Reading with and to your child is not only enjoyable but has a positive impact on his/her learning. While most parents would probably agree with this statement, many might not have any idea how to enhance this experience for their child and themselves. We would say, make it social and get active.
At all ages reading is both an active and social process that occurs with every type of text. Reading is a social process because we read to gain meaning that we then share in a variety of ways, with a variety of people, at a variety of times. What’s important about this statement is that the process of talking about what you have read is essential to develop and build comprehension. This is not to say that comprehension doesn’t occur if discussion doesn’t occur, you just don’t know. Talking about what has been heard during a read-aloud provides children an opportunity to share and verbally rehearse the content. Providing “talk-time” gives you insight into what your child understands or perhaps misunderstands. This is actually where the real learning occurs. These types of discussion need to happen before, during and after reading. Often children are reluctant to engage in talking about the text, especially during reading, but it is essential. Just-in-time communication is exceptionally powerful because it allows for immediate feedback, clarification and expansion of ideas. As with anything, the more you do it, the better you get. Next time you pick up a book to read to your child, be sure to provide “talk-time” and make it a social event.
An active reader is an engaged reader. While we often think about providing opportunities for our children to be physically active, it is just as important for them to be mentally active while reading. A passive reader might just be decoding words and not making meaning from the text. An engaged reader is reading with “a wide-awake mind” and is gaining meaning from the words. Active readers read with a purpose in mind, use strategies to get the most out of their reading and share what has been read with others. As parents, you can promote active reading right from the start and the strategies that you instill will last a life-time. Just like making reading a social process, being an engaged reader occurs before, during and after reading. Read-alouds align with young children’s desire to make meaning from their reading and their world. As parents, it’s easy to make read-alouds a strategic and active process. To begin, set a purpose for reading that particular text (to hear a story or to gain information); during reading provide stopping points to check for understanding or clarification of meaning of a word or phrase; and after reading engage your child in a discussion of what was discovered during the read-aloud.
Active and social reading occurs with both informational and fictional text. All good readers, no matter what their age, are active and social readers. Whatever you choose to read to your child or whatever your child wants to listen to is a perfect choice. There is no one “right” text to read. There are, however, many different and excellent strategies that parents can use at home during read-alouds to help their child make meaning from reading and become lifelong active and social readers, who share their insights about what they have read.