By Reta Pyke
Doing reading exercises at home can greatly enhance school reading lessons, according to Timothy V. Rasinski, author of The Fluent Reader (Scholastic Books). Although his book is written for teachers, many of the strategies can be adapted for use at home. In summarizing Rasinski’s advice where it applies to parents, we’ve come up with 26 tips.
Why is reading aloud important?
1. Being read to can be fun, engaging and authentic. It shows kids that reading can be emotionally powerful, and it motivates them to read more. It also introduces genres outside their usual interests and lets them hear fluent, expressive reading above their current reading level.
2. It’s “real” reading and language, used in everyday life from speeches to acting.
3. It builds confidence; it helps struggling readers find their voice and experience success and progress.
4. It creates community. Silent reading is a solitary act; reading aloud creates a shared experience.
5. It connects spoken and written language. Reading something that your child has written out loud reveals the transformation between writing, reading and speaking.
6. It uses many senses at once, which makes memorizing and recognizing words faster, easier and longer-lasting.
7. It models reading that flows clearly with meaningful expression and phrasing.
8. It boosts comprehension.
Reading aloud to children is so key to their early success that Rasinski recommends children experience some form of reading aloud daily, from pre-school through middle school. His tips for reading aloud to your kids:
9. Choose a time and place conducive to reading.
10. Choose books you find enjoyable, from different genres and reading levels. (Teachers, librarians and the internet can help.)
11. Read your material ahead of time if possible.
12. Voice some thoughts about the material while you’re reading, so your audience understands that reading is not a passive exercise.
13. Encourage your listeners to think actively about the story.
14. Talk about the story afterwards, or encourage your kids to write or engage in creative activities related to it.
15. Make connections between the story, real life and your listener’s experiences.
Assisted reading bridges the gap between being read to and reading alone:
16. In shared reading, you read aloud while your child follows along, reading the text silently.
17. In paired reading, the two of you read the text aloud together as you gently “push” him along and support him when he struggles. Adjust your reading speed and voice to his abilities. If he’s having trouble with a passage, read it louder, but as soon as he’s doing well, read more quietly.
18. When she has problems with a word, fill in the gap with the correct word and get her to say it; then continue reading. The aim is to have her experience fluent reading with few disruptions, so make corrections quickly and simply.
19. Arrange a signal your child can give you when she wants to read on her own. Continue to read along silently, ready to jump in if she starts to struggle or just wants to take a break.
20. No time for a home reading program? Find an audio book at the library, a bookstore or online – or create your own. Here, your child reads along with the audio recording of the text. This approach is especially helpful for English as a second language students whose parents are not English speakers themselves.
Repeated reading gives struggling readers the chance to really practice a passage and get good at reading it aloud. This fosters a sense of accomplishment and reinforces good reading instead of good-enough reading.
21. Re-reading passages and stories several times can quickly become boring, so children benefit from having a reason to go over the text many times – like practicing for a performance, even if it is only in front of other family members or classmates. Poetry, theater scripts and songs are other great materials for repeated reading.
22. Repeating high-frequency words can also improve word recognition (try tools like flash cards or word banks), but for best results, include the words in very short, simple sentences like “I like him.” Your child’s teacher can provide you with practice words to work on at home, but you can also use the words your child stumbles over frequently when reading with you.
Some final tips for reading at home:
23. Do it regularly and with enthusiasm.
24. Work with your child’s teachers.
25. Seek out different and interesting reading material.
26. Incorporate silent and oral reading into everyday activities. Turn on the closed captioning when watching TV, get your child to read you the cooking instructions from the package and read the newspaper aloud instead of silently.
Happy reading-aloud time at home!
Reta Pyke is a first-year student in the Masters of Library and Information Studies program at the University of British Columbia. She has spent the last two years working with kids in elementary and high school as a substitute teacher and educational assistant. Reading is a lifelong passion for her and she loves to foster this passion in others. She is from Whitehorse, Yukon but once done with school, she will go anywhere someone is willing to give her a job where she gets to do kids’ storytime.