“Instead of Easy Readers” Part 2: Read to your child. Out loud. Every day.

“Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read.” – Mem Fox.

I honestly believe that most kids do not need a curriculum to learn to read. They may need suggestions and help. Curriculum? No. In many cases, curriculum, and those “easy reader” books will HAMPER learning. Your kid doesn’t want to read that, so they have no motivation to learn to read. They may even resent being forced to read something they don’t want to and that will make the learning process take longer. The best way you can help your child learn to read is to read to them. A lot. 

Get your hands on a copy of Jim Trelease’s “The Read-Aloud Handbook”. Read the whole thing. Follow his suggestions. Pick out books from there to buy or check out from the library. A lot of our “best reads” have come from there. I also find good suggestions for books on blogs, on twitter, on FB, and at the library.

I think reading right before bed – in bed – is excellent. It’s a nice way to get their attention, calm down, and have some time to connect. If you’re a two parent family, you should BOTH read. We do one book a night each with Kai. When he naps, I do two myself, if my husband is at work. (If I’m reading a chapter book to him, he gets to pick one picture book and one chapter or two chapters.) If you did this – if you ONLY read TWO books at night, but you did it every single night without fail for a year, you’d be reading over 700 books a year. Think about that.

It is never too early to read to your child. You could read to them the first night they’re alive and it would not be too early. It may take a while for them to understand all of what you’re saying, but then it is a habit and they’ll be used to settling in for it. (This, by the way, is a good way to develop attention span.)

With that being said, it is never too late to start reading to your child. If they’re ten and still struggling, pick something you enjoy. Ask them if you could read it to them out loud. Make it fun. Curl up in bed together or on the couch or make a blanket fort.

Make it a fun family event or tradition. I know one family who has a tradition of hot cocoa or cider in the cooler months and iced lemonade, blended ice drinks, or milkshakes in the warmer months. They usually have some sort of sweet food and will climb onto the couch or in bed or even just sit around the table and eat and read. And their kids are teenagers.  The other day, I was at the zoo and there was a homeschooling family one table away from us (not just a guess – Kai has played with the kids a couple of times). The mother was reading a chapter or two of a book to them during lunch. I couldn’t help but think how awesome that would be: mom takes you to the zoo AND reads to you during lunch.

Read it again. Yes, you may have read, “The Pigeon Finds A Hot Dog!” a hundred times. Read it again. Move your fingers beneath the words sometimes. Purposefully “mess up” a word sometimes and see if your child catches it.

Use voices – “silly” voices work particularly well with young children. If you can, use the SAME voice every time you read that story. I’ve been telling/reading “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” to Kai for… a really long time. Our littlest billy goat has a meek voice, our second billy goat has a normal voice, and the third billy goat has a big, strong voice. The troll in that story has a loud “crotchety” voice. Kai tells me the story sometimes and mimics the voices. He entertained an entire bus this way once.

Read books to your child out loud that there’s no way they could currently read to themselves. We’ve read several chapter books, our latest being “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” These books would take him FOREVER to read by himself (but not so long when a parent does it). But these are entertaining, long-lasting stories that have helped him learn to love to reading.

DO NOT STOP READING TO THEM just because they’re starting to be able to do it themselves. Kids like being read to. I have seen kids stop being willing to read because it means they no longer get read to. Don’t do this.

Read to your child. Out loud. Every day. If I could only give you one piece of advice on how to help your child learn to read, this would be it.

This part two of my “Instead of Easy Readers” series.

Part one was “Why I Hate Easy Readers“.

9 thoughts on ““Instead of Easy Readers” Part 2: Read to your child. Out loud. Every day.

  1. amy

    I’ve been asked many times how I ended up with “readers.” I read. I read to them, they see me reading, we go to the library often and borrow many, many books. I have no “trick.” Reading is loved by, and a priority for, their parents. I’m not telling them to read yet not doing it myself. And I don’t bribe my kids to read, either. I avoid summer reading programs and anything else that floats the idea that you read for an external reward rather than because you want to. That’s not at all the message I want to send.

    My oldest learned to read while I was hs’ing him, so when he began school he was a well-established reader. My 8yo (who I’m hs’ing now) learned to read while in school, and my main priority was to shield him from the pressures that can entail. Both my boys were right around 7 when reading “clicked,” which is perfectly within the normal range but is now, thanks to our messed-up school system, considered late. I refused to have him fill out a book log in second grade; I refused to make reading a chore. (Honestly, have you ever written down EVERYTHING you’ve read, and for how long? CHORE.) I knew it would click for him, and it did.

    And yes, I still read aloud to them both, even though they can read to themselves. 🙂

  2. Angie

    Wonderful post! I’m sure you’ve heard me lament before about my youngest, my kid who “hates books” Thanks school! He loved Biscuit books and Pigeon books. Then, in first grade, he was put into the level system. And there went his joy of reading. I do read aloud to him, but not consistently. We tore through the Hunger Games series over the summer, staying up until we could no longer keep our eyes open! That was so special. We’ve not found another series to catch our interest yet, but we’ll keep trying. Thank you for this nice post.

  3. Lori

    totally agree. and even if your older kids aren’t struggling, still keep reading to them. even after they can read fluently, you can still read aloud works that would be too challenging for them. and when they catch up to you, they can read aloud to you as my 13yo does every night. 🙂

    i read half a book out loud to my 15yo this morning just for our mutual enjoyment. 🙂

  4. Heather

    Exactly. I wish more people would understand this. I have relatives who will balk at reading to her and tell her she should read it herself. Or they will quiz her along the way. Not a great incentive to read.

    1. Lori

      yes, and then there are the “reading strategies” they use at public school where they interrupt the kids a thousand times during the story to quiz them about what’s happening. blarg!

      1. Misa Knight Post author

        I used to get in trouble in school for “reading too much/too fast”. I’d take a book home, finish it in a day, and then I wasn’t allowed to answer those “What do you think is going to happen next?” questions!

  5. HSofia (@hsofia)

    This was a good reminder to me. I read often and we go to the library often, but I don’t think I spend much time reading aloud to my daughter. Maybe 20 minutes a day, plus bedtime, and usually her dad reads to her at bedtime. The days we go to the library I read more, of course, but day-to-day not so much. I should make a “tiny habit” out of this, with a trigger and everything.


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