Part four of four of our reading aloud blog post series
While the "why" of reading aloud to children is discussed everywhere, the equally important "how"often receives short shrift. That’s unfortunate, because as valuable as it is to know why reading together is important, it is getting better at reading with your child that will actually ensure that the experience is mutually joyous, and help you build it into your routine.
Here are some Montessori-inspired ideas to implement as you read with your child:
- Embrace and celebrate repetitive reading. Most preschoolers love to read the same books, over and over again, just like they go back to favorite activities in their Montessori classrooms. This need for repetition is a wonderful opportunity for learning during read-alouds: it is often when we read a story the 5th or 10th time that children begin to use its words, or remember its moral lessons. And it’s only during the preschool, picture book years that we have this audience eager to read the same book over and over again! Make the most of these few years by reading books at different levels:
- Read for the story during the first take. Get caught up in it, and read through with limited stops, maybe just to explain a key term here and there, and to answer a brief comprehension question. Talk about the story afterwards.
- Become progressively more interactive on subsequent reads. Stop to give short definitions of vocabulary terms ("An dwelling is a house, a place someone lives. Our dwelling has green walls, and a big garden around it.") Point out interesting things in the illustrations. Talk about why the events happen, how the people in the story feel, how the setting compares to the world your children live in. There are some good articles out there detailing how to implement interactive reading, but the general principle is to guide your children to be interactive explorers of the books they read!
- Consciously use a book’s vocabulary in your daily conversations. ("I’m exasperated right now, Max, because your crayons are all over the floor!") Repeating and using the vocabulary from books will reinforce the learning, and help your child comprehend the new words and use them actively in speaking and writing. It also develops an implicit awareness in your child that the language in a book can be extended to life as such.
- Highlight how your child’s experiences relate to those of characters and settings in books. ("You found a creative solution here, instead of giving up, just like Sadie did in Sadie and the Snowman!" "I know this flu shot hurts, but it’s better than the prospect of sending you away for months, like Marvin’s parents had to do in the book we read.") Engage in real-world activities that relate to the books you read: go to a park to look for butterflies after reading Where Butterflies Grow; bake bread after reading Sunbread; re-read Hello Oceanbefore a trip to the beach.
- Make connections for your child between different books. Highlight similarities and differences, and tie them to your child’s experience. ("See, the family in When I Was Young in the Mountains has to heat their house with a wooden stove, just like Laura’s family did in The Little House on the Prairie! We don’t need to cut wood today, or light a fire, or clean a messy stove; we have gas furnaces that work at the flick of a switch.")
If you can make reading something you and your children treasure, infuse it with meaning by selecting great books, and make it a pleasant, interactive experience, you’ll do something amazing: you’ll lay the foundation for a love of reading in your child—and create a storehouse of wonderful, shared memories.