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Reading Aloud with Joy, a few tips

By Beverley Paine

The other night my four year old granddaughter begged me to read to her. I didn't have my reading glasses on, hence my initial reluctance, but by way of compromise I suggested she picks a book with large letters. She ran off to the shelf happily only to come back with one with small letters, which all looked like Chinese characters to me. I explained a little more clearly (I hoped!) and back she went, coming back with six more books, all of them suitable for my not so efficient eyes.

It can be hard to feel enthusiastic about reading aloud to our young children (grandchildren in my case). Especially after the tenth book is offered up by those eager hands and your throat is sounding a little hoarse. And sometimes these mammoth reading sessions tend to put us off of engaging with the activity again, especially if we're feeling pushed for time. Reading aloud to young children is the foundation of a life-long love affair with books and stories. It's the fastest way to help them learn to read too, burying in their subconscious the motivation to read. Reading opens up their lives to whole new worlds, and while someone else is willing to read to them it's always exciting and fun.

So how can we make it just as much fun for ourselves, to help motivate us to want to do it (over and again!)

Quality reading time together isn't just about you plodding through the text: it includes asking your child questions, pointing at and talking about the pictures and images, wondering aloud where the story might be heading, reacting to what you've read, personalising it, and so on. It's an opportunity to start a discussion (if the child wants). Last week we talked about the morals of ther version of Jack and the Beanstalk after I had read it and what would happen to us if we'd done what Jack had: stolen the giant's property and then killed him. We didn't dwell on this for long, because another story had to be read, but it was a little less boring for me.

Think about what engages you when you're listening to someone read. The same monotonous tone soon lulls us to a sleepy state. It's much better if the person varies their tone, or uses accents for funny voices for different characters. If they vary the pace to match the action all the better as it helps to create tension and anticipation.

My daughter taught herself to read at an early age and would often correct me if I left out a word or changed a sentence, following the sentences on each page intently. Most children don't care though and will enjoy a few small changes or twists to the story. It really does help to keep our interest in the story alive, especially if we've read it a dozen times recently. And some children delight in filling in missing words, or completing sentences. Especially if they are just beginning to put reading altogether in their mind: my granddaughter whispers the words as I read, not content with merely listening and she loves finishing the sentences.

Don't be afraid to play with the story and make a game out of reading it with your children. Some children love correcting us if we change the character's name or say the wrong one or include a different ending or part to the story. If it is a favourite story they'll know what it should be. Start with outrageous or ridiculous words that definitely don't belong in that story. Why not try telling the story instead of reading it, using the pictures as a guide if it is a picture book, making up your own story.

Think of reading aloud to your children as an opportunity to get to know them a little better, a time to cuddle close and share ideas, thoughts and experiences as well as simply getting through yet another book. Children love being read to - and there is a very good reason for that. It's fun, it's enjoyable, it's mind expanding. And they have your undivided attention. And you have theirs. So use this time to enjoy your children's company to the max!

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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