Reading aloud to children should be a progressive process beginning with short stories or even a series of short sentences for babies and small toddlers to reading through entire books, or chapters of books, throughout their primary school years. No primary school child should be expected to read Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit, but each child is different so it is important that any reading session is developed so that it matches the child’s level of reading and comprehension. Allow the child to select which books they would like to read as this encourages independent thinking.
With a single child, sit the child with you whilst you are reading to them. If you have more than one child, split the time spent between each child. Determine the best time for reading aloud to children: straight after school whilst their minds are still buzzing from the day’s learning activities, straight after their main evening meal, or before their bedtime. Either way, it is important to keep the reading time consistent because it can teach children the importance of discipline and structure.
Show them the words as they are being read by running your finger across each line of text. Read clearly and slowly in accordance to their each child’s level of understanding so that they can hear clearly what is being read. Running your finger across each line of text shows children the words that are being read aloud, therefore helping them with their word sound association.
Encourage the child to ask questions if they come across a word that they do not understand and, if applicable, encourage the child to navigate a dictionary to find out the meaning of a words they do not understand. This will help to develop an enquiring mind, and to help them understand and use resources that can help them with their learning. In their later primary school years, it might be a good idea to introduce a thesaurus. This will help to develop the skills that they need to become independent readers and learners.
Develop their comprehension and listening skills through asking them questions about what has been read regarding the actions of characters and general events of the book or chapter. Remember there are two types of comprehension: word comprehension, and story event comprehension. Word comprehension involves the child understanding the meaning of a word in the context that it is being used as well as the word sound association. Story comprehension means they understand the main idea of the story, about the main characters and events of the story, and, perhaps, be able to change the story with different events.
As well as the adult reading aloud to children, encourage the child to read aloud as well as this will test the child for their reading efficiency and fluency and also help them to increase their reading fluency skills. Praise and reward a child for good reading and good understanding of words and events, but guide and encourage them if they begin to struggle. Criticism and shouting will achieve nothing as this will reduce a child’s confidence in their reading skills, and develop a dislike for reading.
Be imaginative and creative in the approach to reading aloud to children. Poetry can especially be used as a useful teaching tool for teaching children about rhymes and rhythms because games could be set up that revolve around children guessing and selecting the correct rhyming word. This in turn can be creative: read aloud to the children but let them guess the rhyming word, or present two short rhyming sentences to children but let them choose words that rhyme. Talk thought their selection to determine if they understand the meaning of the selected words and the meaning of the sentences.
Interactivity and enquiry are the key elements of reading aloud to children: interactivity meaning to encourage the child to learn new words, develop their vocabulary, word sound associations and general understanding of the English language. Enquiry meaning to encourage children to ask questions about words and situations that they do not understand in books, and checking for their understanding by asking them questions about the story or chapter to test their listening and comprehension skills.