Why Read Aloud?

In recent years, there has been a dramatic reduction in relative reading and writing ability in young adults compared to the previous generation. Employers have been complaining about the poor level of communication skills (article here) in young adults looking to start their career. This has led to jobs being unfilled and a rise in unemployment. Even those who are employed are displaying a lack of ability, wasting countless man hours because of their poor verbal and written communication skills.

Basic reading and writing skill levels have dropped mainly because of the rise in the influence of technology in our lives. Countless hours of television, spell checking software and the rise of shorthand in text communication has affected an entire generation of young adult.

There has also been a steep decline in the amount of time parents spend reading to their children. Reading aloud has never been more important, both in developing your child’s communication skills and for developing a closer relationship.

What can we do to improve the reading and writing skills of our children?

One such method is reading aloud. Reading aloud to children has been around for centuries but its not just the act of reading aloud that improves communications skills. This article is going to focus on the ways you can use effective reading aloud techniques to improve your child’s communication skills.

How To Make Reading Aloud More Effective

This article is primarily focused on kindergarten and first grade children because it is during these years that the most formative changes take place.

1. What Kind Of Texts?

The books that are read aloud can and should include more challenging content than the level of the child’s current understanding. Young children can handle challenging content and their oral comprehension is far higher than their written competence, so reading more complex material out loud will increase their understanding.

2. What Kind Of Discussion?

Researchers have pointed out that the most valuable aspect of reading aloud is to experience words which are not usual in their lives. While reading aloud, one of the most effective strategies is a discussion on what is being read. A quality discussion around the reading of a book will introduce rare vocabulary, teach effective story telling techniques, and teach the specific rules of talk such as narrative and explanation.

Group discussions in which the children are expected to reflect on the important story ideas were found to be most beneficial, rather than expecting a quick response.

Interspersed open questions require the children to describe and explain what they have understood, instead of recalling specific words from the text.

3. The Effect Of Pictures

Pictures are a hallmark of children’s books, however, research has found that having a pictorial representation in a book is not always beneficial. It was found that the pictures in a book interfered with the child’s own ability to construct a meaning from what is being read. Children rely on pictures to construct a meaning for them and they miss opportunities to construct their own meaning from what is being read to them.

In general, pictures should be presented to children after a text has been read and discussed.

4. The Importance Of Providing Background Knowledge

During the reading aloud experiments, it was observed that the children responded to open questions about the story by using their own background knowledge alone. It became important to highlight the difference between the background story of the characters in the book and that of the child.

For example, as part of a background to a story, we are told the George the monkey doesn’t like bananas. If we were to ask a child whether they thought George would like a banana, they would say yes, based on their own experience, but with some background knowledge, they are able to see it from another perspective.

5. The Development Of Vocabulary

Improving vocabulary skills is an obvious benefit to reading because of the strong relationship between vocabulary competence and reading ability. One of the most successful strategies in improving vocabulary skills while reading aloud was to select specific words and reiterating their meaning. A good word to choose would be one which is unfamiliar to the child, but relates to a concept which they can understand and identify with.

A good way to improve vocabulary while reading aloud is as follows:

“Lisa was reluctant to leave school without her friend. Reluctant means you are not sure you want to do something. Say it with me: Reluctant.

Someone might be reluctant to eat food they don’t recognize, or ride a roller coaster because it looks scary.

Think about something you may be reluctant to do. Start the sentence with: I am reluctant to…”

This exercise is very effective in introducing new words into a child’s vocabulary.

For more information of the benefits of reading aloud, check the study here. For a selection of the best short stories for children, check out our post here.

By implementing these techniques, you can improve your child’s reading and writing skills from a very early age as well as introducing them to the world of books. There are many benefits of reading, and improving your child’s communication skills will serve them for the rest of their lives.