Do you remember story time when you were little? I hope you have experienced story time at least at some point in your life. But even if you haven’t, it’s not too late to learn how to enrich the lives of children through this worthwhile process.
Yes…when you read aloud to a child, you change their aptitude for literacy for a lifetime. Do it with intention and purpose, and you almost guarantee it! Take a look at these quick steps to begin a read-aloud revolution at home or school:
1. Pick a Great Book: Be sure to choose an age-appropriate book. If you are reading to a child from the cradle to about the age of five or six, select a book with lustrous illustrations and only a little bit of text. For older children, choose books with fewer illustrations and more text.
2. Pick a Great Setting: Make read-aloud time special by setting up a comfy, cozy environment. Think about soft sofas, plush pillows, and dim but adequate lighting. Minimize the number of outside distractions (too many toys, too many eye-catchers…too much of anything that takes the focus away from the child and the story).
3. Pick a Great Time: Read aloud during a regularly scheduled time. Vary the times occasionally, but for the most part, stick to a routine. Make sure you and the child are alert enough to pay attention to a wonderful story about to unfold. Being sleepy for a just-about-bedtime story is okay, but for the most part, be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!
4. Pick a Skill: Now, I am getting to the intentional part. When you read to a younger child, did you know that you can sneak in very important reading habits that will actually improve current and future literacy development? You can teach skills such as book sense, text-direction, and one-to-one correspondence with words, including the return sweep.
Book Sense: Be intentional about showing the correct position of the book. Demonstrate how the book looks when it is right-side up and when it is upside-down. Discuss the front cover and call it “front cover” out loud with the listener. Do the same with actively demonstrating how you turn the pages. In addition, as you discuss the right way to handle a book, point out specific details like the inside title page, the dedication page (if one exists), the author’s name, and any other books you may have already read by the same author.
Text-direction: As you start to read, use your index finger to draw an imaginary line under the text as you read it aloud. Don’t make a big deal about it, but do it. Your reading finger will draw the child’s eyes to the text. After several read-aloud events, young listeners’ brains start to generalize about text-direction—that we read from left to right.
One-to-One Correspondence: Though usually talked about in math, one-to-one correspondence matters in reading development, too. As you are lining out text with your finger, a child’s visual, auditory, and tactile abilities get a great work out and highlight the connection between each word read aloud and what the listener actually hears. Soon, even if at first it’s a struggle, kids notice that each word is like a tiny chunk of meaning that matches what they are hearing.
Return sweep: As you make it a practice to draw an imaginary line under the text with your finger, you always get to the end of a line (not necessarily the end of a sentence) once you reach the right-hand margin of the page. At that point, young readers can get lost because they don’t naturally know to return sweep, or to go to the beginning of the next line of text that lies under the completed line. If you took typing in school years ago, return sweep is what you do when you hit the return key at the end of a line. We do well when we purposely use our reading finger (the index finger) to show how and where to go once a line of text stops at the right margin but continues on to the next line below.
So, there you have it. Early reading habits can pave a successful road for your kids with just a little bit of awareness and intention.