It is important that your child experiences reading as much more than just listening to or looking at words. Reading includes understanding what the words are saying, which educators call comprehension.
When you are reading a story, is your child following along? Does he or she see how the pictures in the book are connected to the words in the story? If it’s a familiar story, can your child tell you what’s going to happen next? Does he or she have opinions about the way the characters are acting? When the story is over, can your child draw a picture of a character, or a place, or something that happened? These are all ways to find out if your child understands what you are reading.
Talking to your child about the stories you share, and asking and answering questions like those above, can help your child develop the habit of paying attention to what the author is communicating. Talking about stories together can also give your child a head start on the kinds of reading comprehension activities his or her teacher will probably be doing in class.
Please remember, though, that the most important thing is for your child to enjoy shared reading with you. So you want to be sure that you don’t interrupt the story too often or make your child feel like he or she is taking a test or has to prove something to you. Make shared reading fun and lively!
For younger children, reading books and stories together lets you help your child get a basic understanding of how books work (something the reading experts call concepts of print). Your child will quickly learn, for example, that many books have both words and pictures and that the pictures show the things that the words talk about. He or she will also learn that books are read from front to back. If you sometimes use your finger to track words along a page as you read, then your child can see that words on a page are read from top to bottom and left to right. You can also help increase your child’s understanding by explaining that words are arranged in sentences and that a sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period, question mark, or exclamation point.
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*Reading experts identify two different kinds of reading experiences with children: reading aloud and shared reading. When you are reading aloud to a child, the objective is usually just the pleasure of a good story or of learning about something, as well as possibly increasing the child’s oral vocabulary. In a shared reading experience, you and the child would generally be looking at the words together as you read, with the child actively involved and (with help as needed) reading some or many of the words. The objectives of shared reading experiences could include developing the child’s ability to recognize letters and written words.