by Bethany Bennettgrandma reading to childThough I didn’t particularly enjoy teaching reading, the success of hearing my child read is a great milestone in my homeschooling. Read, read, reading to your child before independent reading is the most important pre-reading activity we can do to encourage our future readers. The same is true after completing the phonics program.

There are four types of reading I suggest for readers to encourage progress:

Reading Silently     

Once my children read to themselves, we worked up to a full hour per day in one sitting. They read an hour, broken into shorter segments – four 15 minute sessions leading into three 20 minute sessions, and so on until they were reading the full 60 minutes.

It is important a child reads at a comfort level he reads to himself. This might be below current grade level. A child is reading comfortably when you hear giggles or groans or your child just has to tell you about something in the middle of reading the story.

Reading is comfortable when your child can tell you all about the story after the covers of the book are closed. This is important because we want our children to enjoy reading. If they’re always reading at what I call a stretch level, reading is a chore and less enjoyable.

My children made their own reading choices. My oldest chose picture books or catalogs when I first removed her from private school, even though she knew how to read. I trusted she would gain confidence with time. She did. And she is an excellent shopper today.

There was a time when only fiction seemed to be their preference. I began requiring they choose other genre for their reading at least a couple times a week or every third or fourth book.

Reading Aloud

A new or struggling reader needs to read aloud to you. It is tempting, though, to discontinue this practice once independent reading begins. Continue having your child read aloud to you on a regular basis.

A stretch level is appropriate for reading aloud, which is drill work rather than reading for comprehension (The drill work will, however, improve comprehension in the long run.) This gives us an opportunity to introduce a more difficult reading level for short periods.

Reading aloud helps us hear whether or not our child is progressing and developing fluency. It lets us hear whether words are being pronounced correctly. It lets us hear a stop at a period or a question or an exclamation. It helps us encourage our child to read with feeling.

Even an older reader should be required to read to us periodically. Using the word correctly, my own daughter mispronounced the word genre for years. One day when I used the word, she exclaimed, “Oh! That’s how you say it.” The least I recommend is that your older student read aloud the vocabulary list or words that are in bold print in a new chapter.

Reading With Our Child

There will come a time when it is no longer necessary to read with our child. In the early years, however, it provides a special time of enjoying reading together.

To be enjoyable, reading together must not become a lesson. If our child gets stuck on a word, we quickly pronounce it. Don’t require sounding it out.

Stopping to work on a word causes us to lose the flow of comprehension. We want this reading to be as enjoyable for our child as when comfortably reading for pleasure. Because our child is reading with us and we can give help over the rough spots, we can introduce a stretch level of reading.

Early on we may need to trade-off every other sentence, then progress to trading-off paragraphs, and on to pages or even chapters.

Reading to Our Child

There are academic benefits when we read to our children. For one, we are usually reading above their level and increasing their vocabulary. Besides, there is such great joy in sharing Jesus’ miracles; or the protagonist’s salvation in Teddy’s Button; or Heidi’s in the unabridged version. When we read to our children, one thing is sure, we share our values as we share a treasured story and sweet companionship.

Pleasure, progress and shared principles are good reasons to continue reading with and to our children, and having them read to us and to themselves as they mature into great readers.

What is your family’s favorite book or story to read together?

You may also enjoy When a Child Doesn’t Remember What He Reads.

Copyright 2005. Used by permission of author.

Bethany Bennett served Christian Heritage School in Corona as a curriculum advisor and high school counselor for many years. She has been married to her husband Bob more than 30 years. Bethany and Bob homeschooled their three daughters, graduating the youngest in 1996. Since then, Bethany has been teaching nieces and nephews, two of whom graduated in 2002. Bethany and Bob currently reside in Costa Mesa, California.