Monday, May 31, 2010

Ten Tips for Reading Aloud to Children

Reading aloud to your child is one of the most important things you can do as a parent or as a teacher of young children. Beginning in infancy, children benefit from hearing language and stories. Experts also agree that even after a child has learned to read, they still benefit greatly from hearing stories aloud. Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Read the book to yourself first so that you get a feel for the rhythm and tempo. If you are worried about pronunciation, reading the book to yourself before you have an audience of 4 year-olds staring at you! Most preschool books have vocabulary that most adults can read without a big problem. But a good book will challenge children by introducing new words. If you've ever read a great book like Tikki Tikki Tembo or any book with dinosaurs (like Oh, Say Can You Say Di-no-saur?), you will know how important it is to familiarize yourself with the text of a new story!
  2. Hold the book so that the child or children can see the pictures while you are reading. This, of course, is much easier if you have a child on your lap and are reading one-on-one. But most classroom story-times occur in front of a group of children. It takes a great deal of practice to learn to hold the book up for the audience and still read the words! Even though it might be difficult, this is important because children use the context clues in the pictures to comprehend, process, recall, and retell as story.
  3. Choose books that you will enjoy reading aloud. Your children will hear the genuine excitement in your voice and that excitement is most often contagious!
  4. Read with expression! Using a monotone is no fun for ANYBODY and you will quickly lose your audience - even if they are "captive." When your audience starts wiggling, poking, and pulling their neighbor's hair, you have lost their attention. Reading with expression engages the children and invites them into the story.
  5. Encourage children to participate in the story. In some stories that repeat the same text on each page, the children can become a part of the story experience. For example, in The Napping House each page ends with "where everyone is sleeping." Children will often anxiously anticipate their participation! You can ask children what they think will happen next. Find ways to make the story an ACTIVE rather than a passive experience.
  6. Be prepared to read the same books again and again. Once you find books that you enjoy reading aloud, it is likely that your children will want to hear them repeatedly. This is a great thing because memorizing stories is often a child's first step to becoming a reader!
  7. If you need an example of how to read aloud, consider choosing a book that has a CD. Listen to the story with your child and then, when you read it, you will have an idea of how to imitate the rhythm and tempo of the text.
  8. Don't skip the important parts! Spend some time looking at the cover and illustrations. If it's a book that you are reading for the fist time, talk about the cover, and ask your child to predict what will happen. During the story, refer to the illustrations. Tell the children the author and illustrator's names. These are parts of a book that adults often take for granted and skip over when reading to children but these are important parts of the story.
  9. To point or not to point? Should you point to the words when you read a story? My opinion is that you should point some of the time, but not all of the time. The very first time you are reading a story, I think you should just let the story flow naturally. On future readings, you can certainly point to the words as you are reading so that children begin to make the connection between spoken and written words. When you are pointing to the words, slide your finger across the sentence as you read; avoid pointing to each word one by one as this tends to create a choppy speech pattern. Once children know a few words by sight, point them out in the stories that you read.
  10. Have fun!

Related Links
My Favorite Books to Read Aloud
Raising Playful Tots: Making Literacy Connections (podcast)
Tips for Choosing Books for Preschoolers

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rock it Out

Ever wonder why your four year old is constantly picking up rocks outside? If it's one thing I've said over and over again, it's that children are natural scientists. Leaves, rain, making jello, clouds, magnets, a visit to the zoo...and even a ROCK can provide children with opportunities to engage in scientific thinking. Here are a few books and activities that may inspire your young geologists.

Rock and Learn:

  •  Find some large rocks with a variety of surfaces. Give children water and various painting tools (cotton balls, q-tips, thin painting brush, larger paint brush, etc). Allow children to "paint" the rocks. This activity helps children practice fine motor skills. They also see the changes that occur as some parts of the rock are wet (and therefore may look darker) while other parts are dry.
  • Decorate rocks with paint, glue, feathers, sequins, and glitter (smooth rocks work best) If desired, make "pet" rocks and place the "pets" in a "cage" (a green strawberry basket works well).
  • Create a class rock collection by asking children to bring in one rock from near their home. Place the rock collection in an egg carton or shoe box display "case."
  • Make a class poster about rocks. Search the Internet for types of rocks and print out various pictures. Assemble the pictures (don't forget to identify each) on chart paper or poster board to display in the classroom
  • Introduce children to the terms "geology" and "geologist".
  • As a math activity, provide children with a balance scale and several rocks. Before beginning, you might show the children some rocks and ask them to predict which are heavy or light. Encourage them to discover what rocks are heavier and/or lighter. Encourage them to also find the combination of rocks that will balance the scale indicating that both sets are equal in weight.
  • Read Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.
  • Visit the Rock For Kids Site to find more information to share with the children.
  • Do a Rock Experiment with rocks (one of which should be limestone) and vinegar.

Rock and Read:

 Looking at Rocks (My First Field Guides)Everybody Needs a Rock (An Aladdin Book)Geology for Kids (Little Wonders Series)
Rocks and Minerals (Eye Wonder)Let's Go Rock Collecting (Let'S-Read-And-Find-Out Science. Stage 2)If You Find a Rock
Rocks (Early Bird Earth Science)Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough (Amazing Science)Las rocas: Duras, blandas, lisas y ásperas (Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough) (Ciencia Asombrosa) (Spanish Edition)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

National Teacher Appreciation Week

Remember those old bumper stickers that said, "If you can read this, thank a teacher." Well, since it's teacher appreciation week - and I am speaking for the often forgotten preschool teachers, toddler/two teachers, and infant caregivers - here are some bumper stickers that I'd like to see:

If you play well with others, thank a preschool teacher.

If you've learned that cuddles and hugs make the world a better place, thank an infant caregiver.

If you have figured out new ways to navigate the world, thank a child care provider.

If you can share, wait your turn, and help others, thank a toddler teacher.

So today, and all week, I say THANK YOU to the child care providers, family providers, infant caregivers, educators, educarers, preschool teachers, and child care providers.

Education begins long before children enter school and too often people forget that.


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