Obviously I love reading. I read on a daily basis and one of my goals is to spread the joy of reading. I decided, even before my oldest son, Tim, was born, that my kids would grow up to be readers. I bought Tim Dr. Seuss books when he was 2 months old. Last year, I think my youngest son, Zeke, was the youngest child enrolled in Summer Reading, as he was born the day after summer reading started! His room is even decorated in Dr. Seuss illustrations.
However, despite all of this, I was unsure of how to read to my kids, so I went on a library adventure to find a book on the subject. What I found was The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. This is just me talking, but I feel as though this is the definitive guide on reading to your kids. Here are some tips that I use everyday that I gleaned from this book:
Start early, but better late than never! Story time is a lot of fun, but you don’t have to be elaborate if you don’t want to be. A short book before bed is a great way to “ease into” the idea of reading together on a regular basis. I read with both my boys before Zeke goes to bed, and then I read with Tim again before his bedtime, as he listens to the story and doesn’t chew on the books like his brother. The only problem I ever have is when Tim throws a fit for me to read him another story. I suppose if I have to pick a problem to have, this would be it.
Read your own material in front of your kids. Don’t allow them to think that adults don’t read! For example, you can read the newspaper at breakfast, and perhaps read aloud part of a story that may be interesting to them. You could read a recipe while cooking. Read a novel that you just picked up from the library on the couch. Kids learn by example, so show them that reading isn’t just for kids in school.
Don’t be afraid to read aloud to kids of any age. It doesn’t matter if your kid is 6 or 16, you can still take 5 or 10 minutes a day to have some quality reading time.
Don’t be afraid to read aloud because you don’t think you’re good at it. Practice makes perfect! Your child will enjoy the time you spend sharing a story even if you’re not an audiobook-quality, read-aloud, voiceover artist. At first, I was afraid that Tim wouldn’t like the crazy voices that I used for the characters in Steven Kellogg’s Jack and the Beanstalk, but now he won’t let me read it to him any other way!
Make reading aloud fun! Little kids like to read the same books over and over again. At least do yourself a favor and spice up the way you read—use silly voices, do sound effects, ask questions about the illustrations. Really get into what you’re doing, and the child will definitely follow your lead.
Take your kids to the library! PPL’s children’s department is awesome. There are zones for each age range to play, toys for little guys, puzzles and games for all ages, and a quiet area for reading. Let your child pick a book for herself. Let her grab a shopping cart and watch the books fly off the shelves! Show older kids how to search Evergreen for subjects that they enjoy.
Turn off the electronics! Television and Internet are great things in moderation. Unplug for awhile and watch your kids become more alert, imaginative, pleasant, and talkative. Maybe they’ll even do their chores without a fuss too. Okay, that’s wishful thinking.
A great adult book about reading aloud is The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma. It chronicles “The Streak” of reading aloud between a father and daughter for several years, and the profound impact it had on both of them. I only hope that the reading aloud that I do for my kids has the same effect!