March is National Reading Awareness Month designed to showcase the value of reading. That’s a good thing, but the focus is always about better children’s reading, which belies the vast powers of sharing reading with the whole family. Sharing reading of anything by anybody within a family can be a HUGE asset for creating a culture of enriched language and knowledge growth, AND shared reading goes a long way to establish a penchant for lifelong learning.
- Home reading aloud by kids should never be experienced as a test for error-free reading or as a chore to get done before dessert.
- Reading aloud, at its absolute best, is about anybody sharing a terrific book, magazine, or letter that contains a compelling story or feeling, or a fascinating, delightful bit of information that is appropriate for a surprised and eager family audience. Just listen for the gleeful responses to a story or the “I didn’t know that!” to factual material.
Home reading aloud should be inclusive of every family member’s interests. What gets read aloud with the whole family serves as an invitation to each family member to be alert to material worth sharing.
“Let’s each find something we’ll all enjoy hearing and talking about!”
It could be a poem, essay, editorial, picture book, newspaper, Internet article, or some correspondence, even something they have written that will spawn lively conversation. Thus, each one’s “MY TURN!” read-aloud offers that participant a chance to be the center of attention and source of delight and wonder for the rest.
Especially for little ones, there should be effusive feedback about the gift that their selection and their reading is to the rest of the family. When a listener gets confused by reading awkwardness, that calls merely for a gentle request for a re-read of that part, or a carefully phrased question or comment about the text itself.
Contributing adults and older children can then take on the added responsibility for demonstrating fully fluent and expressive reading, noting each other’s natural tone, phrasing, and meaningful articulation, or facial expressions and gestures. Then comment positively upon any such delightfulness in narrations by younger kids.
As a result of this family enjoyment, small ones may try reading to dolls or pets, mimicking what they’ve heard and admired. Thus, they show us what others’ reading conveys to them about the personal appeal and potential of books and reading.
The setting for the read aloud conversation is irrelevant, so long as it’s physically comfortable and socially relaxed. That’s because after any read aloud episode should always come a lively conversation about the impact of what the listeners have just heard. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Well, IT IS!
Reading aloud in the family should always be fulfilling for the readers and enjoyable for the listeners. Such gentle read aloud cultures create the foundation for families full of lifelong, avid learners.