Whether your young child has a lackluster approach to reading or has a tendency to hand you a stack of books ready to snuggle up, there are many ways to make read-aloud time more fun for both you and your child. Your choice to carry out the read aloud as a duty or as a privilege will transmit to your child, so a positive spin on the experience will more likely contribute to attitudes and activities that foster a love of reading.
Making things fun for kids, including reading, is a matter of simply involving them in the process. Children generally don’t take well to a passive role in anything that they do. For example, they like to help in the kitchen (and are more likely to eat what comes out of it if they do), and they like to choose their own clothing and dress themselves starting at an early age (gasp!). When children see their parents enjoy certain activities and tasks, they are likely to want to become involved in those activities, too, including the pleasure of reading.
Of course, kids can’t learn to read just by watching adults do it. But, through observation, children can learn active behaviors associated with reading, like choosing a book, turning pages and enjoying it. The decoding of words comes later. Even when your child starts to actually read, reading aloud to him or her doesn’t have to stop for many years.
If you help to make reading an interactive and positive experience, your child will begin reading on her own before you know it. Kids who love to be read to, and who eventually read themselves, will entertain themselves with books long before the process of learning to decode is complete. There is an assortment of books that include manipulatives on each page (lift the flap, textured pages, pop ups, recorded voices and noises, etc.) that can involve your child in the book and make reading more enjoyable. But, to engage your child in the book doesn’t necessarily mean that the publisher need be the one to provide the bells and whistles.
Some things that you can do that require little to no preparation beforehand:
- Be enthusiastic and dramatic about the way you read. Read the characters’ quotes as you imagine the characters’ voices to sound.
- Choose age-appropriate books and books you love OR let your child choose the book.
- Ask questions to encourage participation (“Why do you think that little pig decided to build his house with straw?”)
- Let your child turn the pages.
- Allow your child to interrupt you (or turn back to a previous page).
- Choose books with lots of pictures.
- Let the child sit on your lap, or snuggle up close.
- Select books that include songs, rhymes, or other rhythmic devices (like repetition). After a few pages or after reading the book a couple of times, your child will be able to read with you.
- Take your child to the library; there are all sorts of people and other children there enjoying books, and there are seemingly endless choices. Check the schedule for read aloud events; your kids can have fun with a small group, and you can observe the librarian model some fun read aloud strategies.
- Use a puppet, stuffed animal, plastic figure, or doll that could serve as characters in the story. Model for your child the first few times you use this technique by moving the toys as the characters would, and speaking as you imagine the characters would. After a few turns, get your child to take over.
- Choose some music appropriate to the story to play before, during and/or after reading the book.
- Insert the name of your child and his/her friends and family members in the story. Be alert for this one, as you need to keep track of who is who; my daughters will call me on it if I mix up the new characters’ names!