Monday, May 23, 2011

A world of imagination

One of the best things you can do for your children is reading aloud

“Clash, bang, clash, bang!” shouts my five-year-old, “I’m the Saucepan Man! And you can be Silky, and Paige can be Moonface!”
Thanks to Enid Blyton, my daughter’s love of bedtime reading has grown from strength to strength as the folk from the Faraway Tree become part of our family life.
But this was always going to be the case because this was my favourite book when I was a child, and I had always planned to read it to my children.
However, I had forgotten just how magical the experience can be when reading to your children.
I’ve turned bedtime reading from a short picture book ritual, to a theatrical performance only limited by her imagination.
Each night I ask her what books she wants to read, and each night she shouts: “Faraway Tree! Faraway Tree!”
I read one chapter each night (read with great expression and sometimes actions), but almost every night she begs for another chapter, or another one after that.
When I say it’s time to sleep, she asks “What’s the name of the next chapter?” so she can imagine in those quiet moments before sleep descends what adventure story will unfold next.
Since I became a mother, I have been committed to reading aloud to my children.
It’s an enjoyable time for us to bond, and for them to get an early start in literacy and language.
It helps them settle at the end of the day, and it presents opportunities for us to talk about topics of interest, as well as for them to learn about the world around us.
When I read Mem Fox’s book Reading Magic and all of my beliefs about reading to children were confirmed.
(Incidently, I loaned this book to a friend and never got it back, so it must be good!)
Reading aloud to children is vital because it helps them acquire the information and skills they need in life:
• Knowledge of printed letters and words, and the relationship between sound and print.
• The meaning of words.
• How books work, and a variety of writing styles.
• The world in which they live.
• The difference between written language and everyday conversation.
• The pleasure of reading.
Reading to young children promotes language acquisition and literacy development and, later on, achievement in reading comprehension and overall success in school.
Mem has a wonderful website with information about her books, as well as resources for parents and teachers, including suggested reading books.
In particular I like her Ten Read Aloud Commandments which are as follows:

1. Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud.
2. Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read.
3. Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don’t be dull, or flat, or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.
4. Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners.
5. Read the stories that the kids love, over and over and over again, and always read in the same ‘tune’ for each book: i.e. with the same intonations on each page, each time.
6. Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures, or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.
7. Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are really short.
8. Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish rhymes, and finding the letters that start the child’s name and yours, remembering that it’s never work, it’s always a fabulous game.
9. Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.
10. Please read aloud every day, mums and dads, because you just love being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.

Now my daughter is in Prep and bringing home basic reading books from school.
She loves her reading “homework” and I’d like to think that because I have read to her since she was a baby, this has contributed to her enthusiasm for books.
So although you are tired of looking for the green sheep, or wish the family would stop going on a bear hunt, reading aloud is a must for all children.
For more on reading to your kids, visit or go here to download a complete book entitled Great Books To Read Aloud by Jaqueline Wilson: with ideas from birth to 11 years.


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