Listening to stories, children learn how the funny marks on pages make sounds. Sounds become words. Words have meaning and paint pictures. Internal “dictionaries” are built and expanded so what children want to say and write is understood.

When I first began teaching primary grades in the 70s, I set up a “language experience” before reading a book. I asked a few questions about words, ideas, or artwork from the book. Children ended up better listeners and more focused on the stories. They got excited when they heard a word we had talked about! Afterwards, I asked one to two simple questions about the story, helping children better connect to the book’s “take-away.”

Spice up your read-aloud experience with one or more of these ideas:

  1. Read aloud every day. Pick a time when family is together. During wet and wild moments, I sat on the tub or toilet and read to my son. He got squeaky clean while listening! By reading every day or night, children learn that reading is important.
  2. Talk about the cover. Read the title and author and illustrator names. Ask what children see in the artwork. You’ll scratch your head in wonder at what you missed! Ask what the story might be about. Keep this talk short. You want to grow interest and vocabulary, not sprout boredom.
  3. Read like a Movie Star. Use different character voices. Read SLOWLY, QUICKLY or QUIRKY. Pause now and then. Don’t be afraid to laugh … or cry.
  4. Share the illustrations. Allow time for listeners to wonder at the art. Don’t stop and ask questions unless listeners do.
  5. Wait for a page turn. Before turning a page, pause. Give children time to absorb what’s happened so far. Let them have a moment to predict what might happen.
  6. Applaud when finished. Celebrate the story! Clap! Finger tap! Clink juice glasses!
  7. Story Chat: What pictures do you like? What was funny? What was sad? What did ___ want most of all? Why couldn’t he/she get it? What would you have done? Would you like ­­­­___ as a friend?