read aloudSchool’s starting and we’re all–parents, teachers, and librarians alike– thinking about ways to help kids learn. Here’s my number one suggestion to make this your child’s best year yet!

Read aloud to your kidsbefore they learn to read and after they learn to read.

I spoke with a parent last week who was worried (and rightly so) that her sister did not read to her kids, “too busy,” she said. Probably the same sister wants her kids to do well in school. Well, it won’t happen if they are not read to. Period. This one is backed by years of research; it’s really not open to discussion. Am I being a “hard a..” about this? Yep, because it’s that important. Not reading to your kid is up there with not feeding them. And I know you wouldn’t do that. 😉 (Check out most of my posts about reading and early literacy to learn more or email me or leave a comment and we can talk more.)

Why continue reading to them after they know how? Because you can read the books they aren’t able to read yet. There’s a space of time between the initial thrill and glow of “getting” how reading works and being able to read fluently. During that time, reading is, quite honestly, hard work (we adults forget that). It’s also pretty dry and boring. Early reader books do the best they can, but there’s only so much one can do with very limited vocabularies.

That’s where YOU come in! You can read above their reading level. You can read the fun books, the exciting books, the good stories. In other words, you can read the books that motivate a child to want to practice and practice and practice their reading so that one day, too, they can walk into the library, pick out any book they want, and read it! What a day! But it takes time to get there and your reading aloud in the meantime is the juice that keeps things going.

An added bonus is that you are secretly preparing your child for the next step in reading. Listening to you they hear new words, new sentence structures, new story patterns. And when they reach that reading level on their own, it all sounds familiar–and therefore, it’s easier to decipher, even the first time around.

If you’re not sure what to read, check out Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook. He reviews hundreds of books that read aloud well (not all books do). He also gives suggested age and grade levels based on emotional development, language, and  interest. I’ve never read a bad one from his suggestions.

You can also ask your friendly neighborhood children’s librarian. 😉

Happy New School Year! Happy New Read-Aloud Year!