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Raise a Lifelong Reader by Reading Aloud

by Pam Allyn


Pam Allyn

Pam Allyn is the Executive Director of LitLife and LitWorld. She is also an author, childhood literacy advocate and the Global Ambassador for Scholastic's Read Every Day, Lead a Better Life Campaign. Read more »

I passionately believe that reading aloud to children is the most effective way for them to form a lifelong love of reading. Reading aloud is not just inspirational for our children when they’re young, but even when they are well into their teens.

Let’s resolve to bring the love of reading to kids and ignite a passion that can change their lives and minds. Here is my “Lit List” for how we can do just that:

1. Grow an appreciation of the sound and rhythm of language. Even our youngest children can engage deeply with text just by following the sound of the human voice and hearing the ebbs and flows and highs and lows of the oral sound of the story or poem. From “Time for Bed” by Audrey Wood to “Lullaby Raft” by Naomi Nye and P.D. Eastman’s “Big Dog Little Dog,” books that nail rhythm and capture the glory of language hook even the youngest readers forever.

2. Model what readers do. It may seem kind of funny, but it’s not that obvious to kids exactly what readers do. Reading is generally something done silently and often privately excluding children who need role models and mentors to visualize what actions a reader takes. The read-aloud gives the child a chance to see reading in action. You are your child’s best role model and even just savoring the images on the page is teaching your child how to become a reader. Pausing to laugh over a funny page or wiping away your tears when the friendship of a spider and pig is tragically broken are all wonderful, teachable moments to model what readers do. Reading from a variety of genres, including poetry and informational texts shows our children that readers read in a variety of ways and for a variety of purposes.

3. Teach higher level thinking skills. For readers of every level, reading aloud helps us talk with our children about complex characters, themes and plot twists. By discussing these facets of literature together and having our own voice guide the way, we give our children a break from the hard work of both decoding and comprehending at the same time. When my daughters were in kindergarten, I began reading them chapter books; carefully choosing funny tales like “The Dragons of Blueland” series and moving stories such as “Catwings,” I knew these books would gently lead them towards a more sophisticated understanding of the structures of text. They couldn’t yet read those books on their own, but we could practice investigating deeper meanings together.

4. Affirm a child’s own reading capacities and readiness skills. I often suggest to parents that they actually read aloud from texts that seem easier than their child’s ability to read independently-- not just to select books that are harder. It’s important for the child to understand that both reading and rereading books that may seem “easy” are actually muscle building exercises for the growing reader. A child who is digging into chapter books will appreciate curling up with you at the end of a long day and returning to a beloved picture book. You are demonstrating the value that cherished books hold and conveying the warm, fuzzy feeling that readers get when revisiting beloved books from past comfort levels.

5. Experience together the joy that reading brings. Your best teaching is your own learning. Let your child recreate the story of a book by looking at the pictures alone. Let your child respond to a book you read aloud with his own interpretations, ideas or impressions. Let the magic of the read-aloud bring you both to a place each of you has yet to explore. By traveling together down those paths, you are building memories that will remain precious for both of you

Are there other ways that you connect with your children through literature? Feel free to share them in the comments section below!

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