The difference between teaching kids to read, and teaching kids to love reading

“There’s a big difference between teaching kids to read and teaching them to love reading,” explains Daniel Willingham in his book Raising Kids Who Read. The transition from being read to, to sounding out words, to becoming an active reader is a long journey that can be helped along significantly by parents.  

Certainly reading with your children is one of the most important habits, but how do you do it effectively?  (Spoiler alert: don’t just read from start to end.)

In our last article, we shared 7 steps to turn your reluctant reader into a bookworm, and now, we are sharing best practices for guided reading.   At Everest Education, we use these guided reading techniques in our English Language Arts system as teachers spend time with students in small-group instruction.  Here we explain some of the magic that happens in our classrooms so that parents can adapt these best practices at home.  We are confident that with these, you will help make reading fun for your children while building advanced comprehension skills.

Before reading…

Read ahead
Yes. Parents have homework too! Make sure you preview the book yourself. That way, you can anticipate questions or reactions your children might have think of fun ways to read through the book, find a natural rhythm or cadence that fits the pace and tone of the book, and most importantly, also decide where to pause for emphasis and where to elicit questions, predictions, or reactions.

Set a reading purpose
Before you start reading, share the purpose for reading with your child, and signal that the reading will begin by saying something like: “I’m going to begin reading the story of Pinocchio, and while I do, listen carefully to see if you can figure out what the problem is and how it is solved..”
Parents can show the book cover, ask your child what she think about the title or what the story will be about. Discuss what she know about the topic. Provide information about the setting, characters, and where the story takes place. With older children, one of the most common warm-ups is to talk about the genre (fiction, nonfiction, folktale, myth, mystery, science fiction, fable).

During reading…

Act out different voices
Whether it’s a book about a caterpillar or the three little pigs, there is always room for fun. As you preview the book, think of different ways to read each character’s lines. You might change the pitch of your voice from low to high, speed it up or slow it down, or add an effect like talking in a whisper or creaky voice.

Also, you’ll likely find that making faces helps too. If you feel awkward about this, just act out a specific word, like saying “scared” in a scary voice, or saying “happy” in a cheerful tone. Remember, it’s your job to make the grumpy old man in the book sound even grumpier!

Ask questions
Another way to engage your child is to ask her what she would do in specific parts in the story. Through this, we encourage children to retrieve information from the text, which means literally looking for clues in the text and then reading it out. Asking questions while reading to your child is also extremely effective in developing her reading comprehension skills.

Pose questions that will spark your child’s curiosity, for example, while reading The Three Little Pigs, you might ask, “Who will open the door for the big bad wolf?” or “What would you build the house out of?” Her responses may surprise you in witty and clever ways. You should ask just a few questions in the middle of the story, and again in the end. (Too many questions may break up the flow of the story.)

Encourage inferences
We “infer” by combining what we already know with clues from a story. This is sometimes called “reading beyond the lines.” This means using the information you have read to come to your own conclusions about the text. For example, when we read, “Her eyes were red, and her nose was runny,” we can infer that she has a cold or allergies. You can help your child with this reading skill by predicting what might happen next, then invite your child to do the same. Then ask her why she thinks a character made a particular choice.

Honor many ideas and interpretations, not just the “correct” ones. Instead of accepting or rejecting comments or ideas as right or wrong, use comments such as, “That’s one possibility. Let’s see what the author has in mind,” or “Well that’s an interesting idea. How did you think of that?”  But don’t make it feel like a quiz!

Make connections
Connecting what your child already knows while she reads sharpens her focus and deepens her understanding. Show her how to make connections by sharing your own connections as you read aloud.

Maybe the book mentions places you’ve been together on vacation. Talk about your memories of those places. Invite your child to have a turn. If a character is depicting a strong emotion, identify that emotion and ask your child if she has ever felt that way. Find out if the book reminds she of any personal experiences or other books she has heard or read.

Use visual aids
Try adding visual aids or props to the story for the kids can be helpful for many reasons. You can sketch sequencing cards, or use miniature objects or stuffed animals that look like the characters.  For example, grab a stuffed wolf or turtle for the kids to act out some scenes. This brings your children into the story and makes it fun!

Using props or visual aids will also assist your child in retelling the story. The more senses and more imagination we can engage, the more we will understand and remember a reading.

Get up and move!
Along those same lines, when reading a book, get your child to get up and imitate certain movements. If the character in the book is swimming, imitate a person swimming. If the character is jumping like in Five Little Monkeys Jumping on The Bed, get up and jump!

After reading…
Follow up after the story
Immediately after the story, give your child time to reflect on the reading. Afterwards, ask her to describe her favorite part and why. You can review the story components, such as the setting, the main character’s problem, and the resolution. Ask questions to encourage her to think about why events may have happened the way they did, why people in the story behaved in a certain way, or what she would have done differently and why.

You can also test some details.  Try asking a question that requires limited or guided output like, “Who remembers what the hungry caterpillar ate?” or “What happened to Humpty Dumpty?” You’ll also get a good idea of if she was really paying attention.

Take it to the next level
Have your kid create what will happen next. You can help your child create a video of “book talk” about her favorite book. Try this.  Turn on the camera, and ask her to say the title and author and to describe the story. Then, ask her to explain what she did and didn’t like about the book. When she doesn’t know what to say, ask her a question like, “What was your favorite part?” or “What could the characters do if the story kept going?” This not only promotes reading comprehension skills, but it also works on organization and verbal presentation skills as well.

The loving environment created by reading to your young children will help them associate reading with your warmth, and this will condition them to feel that reading is a positive, pleasurable activity. On behalf of the Everest Education academic team, we hope that you will find our guided reading techniques useful!

Also, if you want to review great writing skills, read about the 6+1 Writing Traits.



Register For A Free Trial Class