How to Conduct a World-Class Read Aloud

Some of our best memories come from listening to a read-aloud. Many of us have fond memories of being read to when we were little, listening to a story, having that calm, connected time with our parent or family member and completely engrossed in what would come next. These cozy feelings and learning opportunities are what we work to give to our children.

In this post, you will learn how to conduct a read-aloud for maximum connection and learning for your child.

Why the read aloud?
Learning: Reading aloud is proven to build vocabulary, giving access to an author’s usual words in addition to our own usual words. Studies show that children who are read aloud to hear over 30,000 more words than children who are not read to daily. Being read to is the #1 indicator of increased vocabulary, grammar skills, and overall love of reading. 

Connection: Fostering calm, connected spaces for kids to learn is my main reason for doing the work I do. Nothing works better for this purpose than reading aloud with your children. Reading aloud calms our bodies, releasing serotonin. We know the feeling of diving into a book and letting it take over our entire nervous system, and we know the feeling of starting to read aloud and our child relaxing into us. All of these are proven, chemical responses and our body’s way of telling us “this is good for you.”

So, how can we make a read aloud the most effective practice possible? One that your children will want to keep coming back to day after day, year after year. How can we ensure your child is learning actively and not just hearing a story, and, conversely, not feeling like they’re constantly being quizzed? 

Here are a few steps to take each time you go to read aloud to increase engagement, learning, and, most importantly, calm connection. 

  1. Preview the front and back of the book. Though we do always say to others not to judge a book by its cover, it’s important for us to teach children what to look out for and how to predict what may happen. This is part also of becoming a critical consumer of text. 
    • Show them the cover. Say “What might this book be about? Who might be the main character? Does this book look like it will be realistic or imaginary?” All of these questions plant the seeds to becoming a critical consumer of text. They also show the child how to start thinking about books, making predictions about what might happen before even reading it. 
    • For an example of what this looks like, check out my brief video here walking you through the process.
  2. Wonder Aloud. Many parents want to get their children thinking by asking questions. I do encourage questions and will talk a bit about how to ask questions next week. However, one of the most important things you can do in a read-aloud is to wonder aloud, or take our internal monologue and say it out loud. This is a “model” for children- showing them what goes on inside your own head as a reader and what good readers always do. Good readers are forever thinking about what they’re reading, making sense of the text, comparing it to what they already know or have heard. Continue this process by wondering aloud. Instead of asking a question, try saying: 
    • “Hmm, I wonder what this character is going to do next?” 
    • “I love how the illustrator used so much color here. THe other pages are black and white. This makes me think that probably the character is getting to be happier and more comfortable in their surroundings because everything is showing up as more cheerful and colorful”
    • “I would/wouldn’t want a friend like that because…” 
    • “I see there are a lot of books here. I know that books make you smarter, so maybe this character is smart.” 
    • For an example of how to do this, and in memory of the amazing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I have a video here.
  3. Point to the words and notice the print. For younger readers, pointing to the words shows them when one word begins and another ends. It shows them that a word is a group of letters with space after it and that we read from right to left. For older readers, you may point out the author’s use of space, punctuation, and other writing clues the author gives us on how to read their text.  You can try saying: 
    • “The author puts one
      Hmm. That makes me want to slow down, read each word, and pay close attention to what’s happening here. Maybe that’s why the author did that.”
    • “There’s an exclamation point here! Let me re-read this and go up at the end and sound excited since that’s what ane exclamation mark is for!”
  4. Use voices and act it out: This comes naturally to many parents, but a quick plug here to make the read-aloud interesting! Express yourself, use your body language, use funny voices, and ensure that your child is as invested in the story as you are. 

The read-aloud is one of the most powerful tools we have to educate our children and foster a calm, connected household. Through following some of these steps, you can ensure that you are reading aloud to build connections and further learning all at the same time.

Want to learn more about reading aloud at home and fostering a love of family literacy? Leave a comment here or reach out to me on my website

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