As I think about all the wonderful achievements that have come during my middle daughter’s year in kindergarten, the one that brings me the most joy is her new-found comfort in reading aloud. It’s not uncommon for me to shout out “Girls, pick your bedtime stories!” only to hear her call back “Mom, I’m going to read to my sister tonight!”
If I peek into their bedroom, I get to see them curled up on the rug with a stack of picture books, board books and easy-readers, 10-12 high, teetering beside them. And my marvelous middle girl puts such drama and humor and timing into them all that it’s hard to believe she is only 6 (and that she doesn’t have an off-Broadway audition tomorrow!)
To be honest, I get a little choked up with the sweetness of it all. And at the idea that I have 20 minutes free to load the dishwasher.
These nights remind me how reading aloud to an appreciative (or at least not-too-critical) audience is such a big part of mastering – and LOVING – reading.
When I compliment her on her reading aloud, she tells me all about her “2nd grade reading buddy.” The Kindergarten classes have been paired up with 2nd graders all year long, and met regularly to read to one another. My daughter tells me “at the beginning, she mostly helped me read, but now I read whole books to her and all she has to do is listen!” The pride in her voice is unmistakable.
At any age, having someone to read aloud to brings so much to the reading experience. It improves our attention, timing, rhythm and fluency. It gives us a chance to share the little things we enjoy in the book with others – things they otherwise might not notice the way we do. It lets us bring to life that which previously only breathed in our imagination – whether that be a deep booming voice or a silly sing-song.
So I encourage you, help your child find someone to whom they can read aloud.
It needn’t be a sibling – in fact, sometimes they are too uncooperative or unappreciative. I even have one who is too helpful. Luckily, there’s a lot of other options!
1. A pet – even the neighbor’s pet. Reading a book aloud to a warm fuzzy friend feels private, safe, and fun for many kids. Often shelters will let you set up times to read aloud to the animals there, as well. Hesitant readers don’t have to worry that their listener will catch them up in a mistake or correct their pronunciation – and they get cuddles in return!
2. A grandparent – even if it’s not yours. Reading aloud to Grandma or Grandpa is a great experience at any age. Older kids might be interested in earning community service hours – or just a feeling of goodwill – by reading aloud to adults at a senior center or nursing home.
3. Preschoolers – You can contact local libraries or preschools to see if your child can volunteer as a reader at storytime, but there’s no need to be that formal. Especially during the summer, the frazzled mom down the block might like a half hour free every Wednesday morning while your 12-year-old comes to read stories to her twins. Maybe there are nieces or nephews your child can read to each time they visit or while you are on vacation with family. Tweens and teens might complain at first – but they will soon find how good it feels to be awesome in a child’s eyes!
4. Stuffies – My kids have been known to set up a large audience of stuffed animals for story time. They even sit up front like a teacher and turn the book around to show everyone the pictures. I’m usually banished. I guess I don’t play well with others.
5. Interactive story buddies – These cool electronic stuffed animals from Hallmark come with a story of their own and a CD of the story being read aloud. When your child, you or the CD says specific phrases in the text, the stuffed toy responds to it with sound and movement. I first bought the Jingle and Bell husky puppies and their stories for my girls at Christmas. The line has expanded since then to include 12 characters (including Scooby Doo and Tigger). There are at least 3 books available for each “buddy,” as well as accessories and apps.
We found the responses to be a little touchy at first – but once the kids got past the initial frustration, they made sure to say the key phrases slowly and carefully to get a response. I liked that this encouraged them to slow down and enunciate the words. They loved getting barks and tail wags when they read aloud!
What will you do to get your kids reading aloud this summer? What “reading buddies” work best for you and your kids? I’d love to hear from you!
Don’t forget, there’s still time to get in on the Readers ABC Challenge and explore many types of literacy with your kids this summer. Winners receive a $25 book gift card or National Geographic Kids magazine subscription!