Research shows that reading aloud to young children from the day they’re born is the single most important thing parents can do to prepare their kids for learning and reading on their own. It helps to develop a child’s vocabulary, phonics, storytelling and comprehension, and simply a familiarity and appreciation for the written word. It also fosters empathy, and encourages social and emotional bonding between parent and child. (See www.ReadAloud.org for more information and research.)
An award-winning author Emilie Buchwald said “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” An avid reader myself, I have always dreamed of perfectly peaceful snuggles during our hours-long read-aloud adventures. Who doesn’t like to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and read, read, read?
My kids, apparently. They’re wiggly and full of energy, to say the least. I often joke that we read AT them, not TO them. Many attempts to make them sit still ended in tears, meltdowns, self-deprecating comments and aversion to story time. What was I doing wrong?
I was conditioned to believe that good listeners sit perfectly still, hands folded in their lap, listening ears turned on and eyes wide open. After all, fidgeting while being read to can seem rude.
With constant nagging, “Sit down, sit still, stop wiggling, stop fidgeting,” the kids were spending ALL their mental energy trying to keeping their bodies still and could not concentrate on the story. Attempts to build early literacy through reading aloud were detracting from my boys’ enjoyment of the books. We had to find a better way to enjoy reading together, so we came up with the compromise.
If you have been following our Reading Snowflakes Challenge (#readingsnowflakes on Facebook and Instagram pages,) you have noticed that my kids always have some kind of project that keeps their hands (or mouths!) occupied during reading times. To make read-aloud sessions a positive experience, I read, they listen and keep themselves busy with quiet activities during reading times.
These are some of out favorite activities:
- drawing or doodling in the journal
- playing with playdough or slime
- building with LEGO, Duplos, wooden blocks
- creating with magnets
- working on a puzzle
- creating shapes on geoboard
- finding a way out of mazes
- building with toothpicks, pipe cleaners, marshmallows, dry noodles, etc
- playing single player logic games (Shape By Shape, Q-bitz, Rush Hour and others)
- exploring sensory bins (salt, sand, beans, chickpeas, water beads, shaving cream)
- scissor practice (this is our favorite activity this winter! We have soooooo many beautiful snowflakes created during reading times!!)
- acting out scenes from the book
How to maximize read aloud time:
- let the kids explore the books on their own, even if they are not fluent readers yet.
- read aloud in the morning,
- read during meal times,
- explore story time at the local library or bring a book to read during playdates,
- have a tea party (poetry tea time became our favorite activity!)
- OUTSOURCE! listen to audio books and podcasts in the car.
What read-aloud tips or activities do you have? I am always open to new ideas and suggestions.