As a new children’s picture book author I’m very excited to celebrate Children’s Book Week 2013! Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the U.S. As a life-long lover of books, reading, and writing—and as a mother of two daughters—I know how important it is to foster a love of books, especially in today’s digital age.
Some may argue that nurturing a love of stories starts in the womb, with reading aloud to the baby when he or she is in utero. That certainly can’t hurt, but after the baby makes its appearance in the world, reading aloud to your child coupled with access to books, has proven to give children an edge on learning and comprehension. This study is detailed in the book The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, which I highly recommend.
Below are 10 invaluable tips for reading aloud to children, from author Jim Trelease:
1. Remember: The art of listening is acquired.
2. The first time you read a book, discuss the cover illustration.
3. Read slowly enough for the child to build mental pictures.
4. Use plenty of expression, change your tone of voice, and adjust your pace to fit the story.
5. Encourage involvement; invite the child to turn pages for you.
6. Ask “What do you think is going to happen next?”
7. During repeat readings of a predictable book, stop at key phrases and allow the child to provide the words.
8. If you can’t finish a chapter, find a suspenseful spot at which to stop.
9. Paper, crayons and pencils allow active children to keep their hands busy while listening.
10. Reading aloud comes naturally to very few people. To do it with ease takes practice. It’s worth it!
Even though my two girls are now old enough to read on their own, I still make time to read aloud to them, usually from middle-grade novels. It provides great cuddling time (I need to squeeze it in while I can—teen years are right around the corner!), and helps their listening and visualization skills. I don’t plan on stopping the read-aloud sessions with my daughters, even as they get older. In today’s world of high distraction, paying attention for prolonged periods will become an important skill for learning and communicating. Plus, any time they prefer reading aloud with me to the Wii, computer video games, a tablet, or ipod, I feel like a winner (sad, I know).
So I encourage you to celebrate Children’s Book Week by revisiting one of your favorite children’s books, reading a book aloud to a child, gifting a child in your life with a book, or even donating to a great cause like Reading Is Fundamental (http://rif.org/). There will always be a need to read!