How we read to our children is important!
Have you ever seen a child who is able to read a passage of text aloud only to be stumped when it comes to explaining what they have just read? A child’s reading development is a gradual process and as parents, being there to support them every step of the way can ensure your child becomes a confident reader with a love of books.
Many parents think that their bed-time story ritual is over as soon as their children are able to read by themselves. But reading doesn’t just mean saying words out loud, it means understanding what the text is trying to tell us.
While being able to recognise and pronounce words from what is seen on the page is an impressive feat, it does not always mean the child understands what the text is trying to say. It would be similar to reading a different language that uses the English alphabet – we can read it but we can’t understand it.
One significant element which makes a confident reader is the skill of comprehension. Children who are able to comprehend what they read will start to see fantastic stories where they can escape to another world rather seeing words as text in front of them. So what can we do to support our children towards understanding what they’re reading? The answer is almost as old as a book itself.
Reading to our children has always been recommended but how we read to our children may be just as important. It’s not always easy after a long day but the next time you read to your children, think about reading a book as telling them a story. This might mean changing your voice to signify a character is speaking or creating drama by whispering a secret. By modelling story-telling techniques, your child will understand and enjoy books more and more. And, as we know, children are quick to copy what we do so you can expect to see your child trying to read with expression and gain a greater understanding of the story in the process.
Here are some tips to support you in modelling a love of reading to your children:
- Pre-read the book first. This will help you to know when to show emotion and how, whether it be surprise, suspense, sadness etc. It also gives you time to practice different voices for different characters.
- Read with enthusiasm. Take the mindset that you are telling a story, not just reading. Telling a story requires an element of performance; changes of voice or hand gestures are a good start, you don’t have to be an Oscar winner to hold your children’s attention.
- Engage your child in the story. If your children can read, ask them to do one of the voices of the characters.
- Check your children’s understanding of the text with questions like, ‘how do you think this character is feeling?’, ‘what do you think will happen next?’, ‘what happened to that character?’
- Continue to share books and stories even if they can read alone. Reading development is a journey that continues well after a child can pick up a book by themselves. Make your next book choice easier by visiting www.readtogether.com.au.
Article provided by Kumon Australia and New Zealand
This article was published in Issue 9 of our print magazine, April/May 2015.