When Marcus was an infant, his mother used to take him to story times at the library. She also read bedtime stories to him on a daily basis. Marcus’ eyes lit up every time he saw the books of his favorite characters – Maisy and Thomas the Tank Engine. His mom couldn’t count the times Marcus would quickly sit in the corner of the library or bookstore to look at books and pictures of his favorite characters.
Marcus now is a smart eight-year-old child whose love of reading is reflected in his grades and school performance.
Marcus’ story is one of many I’ve been proud to witness throughout my ten years of working with children. Not only that, but Marcus confirms many research findings that children who are read to daily increase their vocabulary and reading experiences.
From an educator’s perspective, Marcus’ story is the type we long to hear every day, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. A high number of kids still struggle with reading, and some don’t demonstrate any interest at all. Not surprisingly, a large body of research also indicates that children who have limited access to meaningful materials have difficulty in reading.
When it comes to books and reading, there is no magical formula. However, there are some strategies that, if instilled in children since their early years, give them a better chance to become interested readers.
First and foremost, an environment that is favorable for children should be enriched with print material that includes books, collages, and alphabet letters, to name a few. When youngsters are immersed in a rich educational environment that offers meaningful context for learning, they show an increase in comprehension and language development.
There are ways – besides having stacked bookshelves in their bedroom or playroom – to make your child’s world rich while making it fun at the same time.
Who doesn’t like an alphabet mat? The little ones, especially when they are starting to recognize their letters, have a blast putting the mat together and tearing it apart (particularly useful to two-year-olds). What about some collages using old magazines in the arts and crafts corner? Besides the literacy aspect, this is a great fine motor skill project for threes and fours. Another smart idea is to add a chalkboard in the kitchen, playroom, or bedroom. The more engaged the family is with the child while using the chalkboard, the better. Let the child help you to make the grocery list and play around with the sound of letters in the alphabet.
Another effective way to provide those rich experiences is through read-aloud time. This is a powerful tool recommended by researchers and educators, and is even used by pediatricians in their practice. It has shown overwhelmingly positive results in English language learners. Read-aloud fosters the development of oral language and raises literacy behaviors and reading attitude. Consequently, it leads to development in language arts.
But for one to understand the benefits of the read-aloud, one needs to grasp the meaning of it.
What is a read-aloud?
Read-aloud is a practice (often used by teachers and librarians) in which the reader reads expressively and engages the children in the context of the book. In other words, instead of only executing the act of reading and turning the page, the reader asks children open-ended questions and lets them predict what comes next. If there's a new word the child is learning, the reader lets them repeat the word; if the child is starting to read, the reader encourages them to read a few sentences.
Read-aloud is a valuable way to encourage discussion and help children work on a word or words that can be used in the various contexts of their life. Besides, it's one of the most fun techniques one can use.
As part of their developmental process, children can spot that some spoken word sounds seem familiar (phonological awareness) long before they can recognize individual letter sounds and put letters together to make words (phonemic awareness). That's why rhyme is so popular and a valuable way to build oral language proficiency in children. It's a simple way to instill a positive attitude toward reading, and children learn while being entertained.
Also, rhymes and poems not only give the child a chance to repeat words and work with terms from their everyday life (building vocabulary) but they also aid in forming complex sentences.
Try these books to start:
Kids are most likely to show a positive attitude toward reading the earlier they are exposed to books and book-related activities. The good news is that there is no shortage of resources available for families and caretakers. The more children are engaged with a rich environment and supportive network, the more parents will see a significant impact on the reading habits of their offspring, and that impact will last for a lifetime.
How have you encouraged your child's interest in reading? Let us know in the comments below.