So That’s How You Read Books to Little Ones
Have you ever thought that you were doing something totally right, only to find out that you were totally wrong? Put me down on the ‘I was doing it halfway wrong’ score sheet for reading books to little ones. I’d seen and heard all of the parental warnings to read to little ones. How hard could it be? Read a book and move on with life. Oh but like most things child rearing associated I underestimated this parental task. Here is where I was doing it halfway right: When my oldest was a little one she and I read a book every night before bedtime. She would sit up under me close enough so that I could smell the almond soap she bathed in (ahhh, those were sweet days…). We made a reading nook anywhere: at the foot of her bed, on the floor or sometimes on the couch, with the television on mute. We read books about the alphabet, numbers and stories with children that looked like her. Sometimes we read two or three books. Many times we just read the same books over and over again. We kept up the bedtime ritual way past her time in preschool and I thought I knew what I was doing. That is until she reached second grade and the school began to give her questions about the stories she’d read. And here is where I was doing it halfway wrong: My oldest loves to read, then and now. But sometimes she did not score so well when asked a few questions about a story she’d read. First I noticed that my oldest could tell me all of the details about the stories she liked. But stories that she found no interest in, like the time I had to force her to re-read an assigned story centered around an Icelandic little girl who fished for a living, she would miss most of the questions. Second, while we practiced enjoying a good story, I did not practice with her how to pay attention to certain details about a story. Two more kids later I have learned that reading books to little ones is not just about developing a love for reading. Reading books to little ones is also about getting my kiddos to read and think about the story at the same time. Boring to their tastes or not.
What I now know about reading to little ones:
- Direct attention to details: i.e. “Look at this.”
- Label: Name an object or comment on its characteristics and clarify facts, i.e. “No, that’s not a cat—it’s a rabbit; see his long ears?”
- Interrupt story from time to time: Make general comments about the story and characters.
- Relate story to something familiar: Connect a picture or part of the story back to your child’s own life.
- Praise: When your child names an animal or object correctly cheer them on, ooo and ahh over their intelligence.
- Ask Open-Ended Questions: i.e. What do you think will happen next? What do you think would have happen if the rabbit didn’t show up in the garden?
- Ask even more question: Ask questions related to a comment your child makes, i.e. Why? Why? Why?- why do you believe that would happen?
How do you read books to your little one?