Every year on February 24th we celebrate World Read Aloud Day, an initiative by LitWorld, a literacy non-profit that advocates internationally for every child’s right to literacy. People from every corner of the world will get together at home, school, and work in order to share stories and encourage a global community of readers.
As a mother, teacher and book-lover, I just can’t emphasize enough the importance of reading! Children who read are children who think and children who think become adults who think!
Through books we learn about different places and cultures, but we also learn language. Research shows that reading out loud to children is the single most important thing we can do as parents to ensure their educational success. When children are read to, and when they read out loud, they get exposure to vocabulary, language structure and pronunciation. We are also encouraging them to be life-long readers and learners. Children who read 20 minutes a day are exposed to around 1.8 million words a year!
If you are the parent of a multi-lingual child, reading makes a huge difference in helping them learn a minority language or helping them practice a majority language with which they are having trouble.
So, what does reading with children of different age levels look like? Here are some tips and tricks I have gathered throughout my teaching experience:
Mommas, from the time your baby is in your belly he or she will recognize your voice and will love to hear it! Once babies are born, they mimic your language with their cries and more readily respond to your language. So yes mommas, even if you live somewhere that your language is the minority language, they know your language first!
Even when they are this young, it’s important to give them an environment where reading is promoted and appreciated. Let them have access to baby board books and soft books. I love books that are black and white to really stimulate their vision. However, unlike older kids, babies prefer to look at your face as opposed to pictures in a book. So when you read them a story, keep that in mind! You can hold the book, but make sure they can see your face. You can also tell stories from memory (or make them up), sing songs, and rhymes! These are amazing for young children, because it develops their listening and pre-reading skills.
Toddlers are a tricky group. They just want to be on the run and don’t want you to stop their fun! So, getting them to sit down and listen to a story is seemingly impossible. But, I do have a few tricks. Make sure you have books available to them at eye level. Display them in their room, play area, and anywhere you can around the house. It’s best to show the book covers, because it will attract their attention.
Sit down on the ground and start looking at a book. Don’t call them over, just wait for them to come to you. Their natural curiosity will get the best of them. You can start reading, but you might only get a single page in, and that’s okay. He or she will probably want to hold the book and then together you can talk about the pictures and point to different words. Just follow their lead! And just like with the infants, don’t forget rhymes and songs!
The majority of preschoolers really love to read. They feel like they are growing up and want to learn as much as possible. This is especially true for those who have older siblings going to school! Sit down in a comfortable place and let them choose a story for you to read. Talk to them about the cover, the author, and the illustrator. Ask them what they think the story will be about. Then read the book! You can read the same book over and over and they will enjoy it every time.
Once they get to this level, there are many activities you can do with them to extend the learning. Ask them questions about the book (open-ended questions are best), ask them what will happen next, and even ask them to “read” the story to you. Afterwards, you can have them draw a picture about the book, tell you what their favorite part was, or do an activity covered in the book. For example, read Green Eggs and Ham and actually make green eggs and ham together! (Pro Tip: If you don't want to use food dye, blend the eggs with Spinach before cooking. They might even eat it!)
School Age Children
Once children start kindergarten and first grade they will begin to learn how to read and they need to practice, practice, practice! For some of us, it may require no small amount of patience, because it can be such a grueling process (in some languages more than others). However, we need to keep it light and fun, because we don’t want kids to hate reading. After all, reading can be so much fun.
Choose books that are appropriate for your child’s reading level (many children’s books will tell you). You want to challenge your child, but not make it so difficult that it’s frustrating. Also, remember that even though children at this level are learning to read out loud, it’s still important and enjoyable for them to listen to you read. Let your child read a short book to you and then you read one. Once you get into chapter books, you can take turns reading chapters.
Once students are older, we often leave them to read on their own, which is great, but it’s not enough! (Especially if they do not enjoy reading). It’s still important for them to read out loud every day, just to make sure all of their skills are up to par. They may be much more independent at this age, but we want to continue to challenge them and make sure they are not having any struggles that we don't know about.
They can read from their school materials, but I would encourage it to be a fun read or a poem from a book that has nothing to do with school. You can read current events to each other in order to keep up with world news. Something else you can do is choose a book and form a book club of sorts as a family. It can really be a great way to connect with your teen and get a glimpse into their way of thinking (which is super challenging at this age)!
Learn Safari supports the World Read Aloud Day movement! We hope that you do too. What book will you read out loud today?
What does reading look like in your family? Do you have any tips or tricks that you like to use? What about you bi-lingual and multi-lingual families, how does reading help with your language goals? I would love to hear from all of you in the comments!
Keli Garcia Allen Lead Spanish Teacher | Learn Safarikeli@learnsafari.com