Growing Into Books

How to Read to Your Child

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Help Your Child Learn While You Read To Him

Here are some ideas to try when you read to your child. These will help your child enjoy himself and learn as you read together. Talking together as you read is important. You will find ideas for talking about the books, as well as ideas for reading books.

Choose one or two things you would like to try first. Add others when you feel ready. You might add ideas of your own, too. The best read-alouds are when you and your child have fun and talk together while you look at or read a book.

The ideas that follow are divided into things you can do

  • Before
  • During
  • After you read.
Try them out, one or two at a time. Keep doing the ones that work for you and your child.

Before You Read

  • Let your child choose the story, and the place to sit for the reading. Make sure your child can see the pictures well.


  • If your child has trouble sitting still, find something for him to hold or play with during the story. Maybe he would like to hold something related to the story (a teddy bear for "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"). Your child might like to color or draw while you read to him.


  • Talk about the pictures on the cover of the book. Ask your child what he thinks the book might be about, or who the book might be about.


  • Read the title of the book. Point to the words as you read them.


  • Read the names of the author and illustrator. If you have read other books by those persons, talk about which books they were.

While You Read

  • Give your child time to look at the pictures before you turn the pages. Talk about the pictures. Pictures help your child understand the story.


  • Let your child ask questions and talk about the story. This helps your child understand the story. If your child gets off-track, say, "I want to hear more about that, but let's finish our story first." Then, after the story, remember to give your child a chance to talk about the "off-track" topic.


  • Allow your child to join in or fill in words. Your child will like to do this, especially when you read familiar parts of stories. You can say—"Little pig, little pig, let me come in!" And your child can say, "Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!"


  • Sometimes move your finger from left to right under the print as you read. This shows your child where the words are, and we read from left to right.


  • Point out words that you think your child might be able to remember, for example:


    • familiar words: "The End"
    • words printed in larger letters: "NO!"
    • words that are repeated: "Stop Gingerbread Boy!".


  • When some words are printed in large letters, read them loudly. Point to these words. Ask your child to say them loudly with you.


  • Sometimes, pictures have conversation bubbles. Be sure to read the words in the bubbles. Point to them and read them as you talk about the pictures. "This one says, 'moo-ha'"


  • Talk about the story as you read. Ask questions. Say, "I wonder what will happen next." Talk about what is happening in the story. And, talk about how the characters might feel: happy, sad, worried, etc.


  • Read with expression and feeling. Pause before important words and emphasize them. "Then the wolf…ATE Red Riding Hood's grandmother."

After You Read

  • Talk about the story and how it ended. Take turns to:


    • tell your favorite part of the story
    • show your favorite picture
    • tell each other what you did and didn't like about the book
    • talk about other ways the story might have turned out.


  • Help your child remember the story:


    • ask her to tell someone else about the story
    • make a picture about it
    • act out some of the story
    • remember to talk about stories at other times, too. For example, when your child is playing in the sandbox, say, "Let's use these twigs to make a house for the little pig. You can be the wolf and try to blow it in!"


  • Ask your child to "pretend read" the story to you. She can "pretend read" it to someone else, or even to a toy animal or doll. For example, when your child plays "House", ask your child to read to the doll baby. Let your child hold the book and turn the pages to retell the story. Don't expect your child to remember the exact words from the book, but she will remember some of them. When she tries to remember the words, this helps her learn to read. Be careful not to laugh at the sweet mistakes you will hear. When we laugh at children, they often think they did something wrong. If your child's feelings get hurt, she might stop trying to read.
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last updated 4/25/05
©2004 The Pennsylvania State University
U.Ed. LIB 03-64