Everyone knows how important it is to read to children. Start early and read often. Choose books and stories together. Savor the moments – they’re gifts your children will treasure forever.
But here’s something parents sometimes forget: Let your child read, too. Give them a chance to shine. The easiest way to “test” a child’s reading progress – the foundation of all learning – is to ask them to read aloud to you. Then listen. Here’s what to listen for:
That’s a fancy phrase teachers use. It means the child recognizes the sounds of language long before they learn to read. Even the youngest kids laugh when you say, “Go to your redboom” when you mean “Go to your bedroom.” That’s phonemic awareness. They recognize you’ve mixed up your Rs and Bs. As they begin to read, they learn that letters make sounds, and sounds make words. That’s phonics, a fundamental part of reading. Can they “sound out” difficult or unfamiliar words if you give them a few moments to figure them out?
Another fancy teacher word. It means the child is able to use language with age-appropriate skill, smoothly and with little effort. They are “fluent,” in other words. As your child is reading to you, do the words come naturally?
I’d argue this is most important. It means they understand what they are reading. (I sound pretty good reading some foreign languages, but I have no idea what I’m reading.) Are they following along with the story? Ask a few conversational questions.
The stronger our vocabulary, the better we express our thoughts, opinions, and ideas. We develop our vocabulary through language – reading, writing, speaking, and listening. As you read with your child, give them plenty of opportunities to express themselves. Point out when characters express themselves clearly. Praise your child when they uses new words correctly and naturally.
As they’re reading, are they expressive? Do they vary their tone, loudness, softness, or intonation to fit the words of the story? Are they having fun? Are they engaged? Or are they merely reading a list of words, each unrelated to the others?
Naturally, it’s up to you to model good reading behaviors for your child. When you read aloud, make your reading natural and expressive, like a conversation. They’ll follow your lead, and it will help them in their own reading.
Show them that you read all the time. You read for information. You read for instruction and directions. You read to expand your mind. You read for pleasure. Doesn’t matter whether you’re reading ink on paper or electrons on a screen. Show them reading is an important, essential, part of your family’s life. Another lifelong gift to them.