I was in graduate school when the Teach Your Baby to read DVDs came out. In the developmental psychology department, students and professors expressed shock and horror at this trend. Why? Because teaching a baby to read is not developmentally appropriate.
Can you train or condition a baby to memorize flashcards and give you a “correct” response? Maybe, but they are not reading, by any stretch of the imagination.
By 2012 the company that put out those DVDs was broke and accused of misleading parents at best and potentially harming children’s development at worst. And while several other companies jumped on the bandwagon, the research didn’t support their claims.
However, teaching your child to read does begin in infancy. But it isn’t through drills and flashcards, it is simply through reading aloud with your child.
Phonics, sounding out words, sight words — that will all come later.
As a parent, though, you have a very powerful role. You have the ability to shape your child’s development from day one by reading aloud. It is such a simple thing to do that it is often underrated.
Do not be mistaken, this is one of the most powerful tools we as parents have to shape our children’s cognition and intellect.
Exposure to books and reading in preschool and kindergarten explained 12% of the difference on oral language tests (12% of the reason children did better on that test was due to exposure to books), this increased to 13% in elementary school, 19% in middle school, 30% in high school and 34% in college!
Reading aloud to children leads to benefits in development including, literacy, language skills and development, phonic awareness, knowledge of the alphabet, and overall cognitive development.
But it isn’t just about how much we read to our children, but how we read with them.
To really make the most out of storytime you can follow a few strategies that have been proven to benefit childn’s language development and that leads to better reading ability at older ages.
The key to this strategy is simple: Involve your child in the telling of the story.
Read a sentence, but leave out the last word and you’ll be surprised how often your child can guess what it is. Ask a question about the story, like “what do you think will happen next?” Relate it to something that happened in your life.
This is called “Dialogic Reading,” which was developed by Dr. Whitehurst and his colleagues over 20 years ago. It is basically the idea of having a dialog or conversation about the book as you read together.
Involving your child makes story time go from a passive experience to an active one. Most kids involve themselves naturally and we can encourage that.
This helps children learn about stories holistically and organically — about how a story flows, how to predict things that will happen, the structure of a story.
It’s actually quite a natural way to read with children once you get the hang of it.
There are two sets of strategies developed by Dr. Whitehurst, the PEER and the CROWD.
How to Teach Your Child to Read
PEER Strategy: Prompt Evaluate Expand Repeat
For example, with a young toddler PEER might look like this:
What color is the bus? (Prompt) Yes, the bus is yellow (Evaluate). That is a yellow school bus (Expand). The bus is a yellow school bus (Repeat).
With an older preschooler, PEER could look something like this when reading, If You Give A Mouse a Cookie (affiliate link):
What do you think the Mouse will want next? (Prompt) Yes, I think he will want another cookie. (Evaluate) Why did he want another cookie? (Expand) The mouse wanted another cookie to go with that milk.
Basically, you are having a conversation about the story as you read it. This makes reading for your child active rather than passive and engages them in learning.
CROWD Strategy: Completion Recall Open-ended What Distancing
Completion prompts are when you leave the sentence blank: “And chances are if he asks for a glass of milk, he’s going to want ____________.”
Recall prompts are when you ask your child to remember what happens in a book they have already read, “Does the mouse take a nap?” “What happens when the mouse looks in the mirror?”
Open-ended prompts are when you say something like “What is happening in this picture?”
The What, when, why, where and how prompt, is pretty self-explanatory.
And the Distancing prompt is really more of a connecting prompt– for example, “Do you remember when we made cookies with Daddy?”
In the end, it is all about having them help tell the story with you and connecting with them.
Here is a printable guide for Reading Aloud to Children!!! To download a copy click here –>How to Read Aloud to your Child