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'Read it again, Mom!' Enhancing the parent-child reading experience

'Read it again, Mom!' Enhancing the parent-child reading experience

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Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — When my mother comes to visit her young grandchildren, she packs her suitcase with children's picture books. Guess what the grandchildren look forward to do with grandma as they curl up together on the couch?

Adult-child reading fosters pleasure and relationship bonding and the scholastic benefits are astounding. Reading 20 minutes a day to children from birth through 5 years old is strongly linked to kindergarten readiness. Furthermore, reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of graduation from high school and career success.

Educator Patrice Monnier summarized research this way:

  • Students who scored 90 percent better than their peers on reading tests, read for more than 20 minutes a day, exposing them to 1.8 million words a year.
  • Students who scored at 50 percentile, read on average only 4.6 minutes a day, exposing them to 282,000 words per year.
  • Students in the 10 percentile for reading, read less than 1 minute per day, exposing them to 8,000 words per year. (It would take them one year to read as many words as what a good reader would read in two days.)
As a professional educator and mother of five grown children, I have a lot of tricks for sharing books with kids. It's more than just opening up a book and reading the words. Parents can create a book trailer, like a movie, to entice a child to read. Prepare your child before even opening a picture storybook, then involve him in the reading and discuss a thinking question at the end.

Here is a template for meaningful book sharing:

Introduction

Start with an introduction and discussion, using the theme of the book. For example, "Have you ever seen a mouse? What do they look like? Do they really like cheese?" Show your child the front of the book and talk about what she sees on the cover. Now give a short summary of the best parts, or a book trailer: "This is a book about a mouse who loves to eat cheese and a cat who wants to eat the mouse. Do you think the cat will catch the mouse?"

The next part involves asking them to listen for something so they can develop critical thinking.

A sample critical thinking question: "While I read this book, I would like you to see how the mouse figures out a way to eat the cheese before the cat catches him."

For a toddler or preschooler, simplify the question such as, "Let's read the book and see if the mouse can hide from the cat." If you are reading a chapter book to an older child, review what has happened in previous chapters and ask some kind of critical thinking question about what you are about to read.

Shared book experience

Shared reading involves your child in whatever appropriate ways you choose. Here are five to try out:

  1. Chanting together repeated phrases or words
  2. Stopping at predictable parts and asking children to fill in a key word
  3. Echo reading (the child repeats back a phrase you have read)
  4. Making plot predictions ("I wonder what will happen next")
  5. Applying the storyline to real-life experiences

No. 2 works best with young children and a rhyming book. "My cat is fat and she ate a ______." The pictures should give her a clue to the missing rhyming word. An example of No. 5 might be, "Why do you think this lion looks so unhappy? Are you ever sad when you get wet, too?" Making predictions and applying to real life is especially useful for chapter books, before starting each new chapter.

Chanting together repetitive phrases is one of my favorites with picture books. When you have a repetitive phrase, like "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!" ask the child to say it aloud with you on every page it appears. Be sure to track your finger along so she can see how the words translate into the familiar sounds.

An example of a post-discussion question: "Did the mouse get the cheese? How did the mouse outsmart the cat? Do you have a cat for a pet? What do you feed it?"

I don't always create a pre- and post-critical thinking question with short picture books, but I do use them with chapter books. I always figure out a way to introduce the picture book, get a child involved in wanting to hear what it is about, and involving him while I read. If appropriate, I discuss the book's message afterward and relate it to the child's life or react meaningfully to it.

Choosing a book

Choose quality books, recommended by your librarian and other professionals. Engaging picture books will have build-upon or repetitive phrases, while others are rhythmical, which is really important for early readers to hear often. Gauge your child's attention span by how long the book should be. For older children, I like to give a chapter book the "three-chapter test." If it hasn't grabbed the child's interest by the third chapter, move on to another book.

So pick up a book tonight when you tuck your child in for bed. Read for 20 minutes, talking about the book and discussing your day together. Make it a daily ritual, like brushing your teeth. When you hear, "Read it again, mom!" it's the highest compliment you can earn.


Julie K. Nelson is a mother, wife, professor, author of "Keep It Real and Grab a Plunger: 25 tips for surviving parenthood" and "Parenting With Spiritual Power." She is also a contributor on radio and TV. Her website is aspoonfulofparenting.com.

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