Reading to children aloud supports literacy development

March is Reading Month: Celebrate by setting aside important time to read aloud with your children.

One of the best ways to support your child’s literacy development at home is to read aloud with them, yet many parents are intimidated by reading aloud. Parents express concern that they don’t have a good reading voice or perhaps don’t know how to make character voices. Some parents are concerned about their own reading abilities. None of these issues need to limit this special time with your child.

From a very young age, children enjoy sharing books with their parents and special family members. Infants and toddlers enjoy board books with bright colors and images on the pages. Simply pointing to the picture and telling your toddler what they’re seeing and then turning the page is a great way to begin reading together. Don't worry if they do not have the patience to listen to every word written on the page. Skills like book handling and print awareness are being taught as you follow their lead, flipping from page to page, to find the duck, dog or kitty-cat.

Set aside time to read together. Afternoon quiet time or before bed are common times for parents and children to settle in with a good book. Take time to read slowly and with expression. Expect that they will interrupt to ask questions about the characters or story. You can prompt their thoughts by asking questions at key points. “What do you think will happen next?” or  “What would you do if you were in that situation?” It is perfectly fine to skim through or summarize long paragraphs to help maintain interest for younger children.

Some books are better to being read aloud. Read Aloud America maintains lists of great read aloud books, divided by age starting from infancy and going up to adulthood. Children and adults are never too old to enjoy a great story that is read aloud. Don’t stop reading to your children once they can read on their own!

As your children learn to read, encourage them to read aloud as well. Reading aloud helps children learn to read with fluency and expression, another important literacy skill. Children might feel more confident reading to their younger siblings, a beloved pet, or even a stuffed animal. Take turns reading aloud with your child, alternating paragraphs, pages, or even just assigning your new reader to read only one character or one line that is repeated throughout the book.

Looking for more tips on gaining confidence in reading aloud with your children? Check out Reading Is Fundamental, Scholastic and Reading Rockets. In addition to excellent articles about reading aloud and other literacy topics, these websites offer videos, podcasts, learning extension activities and other great information to support family reading.

For more articles on child development, literacy development, academic success and parenting please visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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