Reading FOR and WITH your child

Having children read early, widely and frequently - and for pleasure - will not only deliver better grades, but it will also give them a happier, richer and more flourishing childhood and, eventually, adult life.

[Read the full article here:ST_Out-with-tuition-and-in-with-a-reading-nation_2907151]

The quote I have used in the earlier paragraph was from an article in The Straits Times by a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies and an assistant professor at the National Institute of Education. I am sure there will be differing views as to whether having children who read widely will eventually remove the need for parents to hire tutors in Singapore. But I definitely agree with having reading as a habit children should be encouraged to enjoy early in life.

Reading for adults is different. For us,a new experience will stimulate the release of opioids that makes us go wow! By the third and fourth time, that same experience loses its flavour and becomes a been there, done that for us. Fewer neurons are firing in our brains and we crave for the next exciting new stimulation. Hence, getting hold of a new pre-ordered book title is a more exciting read than reading it for the subsequent number of times.

However, the same cannot be said for reading for your little ones. Read it again, mom/dad! Ever noticed that young children seem to have a bedtime story that they repeatedly want you to read? You may have read the book cover to cover, discussed the illustrations at great lengths and consolidated the reading with the child's opinion on the moral of the story. Yet, they will select the same book on the following day's bedtime or reading session. You may have enjoyed reading it for and with your child the first 5 times but why are your children not sharing your bored sentiment when you've read it 20 times?

Repeated reading gives your child a sense of mastery. Your child retains the meaning of the stories and language patterns better with every reading. They also find comfort in the routine just like how they want to go to the same swing at the playground or have a particular bowl they like at the dinner table. When your little ones repeat, it is not that they are trying to be difficult or particular.He/ She is exercising a built-in learning strategy that supports his/her growing mind.


How to read for children?

  1. Decide on a time that will routinely become 'Reading Time' with your children (Eg. Bedtime, on the way to school on the train)
  2. Let your child select the book
  3. Discuss the cover page's illustrations and title. Get your child to predict the story based on the title.
  4. Read aloud expressively. Don't forget to point to the words as you read as this will help your child in word recognition.
  5. Make it fun by changing your voice intonation when you are reading for a particular character in the book.
  6. Continue to discuss the illustrations as you go along. Your child becomes an active participant in the reading when you involve him/her in the prediction of story (what happens next)
  7. After the story is complete, get your child to discuss how he/she feels about the story. Did the story ended the way he/she expected? Why? Is there a lesson that you and your child can learn from this story?
  8. Reread the story without stopping for anymore discussions or predictions with your child joining in if he/she likes.

In the lower primary classrooms of Singapore schools, the STELLAR approach for reading is used in teaching of English language. The procedure for the class' big book reading is very similar to the one I have just summarized above.

In some of my earlier parent-teacher meetings, one of the questions raised by parents was how to make reading with their children fun for both their little ones as well as themselves without getting caught in the monotony.

How to read with your child for the umpteenth time?

  1. Make an agreement with your child that you will read up to three books. Two should be the ones that your child chooses and one that you choose. This way you can put a book in the rotation that you will also enjoy reading. This will also give you a chance to read something different and expose your child to a new reading title.
  2. Some suggestions on what to do/discuss when reading with your child over multiple times. You can choose to do this any order:
    • Focus on vocabulary words in the story. Discussion of meanings.
    • Focus on grammatical use(eg. past tense and present tense use)
    • Focus on the description of characters (if any is provided in the story) Who was your favourite character, why?
    • Focus on the type of font and punctuation used (eg. Why do you think this word is bigger and darker than the rest? [to show the character is saying it loudly. When do you see this symbol (eg. question mark or exclamation mark)?]
    • Focus on storyline (Which part of the story would you change if you were the author? Why?/ Do you think there would be a second part to this story? How would you write it?)
    • While you will do most of the reading, get your child to read selected parts of the story (eg. a sentence or phrase that seems to be repeated in the story. This helps them learn to recognize words)
    • Discuss what your child would like to know more about from the story he/she has read(eg. Where is Antartica? [eg. if the book mentions an unfamiliar place]) . Look up a video on the internet and share it with your child which could also become an extension activity to his/her reading with you.

Reading with your child is a wonderful way to bond. It creates a sense of security and comfort knowing there will be a shared time with you that they can depend on despite your busy day at work and his/her time spent away at school. Even with very young toddlers, listening to the sound of your voice reading helps them to learn to love books as much as they love you.

Enjoy reading!


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