Tips for Reading Out Loud

If you have a small baby, you may think it is too soon to start him or her on books. You can start singing nursery rhymes and talking to even a very young infant. She will like hearing your voice. As soon as your baby can sit up, you can begin looking at bright pictures and reading with her.

Babies learn new things every day. With your help, your baby can learn about books and stories, too. You will both feel proud when your baby points to a picture of a cow and says, “Mooo!” You can laugh together over “This little pig went to market.”

It can be a welcome break in a busy day when your child brings you a book and begs, “Read to me!” This kind of sharing often brings grown-ups and children closer together. It also shows the child that books can be fun. Then she will look forward to learning to read later on.

The time is right to begin with books…

The years from birth to five are the time to begin preparing your child for reading. That does not mean that you should try to teach her to read. Not at all. Experts tell us simply to read to children every day. This gives them the best start on learning to read.

If all children heard stories every day, many more children would become good readers. Good readers tend to do well in school. Besides, those few minutes the adult and child take to share a story can be the happiest time of the day.

Tips for Success

Choose a quiet spot. Too much noise and activity will distract the child. Turn off the TV and radio.

Don’t worry if you think you are not a good reader yourself. Books for little children are not hard. Even if you just talk about the pictures, it is good for your child. If you enjoy the books, your child will, too. He will like the chance to have you to himself for a few minutes.

If your child is under two years old…

Take him on your lap and open the book to a pretty picture. Do not be upset when your baby grabs the book and begins to chew on it. That is normal. Of course, you do not want the baby to eat the book. Try gently taking it out of the baby’s fist. Put a small toy in each hand or hold the book just out of the baby’s reach.

Turn the pages slowly. Say the names of a few of the things in the pictures. Choose the ones your baby knows, like truck and dog and cup or just talk about the pictures. Hearing you say the words will help the baby learn to speak and understand the world.

Your child may point to something on the page and ask you to name it. “Whazzat?” some children say. others just point or ask “Uh?” Sometimes, when you tell them the word, they will try to say it too. Praise the child for trying a new word, even when he doesn’t say it right. Soon you will see the child’s delight as he learns new words and ideas every day.

Keep the book-sharing times short. Most babies cannot sit still and pay attention to one thing for very long. Probably five minutes will be enough at first. Later, he may say, “Again!” when you try to close the book. Then you can read for a little while longer.

Look for books with pages of heavy cardboard or plastic. Let the baby look at these by himself. Keep the other special books for sharing together.

For Toddlers and Preschoolers…

Try having a regular storytime—maybe at bedtime. This can be a peaceful few minutes for the whole family.

Start with short sessions. After a while, you will make the storytime longer as your child asks for “Just one more!”

Preschool children enjoy nursery tales like “The Three Bears” and stories about family life.

Let your child choose the book sometimes. He may want to hear the same story over and over again. Pretty soon he will be able to tell it by heart.

Make your reading fun by changing your voice for different parts. Use a deep gruff voice for Papa Bear, a medium voice for Mama Bear, and a high voice for Baby Bear.

Invite your listeners to join in. They can guess what is going to happen next in the story. They may want to repeat words and sentences with you.

Talk about the book with your children. Help them to connect something in the story with something they know in real life.

Do not worry if your child does not sit still while you read. A child who moves around or plays with a quiet toy may still be hearing every word.

Ask others to read to your child. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, big brothers and sisters, and babysitters all can help make books special for your child.

For school-age children…

Do not stop reading when your child enters school. Even after children can read by themselves, they learn from hearing stories read aloud. Beginning readers like to hear books that are too hard for them to read alone. They pick up new words and ideas. Children who are read to are more likely to want to read books on their own. Children who have enjoyed a family storytime will not want to give it up.

Where can you get books?

The public library belongs to all of us. Go to your public library and sign up for a library card. Then you can borrow piles of books to enjoy for two or three weeks at a time. You can bring your family in for story hours and films. Visits to the library prepare your children to go there later for schoolwork.

Why not buy your child a book for a birthday or holiday? Books last longer than most toys and can be enjoyed by many people in the family.

Share books with your children…

This activity will help them grow up to be good readers and writers. It’s fun for you and your children to laugh and learn together as you read. New books and old books, picture books, nursery rhymes and folk tales. Big books that take up your whole lap or small books that fit in your child’s hand. Books with bold, bright pictures and small shadowy ones full of secrets. Books and more books!

The mission of Beginning with Books is to increase meaningfully the numbers of children who become capable and enthusiastic life-long readers. This is accomplished through research-based programs respectfully offering the information, materials, skill development, and encouragement that enable parents and other adults to promote the literacy development of the children in their care.