Reading aloud to a child is an essential part of his development, a simple fact which continues to be reinforced by research on supporting children’s reading development. Children who are read to regularly usually have a larger vocabulary, more background knowledge and comprehension, a better grasp on how reading strategies work, and an opportunity to discuss and develop a stronger understanding about many aspects of life (1). In fact, when parents read with their child, the experience can provide a wonderful setting for developing a stronger bond and discussing current issues. Having a parent model reading is one of the best examples a child can have, especially if the child is a struggling reader.
While reading a book to a child is essential, it is also very important to discuss the contents of the book with her. In the book Starting Out Right from the National Research Council, a number of suggestions appear using the CROWD principals as a way to help the child develop reading and comprehension skills while listening and discussing a book (2). All interactions need to be kept light and fun and need to follow the interest of the child.
CROWD questions include:
- C Completion questions about the language in the book. For example, when reading The Tales of Peter Rabbit, “When Mr. McGregor started chasing Peter, he yelled, ‘Stop ______ (Thief)!’ ” The child fills in the blank.
- R Recall questions related to the story content of the book, for example, “Do you remember what happened to Peter when he got home?”
- O Open-ended questions to increase the amount of talk about a book and to focus on the details of the book, for example, “What is happening on this page?”
- W “Wh” questions to teach new vocabulary, for example, “When Peter was running from Mr. McGregor, his jacket button got caught in a gooseberry net. The sparrows flew down to help. What is a sparrow?”
- D Distancing questions that help the child bridge the material in the book to their real-life experiences, for example, “Have you ever been in a garden to see how vegetables grow?”(1)
While you certainly do not need to turn every book experience into a mini reading lesson, taking time to discuss what has been read is essential. Some of my most wonderful experiences with books have come when I was reading to or with one of my children or grandchildren. Books have brought us closer together and have assisted in helping all of us to become better readers and to develop sharper comprehension skills. It is never too early to begin, and you should make sure you don’t stop too early. I routinely read with my children until they finished elementary school and became too cool to read with Dad.
There is a wonderful website called Seussville that offers great suggestions for reading with a child.
Pick a comfortable spot to read in - one with plenty of light.
Make it a routine - whether it's right before breakfast or right before bed, set aside a special time every day.
Give lots of encouragement! Read the words aloud to your child. Point to the pictures. Say the words together. Laugh with your child.
It's never too early. Reading can be a bonding activity for you and your new baby. Introduce reading in the very beginning, keep books in the nursery, and have your books out for baby and toddler to see!
The fun continues after the last page! When you finish a story, ask your child about his/her favorite passages, characters, and illustrations.
Every year we see more wonderful books that are especially good for reading aloud to a child. Here is a short list of recently published books that will make reading aloud to your child a delightful experience.
That’s Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems
The Dark by Lemony Snicket
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown
Odd Duck by Cecil Castelucci
Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier
Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett
Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip Stead
Oh No! George! by Chris Haughton
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (for older children)
(1) Whitehurst, G.J., F.L. Falco, C.J. Lonigan, J.E. Fischel, B.D. DeBaryshe, M.C. Valdez-Menchaca, and M. Caulfield. (1988). Accelerating language development through picture book reading. Developmental Psychology 24:552-559.
(2) National Research Council, M. Susan Burns, Peg Griffin, and Catherine E. Snow, editors. Starting out right: a guide to promoting children’s reading success. 1999. National Academy Press, Washington DC.