Like most homes with elementary school students, ours includes a nightly routine involving reading homework. For many children, nightly reading practice is a great chance to work on decoding. However, once your child is reading with fluency, and doesn't need to sound out each word, you can begin to work on additional reading skills.
Several times per week, instead of having my children do silent reading, I have them read aloud to me. Listening to my children read has helped me understand their strengths and areas of growth as readers. (I've also gotten the chance to hear some fantastic books! I am loving the Ricky Ricotta series my son is reading to me!)
Here are two reading skills you can help your children develop as they read aloud to you.
Have you ever listened to someone with a monotonous voice read aloud? The way we read aloud can increase or decrease the listener's enjoyment. Teaching your child to read with expression is important, and a great place to start if your child is already reading at or above grade level.
When working on expression, some things to point out to your child include:
● words that are in all caps
● words that are italicized or in bold type
● sentences that end with an exclamation point
A few things to try are:
● Stop and ask questions about the author's choice:
○ "Why do you think s/he chose to make this word in all caps?"
○ "Why does that sentence have an exclamation point?"
● Read a sentence in isolation.
Many children become focused on simply getting through a passage that they don't pay attention to what they are reading. Have your children go back and read just the sentence that requires more emphasis or expression.
● Provide an example of "animated" and full-of-expression reading.
Sometimes I contrast an animated read with a very flat and monotonous read. Not only will your child find this funny, he/she will begin to understand just how important it is to read with good expression.
○ Ask your child to re-read with expression.
As your children begin to develop their reading expression, you can work on things like intonation, volume, and reading with emotion.
When I'm reading a book and come across a word I'm unfamiliar with, it's rare that I stop to look up the meaning. I simply skip over it and keep reading. It's a bad habit I use to save time. Unfortunately, our children do this too.
When your child is reading aloud to you, he/she is more likely to stop and ask for clarification or meaning. (Yay!) If your children do not ask for meaning when they come to a word that is likely unfamiliar, introduce it to them. Give a simple but informative meaning of the word. Examples are great and can help provide context for your kids.
Sometimes, even if you know the meaning of a word, model for your children what it looks like to look up the meaning/definition. Children need to see that learning is a life-long process and understand that it is okay if they don't know or understand something.
*If your children are reading independently, provide them with a small set of sticky notes. Ask them to jot down any words they don't know, and go over their definitions in the morning/after reading time is over.
Reading with your children is one of the single-most important things you can do as a parent. As you work with your kids on their reading skills, you are setting them on the path towards a life-long love of learning and literacy.