Reading Aloud with Your Child: Making the Most of Every Word

reading aloud with your childIf you read my posts with any regularity, my passion for reading aloud will come as no surprise to you. Whether or not your child struggles to read, write or spell, whether or not your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia or another language-processing disorder, reading aloud together builds closeness, improves reading skills and comprehension and can instill a lifelong love of books.

Many parents get into the habit of reading aloud just until their child falls asleep. While this is certainly a special kind of family intimacy, the practice of reading out loud together can be expanded enormously through what the reading experts at the Great Books Foundation call Shared Inquiry.

Through discussion and problem solving, Shared Inquiry turns the simple reading of a book into “a teaching and learning environment, and a way for individuals to achieve a more thorough understanding of a text as readers search for answers to fundamental questions…”

From the earliest age, whatever their reading level, instead of being passive listeners, children can start to develop critical thinking skills. The role of the parent is not to give answers, but to ask thoughtful questions and to encourage the child to show how he or she reached the answer. Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Involve your child in book selection. If your child is “invested” in the book, he or she will be more attentive from the beginning.
  • Before you start reading, reduce distractions by turning off televisions, phones and other electronic devices and choosing a quiet spot with good reading light.
  • Look at and encourage your child to talk about the cover of the book what’s on it and what it might suggest about the story you’re about to read.
  • As you read, pause and ask your child thought-provoking questions about the story, including what might happen next. Ask your child to show evidence for his or her answers.
  • Talk about language and words and encourage your child to ask about difficult words. Does your child have favorite words from this story? Why? What’s special about those words?
  • As you continue reading, talk about your child’s answers to earlier questions. What happened? Was it a surprise?
  • At the conclusion of the book, encourage your child to talk about the ending, about how the story or the characters might continue, and what he or she learned, disliked or liked best.

The idea of Shared Inquiry is not for your child to parrot back the “right answers,” but to use the text as a jumping-off place to search out meaning, interpret, stir imagination and improve comprehension.

To learn more about Shared Inquiry, visit the Great Books Foundation website, where you’ll also find their catalog and sampler. For additional information on reading aloud with your child, browse among the many resources on the website of Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook. Happy reading!

Lexercise’s online, research-based services help struggling readers, writers and spellers — no matter where they live! Please take a look at our Online Dyslexia Testing and Treatment page or contact me directly at AskSandie@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.