Reading aloud to children has clear cognitive benefits. When a child is being read to, the part of his/her brain that processes visual imagery, story comprehension, and word meaning, improves significantly. Reading aloud helps children learn to recognise letters, understand that print represents the spoken word, and they learn how to hold a book and turn the page. Read our article on the importance of reading aloud, here.
Young children learn a great deal when books are read aloud to them. They learn empathy and different types of conflicts. They learn strategies to resolve such conflicts and they learn to understand what characters in the book are going through, be it fear, anger,or humility, among others. Also, they learn how to use their imagination. They learn to view situations from various perspectives and how such stories can be understood from different viewpoints.
There are several ways parents can do to help nurture a lifelong love of reading in children. Acting as a role model and reading in front of them is one of them. Also, knowing the right things to do during reading aloud – small actions that can provide a big boost to their reading skills later on is just as crucial.
The following is a list of simple yet powerful things to do while reading aloud.
- Point out specific words within a book. That means to follow the words with your finger from left to right as you read them.
- Talk to them about the way pages are read, the role of the author, and print direction. For example, you can say “I am going to read this page first and then this page over here next.” Or “This is the top of the page. This is where I begin reading.”
- Talk about uppercase and lowercase letters. “See how this uppercase letter is bigger than these lowercase letters?”
- Encourage attention to letters and sounds. For example, “Let’s point to each word as I read it. Ready?“
- When your child is finished with the book, talk about the story. You may re-read some parts of the book.
Notably, adults can make simple adjustments to increase children’s attention to print during shared storybook reading. These simple adjustments are typically referred to as making verbal and nonverbal print references (i.e., talking about or pointing to print within the text; Evans et al., 2008; Ezell & Jus-tice, 2000; Justice, Kaderavek, Fan, Sofka, & Hunt,2009). For instance, adults can ask children questions and comments about print, such as ‘‘Where should I read on this page?’’ ‘‘Do you know this letter?’’ and ‘‘This word is ‘‘danger.’’ They can also track words in text and point to print embedded within illustrations. In high quality reading sessions, such print referencing is additive. In other words, print referencing occurs in addition to other facilitative practices to encourage children’s learning, language, and engagement during shared reading – Increasing Young Children’s Contact With Print During Shared Reading: Longitudinal Effects on Literacy Achievement
Using print references during reading was just a slight tweak to what teachers were already doing in the classroom, but it led to a sizeable improvement in reading for kids – Shayne Piasta, co-author of Preschoolers’ reading skills benefit from one modest change by teachers study and assistant professor of teaching and learning at Ohio State University.
Piasta, S. B., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A. S., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2012). Increasing young children’s contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child development, 83(3), 810-820.
Grabmeier, J. (2012). Preschoolers’ Reading Skills Benefit from One Modest Change by Teachers. The Education Digest, 78(1), 63.