Next week I am unveiling the details of DoSayGive’s Classic Summer Reading series because I receive SO many questions about our favorite children’s classic books. This is going to be such a unique opportunity for your family to discover and fall in love with classic books in a fun (and stress-free!) way. Before I launch the series, though, I wanted to share five invaluable – and dare I say. life changing – tips for reading aloud to children.
1. Read to them before you think they can understand.
In other words, read to your babies! I didn’t understand this with my first child, but research shows that there is tremendous educational advantages to reading to infants, even preemie babies!
Immerse your baby in board books and point and talk to them about everything thing on the pages. Read to them throughout the day, too, not just at bedtime. It will make transitioning into picture books so much more natural and enjoyable!
2. Don’t wait until bedtime to read.
If you have young children you are probably exhausted by seven o’clock every night. So think about reading at other times during the day and saving the short books for bedtime:
- Meal times – Children are a captive audience in their high chairs or while eating at the table. If you have a toddler, chances are you aren’t eating much anyway so so take the time to read to read during meal times. Or have your nanny read. When my children were younger I fed them dinner at 5:30 because there was no way they could wait until my husband got home at 7. So I would read to them while they ate and then would eat with my husband (in peace!) after they went to bed.
- Waiting rooms– Keep a stash of library books in a reusable tote bag or just throw a book in your purse for when you have to wait at the doctor’s office, oil change place, or hair cut place. Reading to them – or just letting them look at picture books – trains young children to get in the habit of being quieter in those types of places where unruly children might be frowned upon;).
- Carpool time – Make the most of the empty time by reading to your baby or toddler. When I’m in my daughter’s school carpool line I will see so many moms reading to their littles in the front seat. So sweet!
3. Don’t expect children to be completely still when you read.
They are children after all! Let fidgety children do a quiet activity like Playdoh, beading, painting, or legos especially if you are reading during daytime hours. They may zone out from time to time but don’t we all? Just ask them questions after every few pages to make sure they are following.
4. Read to them even after they can read.
Something tragic has happened in the past few generations: parents have stopped reading aloud to children as soon as they get into kindergarten or as soon as they can read themselves. This was not the case 50 years ago. (See article below.)
If you start reading to your children when they are young chances are they will want to continue it into elementary school and into middle school. For us reading aloud is a time of family bonding and really the sweetest part of the day. My girls actually get upset we when don’t read to them at night. As one friend said, the books you read together become part of your family’s narrative. And that’s been true for us: we have had so many tears, giggles, history lessons, and eye-opening “aha” moments from the books we have read together as a family.
5. Read to them above their reading level.
I didn’t think about this until a wiser mom and educator told me, but it’s so true. The Cat in the Hat is fine and fun for a 4-6 year old, but don’t only read books to him that he can soon read by himself. Challenge your child’s brain with rich syntax and even richer stories.
If I am going to take the time to read to my children I want to the really good stuff. We’ve let our children experience adventure stories, fairytales, short biographies, and different eras of history. We’ve read about the hardships and joys of the pioneer life in Little House on the Prairie or and let them vicariously through self-reliant Alec in The Black Stallion.
It’s beautiful stories like these that have encouraged their imaginations, enriched their vocabularies and knowledge, and left them hungry for more good books.
Side note: another benefit of reading literature like this is that you can read to all your children at the same time, no matter what their age level. They will all benefit from hearing the words, even at a young age. (Yes, even babies!)
Articles to Encourage:
Cirque Institute: That Shriveled Grind