How to Effectively Read Aloud to A Child?

(Tips for parents)

Blog on How to Effectively Read Aloud to a Child

“Reading aloud to children is the magic bullet for creating a lifelong reader”- (by Jim Trelease, ‘The Read-Aloud Handbook)

But how to do that! Aren’t you wondering about this? 

Before we dive into the method, let’s first understand what read aloud means, the purpose and the importance of reading aloud to or with children. 

Read aloud is the practise of reading out written words in an engaging way so as to stimulate a positive outlook towards books and reading. It is usually carried out by parents, caregivers and teachers. Reading aloud helps in developing a child’s imagination, improving their focus, enhancing their attention span, encouraging them to have a memorable, fun time with the reader, and building a lifelong habit of reading. 

Children’s brains are extremely malleable; they constantly watch, absorb and learn from the world around them. Reading aloud from picture books or chapter books forms the best external sensory input for children to be lifelong learners and readers during their critical developmental windows. Reading to a child has proven to be “brain-changing.” 

The purpose of read aloud sessions with a child is to decode the book for the child as much as we can so that we can take the child into the book where her/his mind feels free to process the new information, map her learning and understanding, grasp her own morals/lessons, imagine the characters and settings, experience the real-life situations through the character’s journey and make sense of what they see and hear. Children process a lot during the read aloud time.

Read aloud time in our child’s daily routine is the happy hour where the child’s mind is free to wander and enjoy the written words of a book, free from the struggles of vocabulary and decoding process of text and language, delivered to her in an easy to assimilate form by parents, caregivers or teachers. 

In the blog “Why Read Aloud to Children?”, we have covered wholesome noteworthy reasons for reading aloud. Do check it out!

Mentioned below is a read aloud method answering how to effectively read aloud to a child, followed by a few things to bear in mind for read aloud practises.

Method:

  1. Take a book-walk together before beginning to read the written words to your child.
In How to Effectively Read Aloud to a Child first step is to take a book-walk together before beginning to read the written words present inside of the book. Look at the pictures, know your author, read aloud book name and other simple yet interesting details.

Take a book-walk together before beginning to read the written words to your child. Introduce the book, read aloud the title and author’s name. Go over the texts and pictures featured on the front and back cover.

2. Give voice to the written words! 

Second step in How to Effectively Read Aloud to a Child is to begin reading the written words of the book, give voice to written words and narrate expressively.

Begin narrating expressively and in an engaging way. Give voice to the written words in the book. The text delivery, in terms of pace, intonation, action and the interaction during the read aloud time – in the form of questions & clarifications about the text plays a vital role in influencing the child’s feelings about reading and books.

3. Pause to allow your child to observe pictures! 

Step three or anytime during a read aloud time with your child pause to allow your child observe pictures whenever she or he proposes and instinctively also.

Resist rushing through the story; instead, pause to let your child take a look at the pictures present on the page. Allow them to go back and forth between the pages and have a look at the pictures and illustrations to make the connection with what was read out to them and infer what can follow. Ask your child if she could identify the character shown in the picture and co-relate with their actions.

Pausing helps children to relate with the visual images present on the pages, giving them time to process and connect with what was read out to them, helping them navigate through the story well and create a mental picture in sequential order. Pausing also helps children to create visual images of the story to memorize it better.

4. Pause to let your child predict the story!

Fourth step or anytime during a read aloud time pause to let your child predict the story whenever you feel inspired to ask questions.

Enable them to predict the story through open-ended prompts. Ask them questions like “What do you think?”, “How do you feel?”, “What do you see on this page?” Ask your child whether she/he could identify the character shown in the picture and what it is doing. Let them take their time to think, so patiently wait, listen to their predicted answers when they are ready and share your response later. This way they will start relating with the event themselves by taking hints from illustrations present on the page, thus analyzing the situations in a better way. If your child’s guesses are nowhere close, do not respond with a ‘No, this is not what it is” to their predicted answers, instead affirm their guesses but guide them to the actual answers by saying “XYZ was what the author had in mind to the ABC questions.”

Enabling a child to predict stories and pictures helps in building comprehension skills and strengthening their imagination. This also helps the child to pay full attention while studying school subjects or reading picture stories.

5. Pay close attention to body language! 

Fifth step in the read aloud method, and the one that goes without saying, throughout a read aloud time is to pay close attention to the body language of your child! Remember, patience is the key.

