Take a page out of the reality TV playbook and make your own cliffhangers during read-aloud time. During an especially exciting part of a story, before turning the page, try asking your child, “What do you think will happen next?” It’s a great way to make sure your child is following the story. It also helps build suspense and can make it a more playful experience for you and your child. However, it’s a delicate balance. Just like TV in the days before the Internet, if you have too many interruptions/commercials, you may find that your child loses interest and decides to throw in the towel and watch Netflix.
Good readers look for clues. While reading, encourage your child to stop and ask himself, “I wonder why the author did this or that?” Asking motivation questions will teach your child to always be on the lookout for hints that the author may be planting for the reader to find. And, who knows, maybe it will inspire your child to pose the same question when you ask him to clean his room. One can always hope.
Help your child use the words in the story to create a picture in his mind. Remember your 5 senses! If you were a character in the book, what would you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste? Like the other 6 skills mentioned here, picturing will also help your child become a good writer as well as a good reader.
Here’s where parents, especially, can make a huge impact on our children’s reading. Help your child to connect personally to a story. How do you do that? Conversations. Start by modeling it for your child: “This story reminds me of the time your Aunt Bertha did… Do you remember that?” If a child can connect with a character in a book, or if a child can find something in the story that reminds her of another story, or (better yet) an event in the real world, your child has made a connection! Like most of us, in order to love reading, a child needs to not only read the words on a page, but she also needs to be able to relate to what she reads. That’s when the magic truly happens.
Inferring is being able to figure out the author’s meaning using the clues the author has left for you. It is the natural next step after Wondering. When our children are having difficulties with this skill, we can help by modeling it for them. Try reminding your child of the hints he has found from the author. That will sometimes lead children to making an inference on their own.
As important as it is for children to be able to sound out words, it’s also critical for them to understand what they’re reading. That’s why it’s good to encourage your child to ask herself, from time to time, if what she is reading makes sense. This will help her learn the valuable skill of correcting mistakes on her own as they arise and not get to the end of the book and say, “What was that about?”
Reflecting on Reading
Most children don’t realize that good readers have silent conversations with themselves about what they’re reading. We can help improve our children’s reading skills by modeling that behavior and simply starting conversations with our children as we read aloud together.
Try asking your child:Did you find answers to your questions?What do you know now that you did not know before?What is the most interesting or funny thing you read?Can you restate the main point in your own words?Is there a lesson in the story?How do you feel about what you just read?
Reading aloud with our children is a good habit to keep long after our kids are reading on their own. There’s something deeply comforting about sharing a good book with your child—it’s like having a secret place that the two of you can visit together. When you need a break from reality, just pull up a spot on the couch and jump right in. Your special world will be always be there waiting for you.
Good luck and happy reading!