We often read to children--but how do we read with them? Reading stories with your child is the most effective way to build fluency and literacy. From infants who aren’t speaking yet on their own all the way to early elementary school, modeling how to read and showing enjoyment while reading build your child’s curiosity and gives them a goal to work towards, even when they feel frustrated with decoding new words or sentences.
The strategies below are for reading with your child, whether they can read independently or not. As you read and use the strategies below, don’t hesitate to ask questions like, “What is character trying to do?” “What’s your favorite part of the book?” and “What happens next?” while reading.
Take “picture walks” before you read a book.
- Quickly preview each picture on every page of the book, predicting what you think will happen on a first read or summarizing what happened for a book you’ve read before.
- Use a sentence stem (i.e. “I see…” “I noticed…” “I think this character feels… because…”), pointing at pictures and model critical thinking to your child.
- Afterwards, ask your child what she thinks the story is about as you flip through the pictures, then ask if her predictions were correct.
- Take “picture walks” before you read a book.
- Even if your child isn’t speaking in sentences yet, picture walks model common words and sounds. Picture walks help cement the idea of text being connected to meaning, and you’ll soon find your child excited to share their own memory and reflections of the book.
- Always read the title of the book. If your child is already actively engaging you in conversation about the text, ask her to make a prediction about what the book may be about.
- Always read the author and illustrator (if applicable) of the book, explaining that the author wrote the story and the illustrator drew the pictures. This shows your child that they can create their own stories.
- Vary Tone and Pitch: Read with emotions that match the story or text, varying pitch and tone. Read with energy! Infants and toddlers who may not yet understand words can understand excitement and rhythm in your voice--so reading can be engaging even to children who don’t understand most of the words.
Point to Words: Pointing to words is a powerful technique that shows students that words are a series of sounds independent of other words.
- For children who don’t yet recognize letters and the sounds they make, point to whole words.
- Once your child recognizes letters by name, start pointing out sight words so they can connect the letters on the page with a whole word sound.
- As your child starts learning individual letter sounds and that spaces separate words, start pointing at the first letter of each word. This starts building the connection that letters make sounds, and we sound out each letter in order in words. Leveled books will have words that are easily deciphered, usually Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (or CVC) words that include mostly short vowels.
- Discuss the book after reading it. Even if it’s a simple story, ask about your child’s favorite parts, characters and what she felt at certain points of the book. Ask if she’s been in similar situations for fiction books, or if she’s too young to share, talk about your own. Discussing the book after reading it builds critical thinking skills and shows children that text and pictures have meaning.
- Write about it!: If your child hasn’t learned/is still learning letter formations, have her draw pictures of the story and offer to write sentences as she dictates the story back to you. This not only helps your child make better word to picture connections while reading, it drives home the idea that spoken language, text and pictures all express meaning.
- Tap Out Words:
- Tapping out words works best for CVC words, or consonant-vowel-consonant words.
When your child is ready to move on from tapping out words, he or she should be able to sound out unfamiliar words verbally faster than using fingers. This is a great tool to lean on into early elementary school when more advanced strategies replace tapping.
In Chapter 3, we'll explore favorite reading topics.