When we think of reading, we often picture sitting down with a hot cup of tea or coffee, curling up by the fire, placing a cozy blanket over our legs and digging into our books. We may have an image of laying on a beach, sounds of waves crashing in the background as we flip the pages of our newest vacation paperback. Perhaps for you it is reaching over to put on reading glasses prior to going to sleep, with a light dimly placed over the pages. These variations of reading environments all have one thing in common…the words are silent and remain in our own minds. We are alone with our thoughts and connections to the book we are reading. This is of course an essential part of the reading experience. It doesn’t have to be the only experience, however.
Just because this is how I enjoy reading as an adult, it doesn’t mean this is the only way reading looks for a child. Reading should be interactive, engaging and social. When we initially learn to read, we play with words. Children learn to break them apart, chunk them into smaller sections, read and re-read words over again, and use contextual clues as they make sense of the story. Words are meant to be playful and that is what reading aloud can do for a child. They are able to see and hear themselves in the text by using their voice to create the images for the reader. Whether it is a board book, picture book, graphic novel, or chapter book, children can begin gaining confidence reading aloud at a young age.
Have you ever noticed that a child looks to the adult in the room when reading aloud? I remember this happening throughout my own years as a student, as a teacher and most recently as a parent. I had never really thought of why children did this before. Perhaps I thought they looked to the adult for support, guidance and feedback. Many of these reasons hold true, yet I now see another reason that children look to us when reading aloud.
They are looking for validation.
When they look up, over, backwards or sideways they are looking for clues to spark excitement, expression and joy. They want you to be just as happy listening to the story as they are reading it. Let me say that again. When a child reads aloud to an audience, they want to bring the reader JOY!!!!! So, let’s help them by embracing it and opening the doors for play. Have them repeat the words in a louder or quieter voice. Stop them at a turning point in the story and have a conversation. Ask to co-read the book with them and practice various intonations to create increased expression and feeling.
Last week I truly saw this come to life with my daughter. For the first time I intentionally watched and closely listened as she read aloud to me. She was nervous during parts, animated in others and full out laughing at some humorous sections. That’s when it hit me, it was building her confidence as a reader. As each word rolled off her tongue, she started to see the story through a different perspective. Each time she looked over to me I made sure to smile, act surprised and reassured her she was doing a fantastic job by providing a simple, yet meaningful thumbs up. I embraced in word play by actively listening and allowing her to play with words using her voice. This was a gift that she gave to me and by doing so I was able to help her build further confidence reading aloud.