Developing Early Literacy Skills — Tip #3

Each day this week, in honor of International Literacy Day (September 8) and the back-to-school season, we are posting practical, research-based tips for encouraging young readers.

By Chazmin Baechler

Tip #3: Read aloud to your child

Most parents already have the bedtime story routine down pat, but you may not realize just how important that activity actually is. Reading aloud to children has a number of important benefits.

First, reading aloud to kids allows them to experience the magic of stories well before they are able to read independently, letting them hear more complicated texts than they could tackle on their own.  It also demonstrates for them what fluent reading should sound like. We know that beginning readers may go slowly, word by word, so hearing an experienced reader go smoothly through sentences and paragraphs allows them to better understand how their reading should develop.

Also, when you do all the voices in the story or really ham up the action, your child gets a sense of what expressive reading sounds like. So go ahead and channel your inner actor when you read aloud; your child will not only be entertained, but will also learn how to make the words on the page come alive.

Finally, when you read aloud to your child, you have a chance to interact with the text and demonstrate how you make meaning from the words. For example, when Red Riding Hood starts to notice her “Granny’s” big eyes and teeth, stop and ask your child what is really going on, or offer your theory. This demonstrates how reading is a process in which we do a lot of work ourselves. In books for younger children, this may be as simple as looking at and describing the pictures in the story, which can then evolve into asking questions, making predictions, or discussing character traits with older readers.

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Chazmin Baechler holds a Masters of Science in Education degree from Northwestern University and taught second grade in Chicago and Wilmette, IL. She currently works as a freelance educational consultant in Geneva, IL, where she lives with her husband and son. You can reach her at  chazminbaechler (at) gmail (dot) com.

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