The ABCs & 123s of reading with your child
Study after study has shown that reading with your child on a daily basis is important. Not only is it an opportunity for quiet quality time with your child, reading together has been proven to boost children’s academic performance and their language skills. Here are the 123s and ABCs of great book reading sessions.
The 123s: There are three distinct times during a book reading when you should be sure to engage your child in some brain-building conversation:
- Before Reading: Learning opportunities abound before you even open the book! Before reading is a great time to talk about the parts of the book, including the front cover, back cover and spine as well as elements such as the title, author and illustrator. Motivate your child to be interested in reading by asking him/her to choose the book. Does your child choose the same book over and over? No need to dissuade them; reading the same book multiple times makes the text predictable and enjoyable for children. You can also try introducing your child to another book by the same author.
- During Reading: Stop at a few key points and ask your child to summarize what has happened or predict what is going to happen. Make sure to pause and explain a new vocabulary word or point out a detailed illustration. Stop enough times that your child is engaged, but not too many times that the story becomes choppy.
- After Reading: The story may end, but opportunities for learning are just beginning! Get creative and allow your child to draw, act or retell the story. Fold a paper in three parts and have your child draw the beginning, middle and end of the story to create his/her own “book.” Or, sit back as the “audience” as your child acts out the story. Even if you have just a few minutes, be sure to engage your child in conversation to reflect on the book by using the “5 W’s.” (explained below).
The ABCS: There are three skill areas to keep in mind as you enjoy reading with your child:
Activate Prior Knowledge: To build your child’s critical thinking skills, encourage him/her to make connections between the story and his/her own experiences. For example, “David Goes to School” by David Shannon might spur your child to compare and contrast what he/she does at school with what David does. “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Eric Carle might remind him/her of your recent visit to the zoo and what he learned about bears.
Build Language: It is no surprise to anyone that children like to talk, but did you know that talking is an important brain building activity? Sustained back and forth conversation with an adult builds children’s vocabularies and their ability to express their thoughts. Restate your child’s thoughts. For example, if he/she says “The dog ran,” you can respond, “You’re right. The black and white dog ran to its owner. They were happy to see each other!”
Check Comprehension: The “5 W’s” are a tried-and-true way to make sure your child really understood the story. Who were the characters? Where were they? What happened in the beginning, middle and end of the story? When did the story take place (depending on your child’s understanding of time this could be the time of day, the time of year or the historical time period). Promote both comprehension and higher order thinking by asking “Why Questions.” For example: Why did you like this story? Why do you think the characters acted the way they did? These questions help your child slow down and make meaning of what he/she just read.