Share a Story – Shape a Future: Tips for Parents

March 12th, 2009

In today’s post, Aimee Buckner, author of Notebook Know-How and the upcoming Notebook Connections, shares how she reads with and for her son every evening. Aimee offers advice for parents on how to make evening story time a launching pad for talking about books with kids.

See the other topics in today’s lineup at The Book Chook.

EXCLUSIVE: Get a sneak peek of Aimee’s new book!

Reading Aloud at Home

One of my favorite times during the day is when I read aloud to my son. He’s 9 years old, and he’s more than capable to read on his own. Yet, I wouldn’t trade this time for anything. It gives me valuable insight to the person my son is becoming as well as opportunities to nurture his growth as a reader.

It’s important to make this time enjoyable for you and your child. My son and I have a designated time and place where we read together. I am careful not to turn this into school, but a quiet time for him and I to enjoy a good book. Everything else will come about naturally.

When I read aloud to my son, I choose books like I choose the vegetable I’ll make for dinner. I often choose to cook vegetables that I think he’ll like but may not choose on his own to try. And sometimes, I have to sneak the vegetable into his diet by tricking him or covering it up with something yummy. Reading books with him is similar. I try to choose books that he may not pick up to read on his own but that I think he’ll enjoy. I also may choose books based on what he’s studying – historical fiction to help him visualize the Revolutionary War for example. That way I’m able to enrich his experience with different genres.

This is not to say that my son never chooses the book we read. He does. And there are times I’ll select two or three books for him to choose from. I just figure that he gets to choose the books he reads to himself, and I get to choose the ones I read aloud. It’s like who gets to choose the radio station while in the car. There is no right answer, except for what works for you.

Reading with my child creates opportunity for me to model fluent reading with appropriate intonation. Many children read monotone, even as they get older, because as the text gets harder, it’s more difficult to figure out the intonation. I’m still a more fluent reader than my son, so by simply reading aloud, I can model habits of good readers. When I come to a word I may not know, or think he may not know, I stop to think about what it might mean. If as I’m reading, I get confused or my mind trailed off, I stop and tell him I have to reread that part and why we’re doing it. I’m not putting on a show, and I can do this quite casually. After all, in the books I read to myself, I do have to stop and think about words or reread parts I don’t understand. Now I’m just doing it aloud with him so he can see me doing it.

Discussing the books we’re reading is very natural. I don’t quiz him or tell him to write about it. But I do have some ways to get him to talk about the book. Here are three tips:

1. Before we read each night, my son is responsible for a ‘nutshell summary.’ This is a quick summary of the chapter we read the night before. It’s not a retelling of the whole book, just a way to remind us what’s happening in the story before we begin to read. I never interrupt him during this time. If he forgot an important part, I may say something like, “Oh, and do you remember when…”

2. My son will stop me from reading when he wants to talk about his thinking. It wasn’t always this way. So, to get him willing to stop and talk, I would stop in the story when I felt the urge to share my thinking. Sometimes we both wait until the end of the chapter or picture book. It just depends on what feels the most natural at the time.

3. When my son talks about the book, I insist he uses the character names. This is important. So if he says the “boy” or uses a pronoun before mentioning the character’s name, I ask him, “Do you remember the character’s name?” If he doesn’t, we either look back in the story or I tell him. (It depends how close to bedtime it is!) If a child doesn’t know a character’s name or can’t accurately tell you where the story is happening, it’s likely they don’t understand what’s going on. You’ll want to help your child with these details.

Overall, when reading aloud to your child, just be natural. Allow conversation to flow from the book based on your thinking and your child’s. If nothing else, you establish a wonderful ritual that helps you and your child connect … over books.

Entry Filed under: Literacy

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Terry Doherty  |  March 12th, 2009 at 7:48 am

    I love the idea of modeling your thinking, too. That’s a great way to show our kids that reading still takes everyday practice, even if your just a little older than 18! My daughter often will use pronouns … now I’ve got a new way to approach getting her to do more recall. Thanks, Aimee!

  • 2. Book Chook  |  March 12th, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    I like your vegetable analogy about choice, Aimee. I am a huge proponent of allowing kids to choose their own material to read – but at the same time, we can add to those choices and inform those choices with great material we’ve found.

  • 3. Amy @ Literacy Launchpad  |  March 17th, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Helping your child comprehend what they’re reading is so important! I love these tips you give to naturally encourage discussion of the story. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Thanks for reminding us of that!

  • 4. Share a Story: What’&hellip  |  March 31st, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    […] sure to return to yesterday’s  Read Aloud Day, too. Aimee Buckner’s post about engaging kids in conversations about what you’re reading is at the Stenhouse Publishers […]

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