Reading to your child from the time he or she is born is a wonderful, rewarding activity. Not only does it serve as an opportunity for bonding and developing a close relationship, it is also educational, helping your young child develop vocabulary, comprehension, and pre-reading skills.
Active reading takes that process one step further. According to Read with Me: Engaging Your Young Child in Active Reading by Samantha Cleaver and Momo Richardson, “the goal of Active Reading is to have a conversation while you read the book in a way that makes reading engaging, interactive, and fun.” Instead of simply reading the words while the child passively listens, you involve them in the process.
Here are some tools you can use to engage your child while you read:
Talk about the pictures
Look at the pictures in the book. Pay attention to what your child is interested in on the page. Have your child guess what might happen in the story based on the illustrations. Wordless picture books also offer the opportunity for a child to create a story around what is happening in the pictures.
Read the Same Books Over and Over
Most young children have a favorite story that they like to have read to them again and again. At times, parents may be desperate to read something else (ask any parent who has read Goodnight Moon every night for a year!), but that repeated reading is actually good for your child’s language development.
Cleaver and Richardson state that “repeated reading increases kids’ language and vocabulary and allows children to start predicting the story and language in the story.” Once a child knows a story by heart, you can use fill-in-the-blank prompts, leaving off the last word of a sentence or rhyme and having the child fill in the missing word.
Asking your child questions about stories can help children begin to understand story structure and develop comprehension. This need not be a test-like situation in which you ask a child question after question but rather an opportunity to have a conversation about the story. You might ask the child to predict what will happen next or state how a character might be feeling at a given moment.
Introduce New Vocabulary
You can discuss words that a child may not be familiar with. Picture books often use words we don’t necessarily use in everyday conversation. Children may be able to pick up the meanings of many words through context, but some words can be challenging. You can connect unfamiliar words with words that a child does know.
Narration simply means to have the child retell the story in his or her own words. When a child retells a story, it becomes part of the child and increases retention and understanding.
Play with Language
While formal reading instruction is not needed with young children (ages 2 – 5), you can help a child develop pre-reading skills by playing with the sounds of words. Play rhyming games with your child or have them point out words that begin with the same sound. Older preschoolers may have fun counting words or counting syllables.
Reading with your child is always a beneficial activity, but active reading helps engage your young child even more and helps set him or her on the path to being a lifelong reader.