Make reading a treasured ritual in your home. Create a cozy space near a bookshelf or book basket. Add a few extra pillows and a blanket. Turn down the overhead lights and turn on a reading lamp. These actions tell the brain that something special is happening.
Read the title and ask your child to make a prediction. Beginning and experienced readers alike benefit from making predictions before reading a story. You may want to skim through the pictures first and make more predictions.
Point to each word on the page as you read with little ones. This early literacy strategy will help children make important connections between text, pictures and story and helps develop a child’s tracking skills from one line of text to the next.
Model fluency as you read. Use inflection and sound effects. Ham it up!
Invite your child to join in with you, especially on the repetitive bits.
Shared Reading: More experienced readers will benefit from taking turns paragraph or page at a time while others benefit from reading out loud together at the same time. This provides a helpful scaffold for emerging reading fluency and makes reading safe and fun rather than a struggle. It’s not “cheating”! It’s a research-based strategy that helps kids learn.
As well as reading print books together, listen to books in the car that are rich, interesting and beautiful. One of our all-time favorites is the Focus on the Family Radio Theater’s version of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. You can buy it here or download it here. We also loved all of the Anne of Green Gables books and the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander.
Talk a lot about what words mean. This is why it’s so important to read great books full of rich language. Explain the meaning of unfamiliar words and ask questions to be sure your child understands. Look words up together and model the attitude of a learner for your child–an actual paper dictionary is a great thing to own, or there are myriad free resources available. In my experience, this is the strategy that makes the single biggest long-term difference in the academic life of a child. A strong vocabulary is a priceless treasure.
Make sure your child is comprehending the story. Ask open-ended questions as you read (What do you think will happen next? What do you think that means? How do you know?). Discuss whether your child’s predictions were accurate or if they were surprised (See Step 2). Connect the story to events in your child’s world and to other stories you have read together.
Buy beautiful, hardback books whenever possible. Start investing in building a library for your children when they’re past the tearing pages stage. (Don’t worry so much about the crayon scribbling–it will be a treasure of a time capsule.) As they get older, they will value their books because they’re associated with happy memories and will share them with their own children someday. Book purchases don’t have to be expensive–vintage books are almost always more beautiful than current editions and can be picked up for nearly nothing.
Enjoy the time together because the days are long but the years are short.