Growing up, my mom read to my brother, sister and me all the time. I don’t remember many times when I was wee little, but her example later in life as she read to her daycare children, stuck. My fifth grade year, Mom would clean up supper dishes and then we’d sit down in the living room and she’d read to us Angel Unaware by Dale Evans Rogers. The memory is with me to this day of the feeling of contentment and peace sitting and listening to Mom’s voice. I’ve continued the tradition by reading after dinner with my family.
Choose a Book with Appeal
When choosing a book, consider the age of the child and the attention span. I’ve read to two-year-olds. However, I chose a book that had lots of pictures and things the child could look at. When reading to my own kids, I picked out books they either recommended to me or gave them an option of several interesting ones and then let them decide.
What will appeal? Good question. For younger children, I’d suggest picture books with vibrant colors. For very young ones, the Dr. Seuss books are great for that. Another good author is Jan Brett. Her books combine great story-lines with amazing drawings. Unique books also are good. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat is one such book. It has cut outs to create the drawings. For older kids, you’ll want good stories. Think of the ones that you enjoyed growing up. Blend some of the classics with some modern day stories. A good resource for a list of books to read at different ages is Honey for a Child’s Soul.
Stretch Your Child
A pet peeve of mine is when people talk down to kids. When they do this, it’s as if they’re saying the child is not of importance. I say, believe in your child. Stretch your child’s imagination, vocabulary, and attention span. Test different styles of books to read to your child. Just because it’s not in his or her age range, may not mean it isn’t perfect for the two of you to sit down and read. Often people think that children can’t understand large vocabulary. I disagree. Lemony Snicket used big words in his A Series of Unfortunate Events. Each book centered around one word that sometimes I didn’t even know what it meant. He would explain it at the beginning and then move on and continue to use it throughout the book. When I wrote the Dragon Courage series, I read it to my children who were eight, eleven and twelve at the time. The nine-year-old sat through all of them eating them up and asking for more. The other two came and went, but still have favorite characters from the stories. The series is rated at middle grade, but I didn’t talk down to them. Even when my editor pointed out words, I thought through them and often decided to keep them and let kids look them up or ask an adult what it means.
One of my now twenty-two=year-old’s favorite bed-time stories when he was about two was the Berenstein Bears In the Dark. It wasn’t because of the story itself but because how we read it to him. We moved him around with the bears, and at the end when sister bear bends over the edge of the bunk bed and yells “boo” to brother bear, we’d reenact it every time.
With little ones, I’ve watched my mom point out the items in the pictures. She’ll ask, “Where’s the bird? Do you see the bird?” then wait until the child points with her. I’ve also used my finger to point to the words. Soon, the little ones are using their finger to follow along as well. This is not only keeping them involved, but it helps them with reading readiness which their kindergarten teacher will thank you for.
Change your voice around as you read. Be the different characters. Have fun with it. Kids love it when you have fun with them.
Audio books can be great at this. If you sit down and listen to an audio book with your child, you can have memories of a book read aloud that you both experienced together as hearers. From 2012-14, I had a fifty minute commute to work. I took my middle son along as he attended school where I taught. We’d use that fifty minutes one way to listen to audio books. We traveled through the worlds of Peter Pan and the Starcatchers, The Beyonders, and many more. We participated together in the unwinding of the plot and character development. We’d discuss what we thought would happen, how we’d have written it if we were the authors, and sometimes even real life values based on what we were hearing.
An alternative to a professional audio book is a self-made one. When my family moved to Ecuador for eleven months, we took the three-month-old granddaughter, and two-and-a-half-year-old grandson from my parents. They made the best of it by recording tapes of grandma reading to the grandkids. Later, when we returned, a friend we met in Ecuador sent a tape to our son of her reading his favorite books. She added a fun twist. She got books she knew he had and could follow along with. So, as she read and would get to the bottom of the page, she’d say “ding, ding, turn the page”. After that, no matter who read to him, we had to use, “ding, ding, turn the page”. In today’s technology of recorders, it would be even easier to do this.
This all sounds nice and easy. It is. The hardest part is getting up and going to your local library and picking out a book. You can do it. Maybe try one of these already mentioned, or pick up one of your favorites from growing up. Here’s a list of my favorite books you can choose from. So, go out there and start reading to your child.