The Importance of Reading Aloud (page 2)
The single most important activity caregivers and teachers can do to help children become successful readers is to read aloud to them every day (Morrow, 1997; Neuman et al., 2000; Sulzby, 1985). In addition to the language of books, young children can learn how books work, the way to physically handle books, and what to expect in stories. By 3 to 4 months, babies start to focus on the pictures in books and will soon reach out to turn the pages themselves. Although older infants and toddlers rarely sit still very long to hear stories, it is important to encourage parents to keep reading, even for just a minute or two at a time.
By the time a child is 2 or 3, family reading routines will be established, such as at naptime or bedtime reading, and children who have been read to since infancy will begin to finish familiar lines in stories, memorize books, and pretend read to themselves. Pretending to read books and hearing stories read aloud helps children develop a global knowledge of books and a “sense of story,” an idea of what typically happens in narrative (Neuman et al., 2000). Children who enjoy books and stories are familiar with the language of books and story schema and have some control over book-handling concepts such as holding the book correctly and turning the pages from right to left, have established a “literacy set,” according to Don Holdaway (1979). In other words, the reading-like behaviors they are displaying indicate that they are all set to emerge into real reading.
A reciprocal relationship between caregiver and child is built during read-aloud times. Parents influence the child, but the child’s behaviors and interests also have an impact on the types of books and literacy materials the parents share (Whitehurst et al., 1994). When 5-year-old Benjamin became interested in owls, his parents located books about owls in the library and found a Web site that had pictures of owls and accompanying sound bytes. Benjamin was able to learn how books and electronic resources can be used to answer questions and gain insight on subjects of interest.
What types of books appeal to young children? Recent brain research suggests that we make meaning of new ideas and experiences when they are relevant, emotionally engaging, and organized in patterns (Jensen, 1998). Good children’s literature often includes all three criteria for making meaning. Select books for reading aloud that:
- Are relevant to the child and have interesting language.
- Have quality illustrations.
- Portray intriguing characters.
- Sometimes include humor.
The language and repetition of books create patterns that appeal to children and help them learn.
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