Thursday, June 18, 2015

Reading Aloud to Children

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As your children grow, I hope you feel more comfortable with the reading process and it is just a more natural part of your day. The child age range is from 5-8ish. In the 8th year, your child moves more into a preteen age group.

During this age range, your child will move from being a new reader to being a fluent reader. Remember, it is so valuable to read to your child even when she is able to read all on her own. See 

Why Read Aloud? for more information as to why reading aloud is valuable and important. 

What to Read
You want your child to enjoy reading. At this point in life, you might be getting very tired of picture books and want to push those aside to start some chapter books. You might like picture books fine but think a child should not be reading picture books yet. 

Chapter books are appropriate for all ages. In The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease says, "A picture book should be someplace on the reading list of every class at every grade level" (page 65). Don't feel like you need to push your child out of picture book land. Follow the child's lead.

Brayden was very ready for chapter books as a five year old. He enjoyed them immensely. Kaitlyn has always been very gifted when it comes to language arts, so I assumed she would be the same. Nope. She did not want anything to do with a chapter book until well into first grade. She has not suffered in any way from having read picture books only for a while. Don't feel like you have to banish picture books from your reading lists. 

As you add chapter books to your child's life, remember that attention spans for reading books is similar to building muscles up for anything. You need to work up to it. Start with shorter chapter books--around 100 pages or so. It can be good to read a series, but you don't want to only read series books. A series uses the same characters and vocabulary, so learning is not as high as it is when you read books by different authors. They can be fabulous at times, however. A fantastic series to introduce your child to chapter books is Magic Tree House (the first one is Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1)). All three of my older children loved this series and they all three have very different tastes in books. It is a great series to get children interested in read alouds.

Chapter Book Tips
Remember that all books are not great for reading out loud. Trealease gives some great advice for reading a chapter book.

  • Choose a book with subject matter that is appropriate for your child. Be sure your child can handle the emotions of the story. 
  • Read ahead. If you read ahead, you can accent what needs to be emphasized and skip anything that doesn't have to be there or doesn't work as something read out loud. You can do voices and add sound effects. 
  • Skip things. Charles Dickens said that when he read his own books aloud, he would bowdlerize passages when needed. He abbreviated the story. Long descriptions are hard to read aloud and keep the audience captivated. Go ahead and skip things when needed. (page 69) If it is good enough for Dickens, it is good enough for me. 
Let me add, pause every so often to be sure your child is understanding what is happening. You want to be sure your child is following what is happening or it will be very unenjoyable. 

Also, be sure it is clear which character is talking. Not all books have that included. For example, McKenna is loving the Whatever After series right now. I have to frequently add in who said what. Most of the dialog is just back and forth without the "I said" or "Cinderella replied" kind of stuff. I say it to be clear who is speaking. You can help this sort of situation out by using voices, also. 

Harry Potter is a fantastic series for reading aloud. It is mostly action with little descriptive text. Even so, it has not been something I could get Kaitlyn into. I love reading Roald Dahl books to my children. He has a fair amount of cursing in the books (for US English) and I am not ready for my children to be reading that yet, so I read his books to them. They are very entertaining read alouds. Matilda is a favorite.

The Littles is another good read aloud. The Boxcar ChildrenLittle House on the PrarieFablehavenFancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle are also some notable favorites of ours. There is a long list in The Read-Aloud Handbook of great books for read alouds if you want a lot of ideas. 

You might also like:

Reading to Preschoolers

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