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Ready For Reading: Strategies for Reading with Your Child

By Dr. Maureen Ruby

When children share books with a caring adult, they begin a journey to a lifelong love of reading. Lap-reading, bedtime stories, and generalized shared reading are all valuable to the development of a young child’s appreciation for and development of the intricacies of oral language. Oral language proficiency is a prerequisite to success in learning to read.

Reading aloud to children from their earliest days supports the development of listening skills, attention and focusing, language play and phonemic awareness (see Fall 1999 AAB). From hearing stories read, children develop - an appreciation for “ how a story is written” or story grammar,” including characters, setting, problems and solution. They also learn the terms of “ book language,” like “once upon a time” and “ happily ever after.”

When you read with your child, you give your child a very strong, yet silent message: that you value reading and give it a high priority.

As children grow older and begin to engage in meaningful conversations with the parent/reader, they establish a three-way relationship between them, the parent/reader, and the author that parents should capitalize on.

Concepts About Print

The parent/reader should try to engage the child in conversations about “Concepts About Print.” To do this, point out how the book is held, where the front of the book is, where the back of the book is, what the words or the pictures are, what the relationship between words and pictures is, and how words are read from left to right and top to bottom on the page and from front to back of the book.

If your child shows an interest in letters, you can point out how letters grouped together are separated by spaces and that these letter groups form “words.” You might try using a “reading finger” to point from word to word while reading and to “sweep” from line-to-line and page-to-page wearing a Halloween prop or “eyeball” ring (available from Oriental Traders Catalogue) for this purpose will add to the fun and encourage the child to imitate. Try counting with the child the number of words read orally and those on the page. This match or “one-to-one” correspondence is a key ”kindergarten” reading readiness concept.

Children who are not ready for this information simply will not show interest. It is absolutely imperative not to force a child in these activities, but to wait until they are ready.

Pre-Reading Activities

Parent/readers can spend time with a child doing “pre-reading” activities designed to get the child actively engaged in thinking about reading. Point out the title of the book. Talk about the title. Ask the child what she knows about the title words or the subject of the title. Look at the picture on the cover. Ask, “What do you think this book might be about?” This involves the child in making predictions. Ask your child if she can close her eyes and make a picture in her mind - “like a video” - of what she thinks she might see in the book. Take a “picture walk” through the book before reading to make more predictions or guesses.

Reading Comprehension and Personalization

While reading, stop and ask your child what she thinks will happen next. After you ask, ”what do you think will happen next?” and “did you think that would happen?” confirm the predictions by saying, “look, you were right!” or “now this was a surprise!” Ask you child if she has any questions as you are reading and then read on to find the answer! Personalize the story while you read by relating it to your child and yourself. Be sure to check with your child for understanding. Before explaining, reread parts. This exercise will teach what readers do to check for understanding and will help your child to develop good comprehension strategies.

After you read the story, talk with your child about how closely the predictions you made together before and during reading compare with the actual story. Ask the child to retell the story to you, another family member, a doll, stuffed animal or pet. Ask your child how she “feels” about the story. Let your child express herself and take risks in a safe, nurturing environment. Ask her if she wants to draw or paint a picture of her favorite story part to hang on the refrigerator, to share at pre-school or with friends. You could also talk about a “different ending” or a “sequel,” like “Toy Story II” or another sequel she might be familiar with.

These strategies are not intended for every child, or meant to be done at every reading experience, but are appropriate when the child is developmentally ready and receptive to such activities. You will know when the child is ready by her responses and reactions.

Books should still be read purely for the enjoyment of the story and hearing the language aloud! As you read daily with your child, you will know when to incorporate some of these book-awareness, thinking, and comprehension strategies. Both spontaneous reading and planned reading experiences have much value. The more you read, the more you’ll know!

Maureen McSparran Ruby, D.M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Reading and Language Arts
Principal Investigator, Federal Early Reading First Grant
Eastern Connecticut State University
83 Windham Street
Webb Hall 148
Willimantic, Ct 06226


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