Get the most out of story time with these easy tips for reading aloud to kids.
We all know that reading aloud to kids is the best! It’s one of the most important gifts we can give our children. If you only have time to do one activity with your kid each day, reading is a great pick.
When you read to a child, you build their vocabulary, improve their communication skills, and aid in their overall development. Reading aloud to kids is so much more than speaking words off a page. It’s the key to much of their future (but you don’t need me to tell you that).
But how do you get the most out of reading aloud to kids? Is there more to it than just reading?
First, as long as you’re reading aloud on a regular basis, you’re already doing something hugely right.
Without wanting to sound at all condescending or like a total know-it-all, I’d love to share with some handy tips and ideas that I learned from my years as a kindergarten and first grade teacher. My goal back then was to make the most of our read aloud time and now that I’m reading to my own kids, I have the same mission: get the most bang for my read aloud buck.
Here are my 5 tips for reading aloud to kids (even to young toddlers).
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Take Notice of the Cover
Yes, it’s Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site* for the 25th reading this week, but we start it the same way each time: identify the title, the author and the illustrator. I know my toddler can’t quite grasp words like “illustrator” yet but I can still introduce him to the concept. We also look at the cover art. What do we see? What do we notice? Especially with a new book, this is a great time to make predictions about the story. Friends* has a great cover to look at.
Take a Picture Walk
Don’t have time to read a full, lengthy story tonight? Take a picture walk. It’s a great way to “pre-read” a book by stepping into it picture by picture as an introduction. If this is a book you’ve read a thousand times (probably just that week), use a picture walk as a chance to notice details from the illustrations and to let your kiddo retell the story in their words. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs* (the book, not the movie) is our favorite to walk through.
When you’re reading aloud, ask questions along the way. This builds reading comprehension skills which are just as important as phonetic reading skills (as in, I can read the Theory of Relativity but I’m really not going to understand it – comprehension is huge). Here are some of my go-to questions when we are reading:
- Look at the picture, how is that character feeling?
- How would you be feeling?
- Would you want to do that?
- Why are they acting that way?
- What would you do if you were them?
Even my 2.5 year old toddler can answer simple questions like these while we read. Of course, I phrase them in “his” language but his understanding of characters, their emotions, and the plot of a story amazes me and he’s only two! No David!* is a great one for little learners to answer questions about.
Another great comprehension skill is making predictions. This is especially useful when you’re reading a book for the first time. “What do you think is going to happen next?” Or cause and effect type predictions, “If they do that, what might happen?”. For young children, a prediction can come in a rhyming book by predicting which word will end the next rhyming phrase. Knuffle Bunny* (pronounced KUH-nuffle) is great for teaching predictions. It’s such a relate-able story!
Retell the Story
When you finish reading aloud, ask your child to retell the story. As a toddler, this will be a do together activity probably using simple phrases like ‘First, Next, and Last’. As your child gets older, they can provide more detail into a retelling or even draw pictures that retell the story. Being able to retell what has been read is what we adults do every day when we look up directions, read a recipe, or discuss a news article. An Extraordinary Egg* is my pick for retelling right now – and it’s just plain funny!
Reading aloud to kids is such a beautiful gift of time and love that our children so desperately need. It’s a gift that will carry them far into their childhood and even early adulthood. By learning how to maximize reading aloud to kids time, we give them a jump start into learning that will amaze you.
What’s your favorite strategy when reading aloud to kids?