3. Read to them.
If you’re the parent of a pre-schooler, this one may seem like stating the bleeding obvious. But many parents make the mistake of stopping bedtime stories as soon as their children become independent readers. Why? Everyone loves a story. We are surrounded by story tellers in our world. All movies and television shows tell a story. Singers and performers tell a story with their on stage “patter”. And everyone loves a stand up comedian. The essence of their routine is story telling.
Everyone loves a good story and everyone equally enjoys being read to, including children of all ages. I read to my children well beyond the time that they could read by themselves, and it was a special time. The bonding which can develop with this nightly ritual is best illustrated by the book The reading promise, where a young American woman Alice Ozma documents the nightly reading ritual undertaken by her single father who read to her every night until she went to college. The reading promise is a powerful read. Not only does it document the incredibly close relationship forged by this nightly ritual, the academic effects of the read aloud are also obvious: Alice completed a degree in English literature and graduated top of her class.
Reading aloud is an historical tradition. In Victorian England, the most common form of entertainment was reading aloud. You may have read novels in which young men and women would read aloud to their guests or members of their family, and indeed, many a young man’s eligibility was judged by this proficiency in this art. Tone, enunciation and expression were all highly prized and regarded in the after dinner parlour in the 19th century!
I do “read alouds” with my students all the time. High school students. Boys. They love it. The more I perform the story, the more involved they become. Character voices, dramatic pauses, soft whispers and loud exclamations…it hooks them (and many a teacher who has been in the library at the time). The power of the story read aloud is that you can stop at the exciting point. For reluctant readers, by stopping at the moment of suspense, they will find it very difficult not to pick the book up themselves to start reading from where you finished. And even if they don’t finish the whole book, at least they read the section you were on. It’s the hook…and it’s a start.
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