Experts tell us that reading out loud to young children is the single most important thing adults can do to prepare them for school success. Hearing stories in the author’s words builds language skills, broadens the knowledge base, and improves vocabulary. The activity also improves the ability to focus and pay attention for increasing lengths of time and has additional bonuses of developing social skills and nurturing reading readiness.
Simply opening a book together sets the stage for learning a host of skills that we adults take for granted, but that children need to ensure their success in school. Just think of the concepts that reading together can impart: that words are always read in the same way, that the story moves from left to right and top to bottom of the page, that each group of letters represents a single word, and so much more. Reading together is a wonderful start on these and many other readiness skills.
However, listening to stories is a very passive activity. Children will learn even more from the literature that you share if you can find ways to get them involved with the process. Give the kids a boost in academic development by using extension activities when you read aloud. Extension activities are additional techniques that you can use to engage your listeners, build phonics and language skills, and develop comprehension skills. Pausing at times to ask your child to summarize the story, to answer questions about the characters, or to describe the setting is one way to extend the value of reading aloud. Connect the pictures with the story, and also ask your listener to visualize details that are not explicitly spelled out. Try predicting the next events in the story, or take a moment to recall what happened previously.
Try playing guessing games to encourage your child to think about what he or she is hearing in the story. You can also search the story for familiar printed words or for words that begin with the same letter as your child’s name. Some children enjoy controlling the pace of the reading by pointing to words as the adult reads. Give your child the chance to get the most out of reading together by trying some of these activities today!