As a former classroom teacher, literacy coach and mom of 5 kids ranging from 5 to 15, I have learned some things about reading aloud to kids that hold true not only in the classroom, but also in my living room. The universal tie of reading is not only crucial to our kids learning and development but it also helps weave our family stories and has the power to bring us closer together.
Here are 8 of the biggest lessons I have learned in the classroom that you can use at home to make reading aloud a part of your family tradition.
1. The power of the read aloud is great for kids of any age. They just LOVE to be read to. I see this in the schools I work in and I see it in my kids at home. Seriously, if teachers can hold a classroom of eighth graders spellbound with a book, you can do the same for your kids and they will love it. Gathering together around a book is a way to quiet your house and bring on awesome conversation in a way that encourages everyone to share their thinking and interact with actual words. These experiences provide the building blocks for deep thinking.
2. Read favorites over and over and over. Rereading books is an awesome strategy for helping our earliest readers learn to read words and understand stories. But beyond that the books they love and that you love become like old friends and will warm your hearts as you revisit them. I look at my old and battered copy of Gus the Friendly Ghost and smile and feel safe because somewhere inside me the memories of my parents reading that to me make themselves known. Rereading will give a gift to your kids that they will have forever.
3. Read books to your kids that expand their world and are even a little harder than what they can read on their own. This sets the stage for comprehending more complex texts later. Books slightly above their level provide great conversation for your family. Your kids will have good questions to ask because they might not understand everything that is happening in the book easily. Great choices here are books that introduce them to characters or situations that they might not encounter in their day to day life and help them see the world from other points of view (you cannot read Wonder without forever changing the way you see children whose special needs make them look different than others). You can also expand your child's vocabulary by talking about the meanings of words they haven't encountered before. These are books that broaden their world while they sit on your lap.
4. The classics are still classic. Read books that they might not pick up themselves. Ramona by Beverly Cleary, Blubber by Judy Blume, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle...pull the older kids out of the throes of the Dystopian novels that are all the rage and by listening they will be exposed to new genres and ideas. Find your favorites from when you were growing up and pull them out. The covers might be old and faded but it's what is inside that counts for so much in life...including the read aloud.
5. Read whatever is super popular to them. On the flip side there is a time and place for that flood of Dystopian books on the market. When it seems "everyone" has read The Hunger Games or Maze Runner, pick it up and read it to your kids. By reading these, not only will you be the cool parent without having to be too risky, you will also get a handle on what is happening in today's reading culture. This is also a great strategy for that struggling reader who can't quite tackle this text on their own when many of their grade level peers can. If you read it aloud, they can be in with what all the kids are talking about because they've heard the whole story. This also saves them the trouble of fake reading it in front of their friends which sadly I've seen too often in the classroom. And as a bonus you will be in the know too.
6. Let your kids have choice. This one is hard for me because my list of what I want to read to them is long. But they are into all sorts of things that I might not be and they love having their pick read to the family. Choice in reading is one of the most important things in the classroom and also at home, when kids have choice they are already engaged in what you are doing. So pick up that book on snakes (shudder!) your son is obsessed with and dig in together.
7. Short on time? Consider the audiobook. This is a great alternative to TV in the house and is an awesome tool on car trips. We've even listened individually to the same book, most of us like to fall asleep listening to books in our house. Even though we weren't experiencing the actual reading together, we have had a blast talking about the story. I had to be sure my kids knew I was only on book 4 of The Sisters Grimm Series while they were on 5 so they didn't give too much away!
8. Read the book to your kids before they see it as a movie. It's just always better. Always.
Reading aloud to your kids at any age is a gift that you give not only to them, but to you. The memories created as you take adventures together while in the comfort of your own home are priceless. And as a bonus you are all learning something as well. What could be better than that?
Midtvedt Family Top 10
Anything by Eric Carle
Anything by Don and Audrey Wood
Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Alice the Fairy by David Shannon
The No David Books by David Shannon
DK Publishing's Star Wars Encyclopedia
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Socks for Supper by Jack Kent
Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
You Are Special by Max Lucado
Wonder by Raquel J. Palacio
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
14 Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Harry Potter series (also an awesome audiobook series) by J.K. Rowling
Skinnybones/Almost Starring Skinnybones by Barbara Park
The Sisters Grimm series (favorite audiobook category) by Michael Buckley
We Were Liars (teens only) by E. Lockhart
Half Magic by Edward Eager
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume