Sunday, June 21, 2009

FAQ's about reading to children

Here's a list of questions I was often asked as a teacher about reading to children. Hope you find this interesting...
1. What age is too young to start reading to my child?
No age! Really. From birth on. Before if you like. You don't even have to read a children's book. I used to read the paper to my son when he was very little. It's just the whole being snuggled up with you and hearing your voice that they love. Apart from the wonderful relationship building, it's a great way to make reading apart of life from the get go.
2. When should I read?
Whenever. I try to make it apart of our daily routine. Many parents read a bedtime story or read a book before nap time. Books are also great things to pull out when you have an upset, unsettled child. I also carry books in my bag to read if I happen to be out and stuck in some long line at the supermarket or waiting at the doctors office with wriggly kids.
3. What should I read?
There are plenty of great suggestions for age appropriate books just right for your child. Librarians are happy to offer advice, so are teachers and bookstore staff. My advice is read whatever your child loves. I happen to loathe some of the crappy books my son picks up in discount stores, but he loves them and so away we go... reading, reading.
4. Where should I read?
Okay, I have some specific advice here. Children will not be inclined to curl up with a book if there is no quiet place in your house for reading to occur. One parent asked me why her daughter would not concentrate on stories. I asked her where they read and she said the lounge room...with the TV on (even on mute) and others walking in and out. I would suggest a regular reading spot that the two of you can curl up together with no other distractions competing for their attention. I read to my eldest son on my bed and my youngest on a comfy chair in his room. Quiet, snuggly and away from toys, TVs and possibly other siblings.
5. How long should I read?
As long as you are both enjoying it and not so long that either one of you starts to feel this is a chore. One father told me very proudly that he read to his children every night for half an hour. His kids were two and six. His eldest son was in my class and hated reading. I wonder why! Start with one book, keep it short and fun and they will come back begging for more. I now have  a limit on the time I read with my sons, otherwise they would never get to sleep! Isaiah especially would have me reading till midnight :) 
6. But they want the same book over and over again!
I know, I know. I hear your pain. I cannot look at 'The Poky Little Puppy' without feeling ill thanks to Isaiah's obsession with the book when he was three. But this is exactly what you want. Children learn to read when they are confident in their knowledge of familiar words and story lines. Seeing the same words and hearing them read over and over may send you to the edge of sanity, but children really need to hear stories read multiple times if they are to learn to read themselves. Isaiah began to pick out repetitive words like 'the' and 'Poky Puppy' from this text. This all adds up to pre-reading skills and will immensely aid you child in learning to read unfamiliar texts. Isaiah couldn't believe the word 'the' popped up in so many other books!
7. Is it too late to start?
No...and yes. The earlier you start the better. But, if your child is now 13, then yes you have probably missed the boat, simply because they won't see this as valuable and will think they are way past being read to. If your child is reading to themselves already and you haven't established a love of spending time together reading books then you may already find they are struggling with reading and the last thing they want to do is spend more time practising with you. IF you have  boys start reading to them young. Later they will have so many other more physical things they would rather be doing and statistically boys struggle with reading the most
8. What age should I stop reading to my child?
Never. I am serious. As long as you and your child are enjoying this time together and want to continue, the benefits are immeasurable. My mother read to my sister and I until we were in our early teens. I just like listening to her read and enjoyed spending time sitting beside her while she read a novel aloud. We would then discuss it and pull the plot and characters apart!
My own son has been reading for almost 2 years and together we now read chapter books. Some of these he could read for himself, but he loves snuggling up next to me. And I get the opportunity to read more difficult text that he could not read for himself, but is keen to understand. If your child is only reading to themselves, they will only read what they can read. Makes sense. But if you read to them you can choose books just above their reading level and advance their knowledge of words and meaning behind text even further. 
9. Do I need to teach them something while I read?
No. Definitely not. Just by reading and enjoying books together you are already 'teaching' far more than you realise. If they ask questions by all means answer them, but the key is to have so much fun that the two of you can't wait to do this 'reading thing' again.
If you have any other questions please leave them in the comments and I'll get back to you, or email me at

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  1. i love reading to my 16-month old. i recently found a great book that has pictures of everything she knows...and consequently, she now has all that vocabulary! great post...great reminder that love of reading can be instilled at an early age.

  2. Thanks Jeannie. I checked out your new blog: Character Therapist. Can't wait to see what you post, i am very interested :) So I joined up. Thanks for coming over to check me out and following my blog. Hope you continue to enjoy it.