5 Simple Tips for Reading to Children

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Teacher reading to children

Many factors go into making a children’s book a hit in your home or classroom. The story, the pictures, and the characters are all important.

Your role in reading the book is an important factor as well.

Here are 5 Simple Reading Tips you can try when reading picture books to children.

1) Create interest in the story by discussing the cover. Before you open the book, read the title of the book. If your children are beginning to read, have them help you read the title of the book. Point out the characters. Count objects. Look for colors. Ask the children what they think the title means. Look at the illustration on the cover of the book. What is happening in the picture? Do you think the picture tells you something about the story? It might!

2) You don’t have to read every word on the page. You can adapt the story so that your children can understand what is happening. You might have a great book with beautiful pictures and a wonderful story, but the text in the book is too difficult for your kids. It’s okay to change some words, skip some text, and adapt the story to suit the level of the children you are reading to. Use the illustrations to help you tell the story at a level that makes sense for your situation.

3) Comment on the story while you are reading. Ask questions about and comment on what has happened so far. For example, if you are reading Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, you can ask, How many monkeys are there now? What are they doing? Where is Mama?

You can ask the children to guess what might happen next, before you turn the page. Do you think the monkeys will jump on the bed again? What will Mama say? Which monkey will fall next?

Ask your emerging speakers simple yes/no questions or questions that can be answered with short answers to check for comprehension. Are the monkeys sleepy? Is Mama angry? Do you think that hurts?

Illustrations are very helpful here, because you can ask children to come to the book and point to something. Where is the doctor?  Can you point to the bed?  I see a telephone…can you find it?

4) Change your voice for each character. When you read a book aloud, try becoming all of those characters. Change your voice for the characters. You can speak in a whisper for a shy mouse. You can speak angrily. You can speak in a loud silly voice. You can speak in a quiet voice. Even when you have only one character, have fun changing your voice. This will make the story more entertaining and help the children understand which characters are talking.

As a bonus, you help children learn new words, such as shyly, angrily, happily, and sadly, because children will match your tone of voice to the words in the book and to the pictures on the pages.

5) Make sure everyone can see every page. When you read aloud to only one or two children, you can hold the book in your lap. It’s the same way you hold a book when you read to yourself.

When you read to a larger group, hold the book so that the pictures face out towards the group.

You might prefer to hold the book on your lap, because your lap is a stable place and your arms are less likely to get tired. If you do this, you will need to read upside-down. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it’s a good idea to read the story to yourself a couple of times before reading it to a group of children.
Other teachers prefer to hold to the book to one side. Reading sideways is usually easier than reading upside-down. However, larger picture books can be harder to hold this way, and you might not be able to read the words on the page that are farther away from you.

When you read to a larger group, sit on a chair or stand so that you and the book are above the group. This will make it easier for everyone to see.

Make sure that you show the pictures to all of the children in the group. Move the book slowly from one side of the group to the other so that everyone has a chance to see.

Do you have any Simple Reading Tips to share?

Coming up: more Simple Reading Tips!