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
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.
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
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
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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