Every night, my 3-year-old and I say goodnight to the moon, the bowl of mush, and the quiet old lady whispering "hush." Though his bookcase is filled with a variety of classic children's tales and new favorites, he consistently reaches for a small handful of trusty favorites.
One evening, I realized I'd memorized all of P.D. Eastman's "Go, Dog. Go!" I found myself gliding through the words on the page. The story had become like an old friend. It was familiar, comfortable, and though we'd spent a lot of time together, there was still plenty to talk about.
The practice of reading and re-reading a selection of picture books created an opportunity for my pre-reader to practice a variety of foundational literacy skills. Re-reading also helps transition storytime from a "read-to" experience to a "read-with" experience.
By the third or fourth read of our picture books, my 3-year-old was "reading" along with me. He had learned to anticipate the text, mimic my cadence, and unknowingly was developing reading fluency in the process. The familiar builds fluency. Fluency can be defined as reading with proper speed, expression, and accuracy. When your preschooler hears his favorite stories read multiple times, he is given a model of what good reading sounds like.
Not only was my pre-reader building fluency, he was also able to work on a variety of early learning concepts. He and I chatted about colors and shapes, counted various objects, and used the illustrations to guide our questions and discussion. The simple act of asking your child questions as you read together helps develop not only his critical thinking skills, but teaches him that good readers think, wonder, and explore as they read. Reading is not a static activity!
The next time your little one reaches for "that" story (again!), try to control your urge to say "no," and recognize the learning opportunity in front of you. Each time you read a book, the story becomes more familiar, and your child's understanding deepens. You are not simply reading a story -- you are developing and helping to create a reader.
Here are some tips to make the most out of your next storytime:
- Select a handful of short, easy-to-read picture books. Books with rhyming, repetitive phrases, and/or a predictable pattern make great choices. Try to choose books that are of high-interest to your child.
- Use storytime to work on basic concepts. As you read familiar stories together, point out letters of the alphabet. Talk about the colors you see. Point out shapes. Talk about animals and nature. Count various objects on the page.
- Recognize the power of the illustrations. Spend some time enjoying the illustrations together. There is so much story outside of the words on the page. Deepen your child's creativity and inspire imagination as you discuss and celebrate the illustrations together. Additionally, as your child begins to transition from a pre-reader into an emergent reader, he/she will have the understanding that illustrations are a tool -- and a powerful one at that!
- Ask questions. Wonder aloud with your child as you read. Take some time modeling how to ask questions as you read -- stopping to think aloud for your child, as well as asking him/her questions.
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