the characters feel differently? For example, if you read a Berenstein Bears book in which Brother and Sister Bear were fighting and then a Little Critter book in which Little Critter and his sister were fighting you might wonder if they were fighting about the same thing or if they were fighting about something different. Then you could make a connection to your child's life and ask if he fights with his sister sometimes, or if he thinks maybe his friends fight with their siblings sometimes.
Anytime you can bring the text to another level beyond the words on the page you are modeling for your young child that reading is more than just sounding out words on the page but that it is a time for noticing and discovery - that reading can be something very magical.