Adjust your reading speed and tone whenever you sense your child is feeling uninterested, thinking to themselves or distracted with the other things in the room. Use creative strategies to engage your child, like act out the story or talk like a character, sing up the rhyming words, or just rename the main character with your child’s name. Observe your child’s interests patiently while reading. Follow the child’s interests to make reading a fun experience for her.

6. Recap and discuss to reinforce the information for the deeper connection!

Sixth and last step in how to effectively read aloud to a child is to recap and discuss to reinforce the information for the deeper connection in the child's mind.

After you’ve finished reading the book or chapter take time out to recap and retell the major events, identify the main idea, ascertain key concepts, discuss mini-lessons, ask the favourite parts of the story, listen to their perspectives on “What-if” questions, revisit the critical vocabulary words, and repeat the catch-phrases and lines. Recapitulating or retelling helps in establishing a deeper connection of what they heard, saw or read. Be mindful not to make reading a source of conflict.

Things to keep in mind As You Read Aloud to Children:

  1. Improve attention span with gradual progression

Be patient with the child who is new to reading or hasn’t been read to very regularly. If you read a book for a whole long hour on the very first day, the chances are that your child might lose interest in reading. Start with just 10 – 15 minutes of reading aloud. Gradually increase the reading time. Also, keep Dr. Poole-Boykin attention span calculation in mind while planning the reading time of your child and if the child can stay focused longer, then partner them along for as long as they want. Just don’t let the child’s distraction bother you. Level up the reading time gradually and consciously when you are inculcating the habit of reading.

Things to keep in mind as you read aloud to children is to focus on ways to improve attention span with gradual progression and by avoiding overcorrection!

2. Avoid Overcorrection

Be patient with your child. Let them make mistakes and do not interrupt while they are responding to prompts eagerly. Correct them occasionally so they can remember things better. Overcorrecting them for every mistake would make them lose confidence in their reading ability.

3. Focus on Vocabulary and Grammar

While reading aloud, children pick up words, grammar, and correct pronunciation of words from their parents. While you explain the meaning of words, they understand the context through the sentences and also memorize complex words and vocabulary. Regular reading helps children build their vocabulary, have a better grip on their speech and expression and become fluent, confident readers. 

As you read aloud to your child, keep in mind to focus on Vocabulary and Grammar and Teach them the correct reading method.

4. Teach the reading method

Train the preschool children, the correct method of reading from left to right, pointing the words with the finger. Let them know how to handle a book properly, how to read sentences and decode the meaning of the story. 

5. Re-read the same book

Does it annoy you sometimes when your child asks you to read a particular book over and over, and if you are like me, who counts the number of times a particular book you’ve read to your child, then let me reassure you, it is a child’s instinctive way of learning the finer details of the information present in that particular book.

Have you ever caught yourself watching a movie for the 30th time? By now, you know the dialogues of that movie, you know when to fast forward or slow down, you rewind the favourite parts of the movie, catchy lines of different actors are on your tongue etc.

In the same way, children learn finer details through reiteration and repeated exposure to a story. Children learn and retain the subtleties a story contains through repetitions. With each repeated reading, a child gets to focus on different elements of the story, whether it is the vocabulary, the rhyme and rhythm, major events, the illustrations, plot, setting, story conflict, characters – there is a lot for the child to absorb, trust me!. And with each repeated reading the child makes a deeper connection with what they listen and see. Repetition brings in familiarity, which encourages pre-readers to take risks and participate when we ask them to predict stories, read complex sentences, and frame answers.  

Things to keep in mind as you read aloud to children is treat over rhymes and repetitions as you continue to re-read the same book

6. Treat over rhymes & repetitions

Children love rhymes, rhythms and repetitions; at least that’s what I have learnt from children’s most beloved author’s Dr. Seuss Books. Dr. Seuss’s books have funny stories, crazy creatures and zany pictures with the blend of repeating words, phrases and tongue twisters—repeating familiar words while reading helps them remember lines, words, phrases, sentences and even pauses in a sentence. This step builds their ability to read complex sentences. Affirming what your child said gives them confidence while reading.

This is it!

Remember, every reading session is uniquely different. And just as rightly quoted by Dr. Seuss “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.” Then, what are you waiting for? Get ready to explore the method outlined above to enhance your child’s cognitive abilities and make them an independent and a lifelong reader. The above method and tips have firmed up with time by learning and growing as a reader (a parent who loves to read aloud) to my child. Feel free to borrow and customize it as per how you and your child would like read aloud time to be led.

Enjoy the happy hours of read aloud time daily with your little ones! And happy parenting!

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