Even in our age of technological distractions, many parents know it is good to read aloud to their kids. Reading aloud has been shown to develop oral language skills, it develops a greater awareness of how language is printed, it helps with reading comprehension, and it inspires a general interest in reading altogether.1 Even for unambitious parents, I don’t know any who say to themselves, “I think reading aloud is old-fashioned hog-wash. What I want is a kid who can zone out in front of the Idiot Box for 5 hours every day.”
My wife and I read aloud to our kids probably every day (many times multiple times a day) and have done so for years. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way (many of these come right out of The Read-Aloud Handbook).
1. It’s about selection. Not all books are good for reading aloud. You learn what is best by simply starting somewhere and seeing how it goes. Check out some of the books I have loved reading to our elementary aged son.
2. It’s about practice. You get better with reading aloud as you do it over time. You’ll grow to love it.
3. Read what you like. Don’t read something aloud you don’t personally enjoy. Believe me, your kids will know.
4. Be routined. Pick a time each day to read aloud. For us we have an established routine at nighttime, and believe me, my kids hate it when we deviate from the routine. They have come to expect and love it.
5. Embody each character. No matter what I read aloud to my kids—from Dr. Seuss to J.R.R. Tolkein—my kids love it when I read with different character voices. Sometimes even a slight change in tempo or pitch does the trick, and it really brings stories to life.
6. Don’t be afraid to read something more challenging. It is good to challenge your kids’ minds, so when you are thinking of books to read, don’t always fall back on the same stuff you read them two years ago. Pick something with more challenging language. It will stretch your children’s minds.
7. Don’t be too quick to finish. Allow some time for discussion after you read. It will help the story sink in. Your child might have a thought about the story, so talk about that. Often my kids will have a question about the author, a picture they saw in the story, or a concept, so we’ll hop on the computer quickly and look something up.
8. Read both fiction and non-fiction. I read both fictional stories and biographies to my kids. This not only adds variety but teaches them about famous people in the process.
9. Engage with them as you read. Ask them questions like, “What do you think will happen next?”
10. Tap the power of suspense. As you read, adjust your pace when you come to a suspenseful part. This will create a sense of excitement. If you need to break up longer chapters from day to day because they are too long, deliberately choose a suspenseful place to stop. This will create anticipation for the next reading time.
11. Divide and conquer. While there are some books I like reading aloud to all my kids at the same time, generally speaking, the comprehension gaps between 8, 4, and 1 are pretty huge. At night my wife takes the twins into their room for their reading time. I take the two older boys for a time of prayer and a Bible discussion. Once the littlest ones are down, Trisha and I each take a child and read aloud to them separately. This one-on-one time is helpful for picking books each can understand and developing a close bond with each child.
12. Keep reading aloud as they get older. My oldest is almost 9, and I have no intention of stopping now. There is an emotional bond that is cemented when I read aloud to my kids, and with each new story, my kids’ minds grow and develop further.
We are always looking for great new read aloud ideas for all of our kids. What are your favorite books to read aloud to your children?
Linking up with Trivium Tuesdays.