I didn't have a lot of money when my kids were little, but we had two shelves of favorite books, and we read aloud the same ones over and over. Many a pleasant afternoon was spent in tea parties followed by a reading of Strega Nona or There's a Monster at the End of This Book.
When my first grandson was born, my daughter named him Max. He quickly grew to fit the book character he had been named for, the King of All Wild Things. "He likes to listen to the book too," my daughter told me. "And when I read it to him, I can hear your voice in my ear." There's nothing she could have told me I would have treasured more.
The first time you pick up a book, hold it before your child's eyes, and begin to read. You are teaching your child what a book is, what to do with it, and what joys may come of it.
Readaloud Tip #One: Pick a Great Book
Start with a fresh book...
I’ve chosen a book whose story I really love. It has great illustrations and I can’t wait to share it with the kids.
The children are there, and I hold up the book. I’m ready to begin, but I need to grapple on to their brains and haul them into place.
“This book is called Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Huh, that’s weird. Would it be a good idea to let PIGEONS drive buses?”
This is a very important step. Prediction will start stirring their little synapses around, get them guessing about the book, and looking at the pictures with real involvement. (Get it? Interactive readaloud?)
Readaloud Tip #4: Use the book to explain new words and situations
As you read, you may encounter words the children won’t know. Pause briefly, give them a quick synonym, and move on. This will help give them the meaning but not interfere with the flow of the story.
As you read, you may encounter opportunities to tie the book back to them and their experiences. This is when reading to your own child is so great, because you will know and be able to share really meaningful experiences with them. It’s harder for me to do; I always end up with a lot of three year olds telling me things like, “I haven’t gotten my pinata for my birthday yet!”
Readaloud Tip #5: Enjoy Your Words
Mouth 'em, Taste 'em, Roll 'em over your tongue
Suppose the word "universe" is in the story you're reading. You could just read it as "universe". You could also read it as UNIVERSE, and make it a very big, important word. You could read it as univerrrrrrse, and make it a comical word, a word you don't really believe in. You could even do a Popeye to it, and pronounce it Youneeeverseee. Or be Scooby Doo. the Univus.
It’s so fun reading those bedtime stories now, but in just a few years your children will be expected to spin their own yarns while the clock ticks in a classroom, and they’ll be graded accordingly.
Maybe you’ve always avoided wordless books because — they’re wordless. I mean, what do you do, look at the pages and just make stuff up?
Yup! Think of wordless books as story starters with fabulous illustrations. Share one with your child every once in a while, and talk about what the characters look like they’re feeling, what details in the page predict what will happen next in the story — in short, all those ingredients that your child will use to one day create stories of his or her own.
Great Wordless Picture Books
Sometimes you enjoy a wordless picture book and get such a complete story from it that you don't remember which picture books are wordless. If you're looking for a more complete list, do a search on Amazon under "wordless picture books". Beautiful new ones are written every year.
My foreign language section is skimpy at best. I live in a beach community with visitors from all over the world. I can give a wordless book to a speaker of any language, and they can have a nice exchange discussing the book spontaneously and naturally.
The Napping House is a cumulative story, like a “clothesline story.” It has eight elements: a house, a bed, a granny, a child, a dog, a cat, a mouse, and a wakeful flea. Gee, what else has eight elements? A musical scale! A patron gave me his son’s old xylophone, I taped the elements of the story to the keys, and I was easily able to enjoy reading the story and pointing out the pictures while moving up the scales on the xylophone. I struck each key three times when its corresponding element was read out loud.
So satisfying to have a room of two and three year olds listening to you! They were fascinated. The next time you’re reading to your child, think of incorporating a little music into the beat.
Photo by TF Sherman
Other Articles on How to Do More at Storyhour than Bore Your Kid to Sleep
We don't need too much persuasion that reading to our children is a great idea, but she gives some gret tips about something we sometimes forget. Reading books to children isn't always something we do to make the little beggars go to sleep -- we also do it to make them smart little beggars!
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