How do you read aloud?

What does reading to a baby/todder look like? Or what should it look like? Usually when I read to my son, it consists of me reading (or reciting) the words on the pages. Sometimes I turn the pages, sometimes he turns the pages. But I really don’t explain the pictures that accompany the words (I don’t have much use for wordless books; kind of hard to read them.) I still appreciate books with good illustration, but for me, they’re not much part of the actual reading-to. He’s not able to read the words yet, but he can look at the pictures, which is what you do with them.

This is basically completely opposite the way my mom reads to them. She loves the wordless books, and she kind of makes up her own narration as she goes, pointing at each picture, naming the animal/object, and explaining the sound it makes or the function it serves. She clears up any fallacies, too: If the book has bunnies with eggs, she’ll explain that bunnies don’t lay eggs, chickens lay eggs. Silly book.

Is there a right and a wrong way? Should I be spending more time on each page, pointing and naming, explaining? Even if there isn’t a right or wrong approach, how do you read to a little one?

(This blog post brought to you by rocking a fussy baby to sleep.)

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7 responses to “How do you read aloud?

  1. I certainly don’t think there is a right or wrong way. How I read aloud to my boys changed as they grew older. As toddlers, I read to them as you are now but once they entered the pre-reading/early reading ages I would expand upon simple reading of the words. I would talk about the illustrations (they will serve as hints to early readers) or when it came time for early chapter books, I would ask them to predict what would happen next. In any case, how you read is completely up to what you are comfortable with and is different with each child. Just keep reading :)

  2. The only wrong way to read to a child is not to read to him or her. If it works for you and it works for the child, then it’s right.

    My reading method is very much like what it sounds your mother is doing, but I’m not sure I’ve always done that. Maybe when I was younger, I read straight through? I kind of think not, but I’m not sure. I do know that my step-daughter always comments on how I read to my grandson because her method is similar to yours. Maybe it’s a grandmother thing? You know – older & wiser and eager to share it with a captive audience. ;-)

  3. Do what feels right to you. As your son grows older he’ll let you know what he wants out of the reading experience. My son used to ask questions like, “which word is dog?” as I’d read to him so I’d point it out. He ended up teaching himself to read that way.

  4. Yup, I definitely don’t think that there is a right way or a wrong way to read a book to a child. And it seems that every time I read a book to Elle the process is a little bit different. When she was a baby I would sing most of her books to her–mostly because I didn’t know what to do with a newborn. There are still a few that I sing in a singsong way. Sometimes I’ll let her look at the pictures or flip through the pages at her own pace (typically faster than I can read). If she’s in a fast mood then I’ll make up the words and at this point I always make up the words if there are too many words on the page. One of our current favorite books is Chu’s Day by Gaiman and the illustrations are absolutely fantastic. It’s the only book that we can pour over the illustrations on each page before and after I’ve read that page.

    When Elle was Asa’s age she wasn’t all that interested in reading a book on my lap so I’d let her crawl down and I’d continue reading the book while she played. Guess I just can’t put down a book unfinished. Great topic, Hannah. I think that you do whatever feels best to you and let Asa lead you to what interests him.

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  6. I don’t think there’s a right way or a wrong way, the key is that you’re engaging them in a book. My husband always stuck with books he could read, I went with both. I enjoyed getting the kids to interact with the pictures and used them as a way to teach.

  7. When he was younger Gage would never stay in place long enough, especially on my lap, to get through a whole book, so I started reading to him when he was in his high chair. I do read the words, but usually expand on one thing and then the next time we read it I ask a question about that one thing on each page so that he starts to interact. Sometimes this takes several (or more) readings, but it makes the book so much more fun for him. He is so excited when he gets a question right :)
    I think whatever way you read to him is going to be his favorite way, mommy :)

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