Friday, July 8, 2016

Starting Read-Alouds {With Young Children}

When I taught elementary school, my favorite time of the school day was after lunch.  All of my second graders would pile into the classroom, and excitedly find a place on the floor.  It was our time dedicated to me reading aloud to them from a variety of chapter books of my own selection, and not from the textbooks.  I always took great care in choosing books that would peak their interest and introduce them to authors or series that they would return to in the future for personal reading.  As I saw how much they looked forward to that time, I knew that reading aloud from chapter books to my family was a tradition that I wanted to incorporate when I had children of my own.

Now I have my own little family I'm reading aloud to, and have learned some things along the way that have helped in setting up our read-aloud habit.  I started reading aloud chapter books when my oldest was about 2 1/2, and siblings have grown up hearing read-alouds from the time they were infants.  Some tricks I've learned along the way that have helped us with little ones {and big ones!} are:

Choose one or two times during the day and make it a daily habit.  

When they are really little, I love to read chapter books to them while they are eating lunch or a snack.  When their little mouths are busy eating and they are sitting up to the kitchen table, they are able to quietly listen to most of the story and catch a lot of what is going on!  As an added bonus, they stay at the table longer because they want to hear the story, and don't get down before their meal is through!  Double bonus!  At the beginning, keep it short.  Guage how long to keep reading based off of how well they are sitting still.  As soon as they start to get restless, put a bookmark in and pick it up the next day.  At our house, some days we read aloud for half an hour, and other days only ten minutes.

Read with expression!

You can make or break a story simply with the amount of energy you put into it.  With read alouds, the more dramatic flair you add to the story, the more exciting the story becomes.  Vary the voices for the characters.

Establish a few rules.

For us, these have depended on where we are reading.  When I'm reading to them in their bedroom before bedtime, the rule is heads on pillows unless there is a picture to look at.  But, generally, the main rule is to listen quietly.  I usually take a few breaks to chat about what is going on and give them time to ask questions or talk about an exciting part.  

Choose books that will have them looking forward to read-alouds!

Interestingly enough, you don't have to worry about rules if you pick the right books.  We've dropped a few books without finishing them because they just didn't cut the mustard and everyone was restless.  I would much rather have them excited to hear a story they love than try to force our way through a book that no one is enjoying.  For toddlers and preschoolers, short chapters with lots of colorful pictures help.  Silliness, easy to follow plots, and fast moving adventures help seal the deal.  

Here are some of our favorite read-alouds for ages 2-5.  I hope you find one that your family will love, as well!

Mercy Watson 
Written by Kate DiCamillo

Mercy is a pampered pig who lives with Mr. and Mrs. Watson.  She loves buttered toast and always ends causing exciting action or commotion.  Full of colored illustrations.  We love her antics.  

The Princess in Black
Written by Shannon and Dean Hale

Princess Magnolia isn't your ordinary princess.  When alerted to a problem, the princess secretly changes into her black costume, and defeats monsters.  Large text, colored illustrations, and short chapters make it a perfect beginning read-aloud.

My Father's Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland
Written by Ruth Stiles Gannett

In this series of three stories, Elmer befriends and helps a dragon named Boris.  Full of adventure, friendship, and fantasy, they were a definite hit.

Tumtum & Nutmeg
Written by Emily Bearn

Tumtum and Nutmeg are two mice who live in the broom cupboard of Rose Cottage unbeknownst to the Mildew family, the humans who live there.  Short novels full of fun characters, humor, and adventures.

The Boxcar Children
Written by Gertrude Chandler Warner

The Boxcar Children stories are simple and easy to follow, but I am always amazed how intrigued children are by them and how closely they listen.  The Alden children are orphans who don't want to be separated from each other and try to take care of themselves by making a home out of an abandoned boxcar.

Pippi Longstocking
Written by Astrid Lindgren

Astrid Lindgren is in a class all of her own when it comes to telling a good story.  Pippi is an orphan who lives all alone in the house named Villa Villekulla and truly marches to the beat of her own drum.  Pippi amuses the neighbor children, maddens the adults in the town, and provides a lot of laughter to those who read about her.

James and the Giant Peach
Written by Roald Dahl

James encounters a strange little man with magic, and as a result, a peach on the peach tree near his aunt's house, grows to gigantic proportions.  James crawls into the peach and discovers a number of creatures that have also grown!  The peach starts rolling down the hill and takes James on an adventure that literally saves him.  Hands down, this is the story that my two-year-old has enjoyed the most.

Happy reading!


1 comment:

  1. So we've read quite a few of these and loved them! We started The Boxcar Children last night and our young 3 year old couldn't get enough. "One more chapter!" and "Mom, what's going to happen?! Can you read faster?!" were a couple of my favorite phrases. Thanks for the great tips and recommendations!