Reading to Children

We are reading Charlotte’s Web, our first chapter reading book of the school year. In just these first weeks of school, children are already hooked on this wonderful book. The older children laugh when the goose repeats things three times. All the children now love and know the animals in the barnyard. Imagine how exciting it will be for them when we read book after book throughout the school year. With each chapter reading book, the excitement and anticipation of ‘what will happen next’ is sometimes spellbinding. The ending of each book is so satisfying, yet sad that it is over. Then the next day, we start the wonderful roller coaster of reading again, with a new book.

Today we read a sentence in the book that said Charlotte was ‘motionless’. That’s a new vocabulary word. We always stop our reading when we encounter a new word. Jackson said, “Like when Steve went (then he went into a frozen position).” He was right! Recalling an event in a different story, and then making the same connection to language in a new story is important. Claire said, “It means like a statue”. She was right! Listening comprehension comes before reading comprehension.

Reading aloud is the gift of language, and language is the most important element in a child’s development and success in school. Wow! The number of words a child knows can be directly attributed to his or her success in school; not just in English, but in Math and Science as well. I think those words are perhaps the most important words a parent can hear.  Imagine that; read aloud to your children, and they will do better in school.

People will often ask why I chapter read. After all, many of the children in my classroom are three-years-old. When we chapter read, the children don’t have an image from a picture book. They have to make the picture in their head. That requires language development. The more they hear, the more they learn. Even the youngest children will benefit enormously. They may not ‘get’ the humor of the goose, but they are still getting a huge dose of language.

We will always read picture books, at least twice a day. That is a given! As in chapter books, we stop to ask questions when we read. That’s how we learn! Remember the five W’s? Why, what, when, where, who? Those are the most important questions, because they are the foundation for language. We stop our reading all the time to ask these questions.

The ‘must have’ standard book for parents (and teachers) on reading aloud is The Read-Aloud Handbook, a national bestseller, by Jim Trelease.  If you’re looking for statistics and hard facts on the huge difference reading aloud makes in test scores and excelling in ALL areas of learning, this is your book.  If you’re looking for stories about the differences it makes (these are my favorites), this is your book.  Check out the worst performing middle school in Massachusetts, and Cuban cigars.  If you’re looking for a book list of the really good books to read aloud to children (listed by all ages and all categories), this is your book.

Reading aloud is a strong part of my classroom curriculum, and children love it! The more you do this at home, as well, adds to your child’s development. The biggest bonus is bonding together. Nothing beats snuggling with Mom or Dad, one-on-one, reading a book. Life is good!


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
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4 Responses to Reading to Children

  1. John Lippitt says:

    Jennie, You are awesome! Early language and literacy skills are crucially important and lay a critical foundation for later learning – and also for cognitive skills and reasoning. Chapter books require the development of recall and memory, as well as learning to delay gratification – of learning what comes next and the end of the story. These executive function skills are also a critical foundation for later learning and success in life. My guess, although we don’t have the data yet to prove it, is that these executive function skills are as important as early language and literacy skills – and that there are significant gaps in these skills among children.

  2. jlfatgcs says:

    Well said, John. You have hit the nail on the head. Thank you!

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