Reading books is one of the most important activities you can do with your child. But in this hectic world filled with carefully calibrated family activity calendars, it is really difficult to give your child the enriched reading experience they deserve.
In my book, “Born Reading: Bringing up Bookworms in a Digital Age,” I interviewed teachers, librarians, child development experts, neuroscientists and kid’s book authors. They all told me the same thing: we need to make reading experiences more interactive.
I distilled this interactive reading advice into a simple “Born Reading Playbook” for parents to use when reading. Simple prompts and questions can help your child participate in the reading experience, instead of passively listening to a story.
Research has shown that interactive reading can increase a kid’s IQ by six points or more. It is a wonderful and free way to make a real difference in a child’s life. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make your job any easier! If anything, it makes reading a more time-consuming activity compared to more traditional reading methods.
However, these interactive reading techniques work ANYWHERE, and you don’t even need a physical book. To help busy parents and caregivers, I’ve outlined a few ways you can use these life-changing Born Reading Playbook techniques anywhere and anytime.
I discovered that I could use these interactive reading tricks during grocery store trips, TV time, car rides, long lines, the park and many other places. These little tricks can work magic, easing long waiting experiences and soothing temper tantrums.
Guess what happens next. Experts recommend that parents and caregivers ask kids to predict what happens next when reading a book together. However, this technique can work no matter where you are.
For example, if you read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (or watch one of the movies), you can mention the story in the candy aisle of the supermarket: What would Charlie do if he saw all this candy? What would the greedy kids in the book do? These simple questions about beloved characters can inspire conversations about patience, self-control, and many other virtues.
Follow the things your child loves. This is an easy way to expand the reading experience—let your child’s reading interests lead you to new experiences.
If your child reads a book about butterflies, find a caterpillar and watch it grow into a butterfly. If your child loves books about animals, make a trip to the zoo and talk about animal books the whole time. Most important, find some time to visit the library and find more books about the things your child loves.
Compare real-life situations to books. When my daughter wants something at the toy store or throws a tantrum on the way to school, we always talk about how book characters handled the same situation.
Here are two examples from the PBS KIDS library. My daughter loved “D.W. The Picky Eater” by Marc Brown (part of the beloved Arthur series). Whenever we visit a restaurant or have trouble eating a new vegetable, we always reference how D.W. learned to like new foods in that book.
If we visit the doctor, we talk about “Curious George Goes to the Hospital” by H. A. Rey and Margret Rey during the whole visit. This book guides kids through the many scary and confusing parts of a doctor visit, and George shows kids how to cope with this challenging setting.
Discuss personal opinions about a book. I always advise parents to ask kids what they thought about a book at the end of the reading experience. You can use the same technique while driving in the car or walking around the park. Ask your child what they thought about a book, a movie, a TV show or a bedtime story. This simple question can spark a much longer conversation and help pass the time as well.
My daughter’s favorite books have truly become part of our lives, as conversation starters, reference points, educational moments and games we can play together.
Dramatize the story. In my book, I relate how teachers, librarians and children’s authors taught me how to make stories more exciting with different voices and sound effects. I’ve carried these techniques into our daily life as well.
My daughter and I have an entire menagerie of imaginary friends, and she loves acting out her favorite books for these characters. We also talk to different Dr. Seuss characters while walking around the real world. She has learned how to expand her favorite stories, developing an amazing imagination and a keen sense of kiddie literary criticism.
If you ever need a quick game to play in a pinch, try reenacting your child’s favorite book. You can take turns playing different characters, and it can expand into a full-fledged play session. Good books don’t end when you close the pages. Keep the conversation about great books going the rest of your kid’s life. They will use these skills in school and in life, growing up in a world filled with stories.
I’m always looking for more examples. What books have crossed over into real life in your family?