Expert Tips for Reading Aloud to Children
Daily Read-Alouds: A Powerful Teaching Tool
“Read it again!” Please, right now!” Understanding the children’s enthusiasm for the book, the parent or teacher does just that! Children want to hear beloved stories again and again. Repetition deepens their understanding of the story and information as well as the text’s structure and genre. Equally important, repeated readings offer multiple opportunities for children to step into the story, become a character, and experience their lives.
First Reading: A Powerful Learning Experience
Whether at home or in school, reading aloud to children should happen a few times each day as the picture book becomes a bridge between child and adult—a bridge that opens children’s minds and hearts to stories and pictures that capture their imaginations. With children, enjoy the flow of the story and the language of feeling that the pictures radiate. First readings can form strong bonds between children and the book—bonds that the dance between story and pictures create. Encourage children to share their reactions and ask questions that take them back to a specific picture or part of the story that you can re-share together.
“The wonderful thing about picture books is that they are a dance between the writer and the illustrator. And the illustrator carries the story far beyond just the words. I want children to see that.” — Laura Robb
Read-Alouds Strengthen Children’s Reading Skills
Your daily read-alouds develop behaviors and skills that can deepen children’s desire to learn to read and choose books to read independently. Besides nurturing their imagination and ability to create pictures of the story in their minds, your daily read-alouds cultivate seven important skills:
- Build background knowledge as children listen to stories and learn new information.
- Enlarge vocabulary as children meet new words that authors use in different contexts.
- Enhance children’s listening capacity, their ability to remember and think with details from a read-aloud.
- Introduce different genres, helping children begin to understand how each one works.
- Increase listening stamina, the ability to concentrate and listen for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Develop an understanding of story structure such as beginning, middle, end, characters, problems, decisions, and themes.
- Enable them to interpret illustrations, a skill that they can then transfer to the written text.
Once children have enjoyed the story and pictures and formed strong bonds with the book, you can reread to extend students’ learning.
Extend the Read-Aloud Experience
Now, each time you reread a book, focus on an element that’s new to the children and develop learning experiences that extend the story. Offer one extension activity each time you reread the book. Often, ideas for these experiences come from illustrations for the book. Here are some suggestions to consider and try.
- Watch Youtube videos: If the book brings up a marching band, or the setting is in New York or Paris, find a Youtube video the children can watch and discuss so they develop a strong mental picture.
- Have a sing-along: If a book includes nursery rhymes or songs like “Old McDonald had A Farm,” find a Youtube video with children singing and invite your students to sing along as well as act out the poem or song.
- Write in their journals: Children draw in their journal their favorite character or story event and then write about it. Meet one-on-one, ask the child what the writing says, record their words on a sticky note, and tape the note to the journal page so you have a record. When conferring, look at four to five consecutive journal entries and sticky notes and point out progress in their storytelling and use of spelling inventions.
- Illustrate a favorite part: After several readings, have children remember a favorite part of the book and draw it. Children share and discuss their drawings with classmates.
- Pretend to be a character: Children choose a character, pretend that they are a character, and retell one to two experiences they had in the book.
- Play rhyming games: If the book’s text rhymes, choose a word and ask the children to offer words that rhyme with it. Write the rhyming words on chart paper so students can use a pointer to reread them during independent reading.
“But to me, one of the most important gifts we give to children through reading aloud is developing their imaginations. Because when they hear a story, their mind develops pictures, and they can go places they never dreamt of going.” — Laura Robb
These words sum up one of the most important reasons to read aloud. Daily read-alouds have the power to transport children into past, present, and future worlds. And as they listen to stories, again and again, they gain the literacy skills needed to develop reading identities and ultimately become lifelong readers.
Watch Laura Robb in a special read-aloud of Mat Man Shapes for more inspiring tips!