Reading Aloud

“Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way”.    ~Orville Prescot

Becoming a Nation of Readers: the Report of the Commission on Reading notes that reading aloud promotes independent reading. They report, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” Reading is the most important skill for success in life and school. It is also of vital importance to a functioning democracy, and for life-long learning and enjoyment.

Many parents and caregivers mistakenly believe that reading aloud should end once a child reads independently. Nothing can be farther from the truth! Studies, like the Commission’s report,  have shown that reading to your child dramatically increases their vocabulary and their own reading skills, because young children can comprehend many more words than they can read, especially for beginning readers.

By reading to your child, you can help counter the often overwhelming noise of the culture and help them to develop keen listening skills and catalyze a lifelong love affair with the book.

Reading aloud is a wonderful way to share time with your kids and family. It creates and cements close bonds and helps us to relate to each other. The summer is a perfect time to begin or continue a tradition of reading aloud.

Don’t be intimidated about reading aloud but here are a few tips:

1). Don’t read too fast. This is a common mistake. Take it slow… and take it even slower when you get to a suspenseful moment in the book!

2). Change your voice or tone as you read different characters or situations.

3). It’s okay if your child colors, draws, or even bounces a ball while you read. They are listening!

4). The more you read aloud, the better you will get.

5). Establish a regular time for reading aloud. Even if you can squeeze in 15 minutes each morning, that works!

If you want to read more tips, check out The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. This is a classic that guides you through the process with expert advice and tips.

Here are some of my favorite classic read-aloud picks, with teasers from their opening pages:

A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond (J BON). “Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform. In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a bear, for Paddington was the name of the station. The Browns were there to meet their daughter Judy, who was coming home from school for the holidays…”

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, by Betty MacDonald (J MAC). “I expect I might as well begin by telling you all about Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle so that whenever I mention her name, which I do very often in this book, you will not interrupt and ask, ‘Who is Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? What does she look like?…’ Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle lives here in our town. She is very small and has a hump on her back. When children ask her about the hump, she says, ‘Oh, that’s a big hump of magic. Sometimes it turns me into a witch; other times into a dwarf or a fairy, and on special occasions it makes me a queen.’”

The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary (J CLE). “Keith, the boy in the rumpled shorts and shirt, did not know he was being watched as he entered Room 215 of the Mountain View Inn. Neither did his mother and father, who both looked hot and tired. They had come from Ohio and for five days had driven across plains and deserts and over mountains to the old hotel in the California foothills twenty-five miles from Highway 40…”

Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard Atwater (J ATW). “It was late afternoon in September. In the pleasant little city of Stillwater, Mr. Popper, the house painter, was going home from work. He was carrying his buckets, his ladders, and his boards so that he had rather a hard time moving along.”

Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers (J TRA). “If you want to find Cherry-Tree Lane all you have to do is ask the Policeman at the cross-roads. He will push his helmet slightly to one side, scratch his head thoughtfully, and the he will point his huge white-gloved finger and say: ‘First to your right, second to your left, sharp right again, and you’re there. Good-morning.’ And sure enough, if you follow his directions exactly, you will be there- right in the middle of Cherry-Tree Lane…”

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame (J GRA). “The mole had been working very hard all morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in teh air above and in the earth below him…”

The Cricket in Time’s Square, by George Selden (J SEL). “A mouse was looking at Mario. The mouse’s name was Tucker, and he was sitting in the opening of an abandoned drain pipe in the subway station at Times Square. The drain pipe was his home…”

Little House on the Praire, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (J WIL). “A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls or very small babies, or perhaps not even born, Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. They drove away and left it lonely and empty in the clearing among the big trees, and they never saw that little house again. They were going to the Indian Country. Pa said there were too many people in the Big Woods now…”

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren (J LIN). “On the outskirts of a tiny town was a neglected garden. In the garden stood an old house, and in that house lived Pippi Longstocking. She was nine years old, and she lived there all alone. She had no mother or father, which was actually quite nice, because it meant that no one could tell her that she had to go to bed just when she was having the most fun…”

The Story of Doctor Dolittle, by Hugh Lofting (J LOF). “Once upon a time, many years ago- when our grandfathers were little children- there was a doctor; his name was Dolittle- John Dolittle, M.D. ‘M.D’ means that he was a proper doctor and knew a whole lot. He lives in a little town called, Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. All the folks, young and old, knew him well by sight…”

~Ann Marie

Ann Marie White is the Library Director at OWL.

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