as a child learns from real experiences, he can also learn from
vicarious ones-and far more safely. Through books he can
experience revelations that might not come to him until much later
in the normal course of events: revelations of fear, of failure, of
love, of understanding. What's more, reading provides a sort of
mental rehearsal for the time when he encounters these
Here are some practical
suggestions for sharing books with
Try to set aside some time each day for storytelling.
Recommended reading levels are only a rough guide.Parents need to develop a feel
for what will work with their own children. Since there are so many good books available
there's no reason to try to force a particular book on a child. This is doubly true for
classics. They can be introduced too early or in the wrong way, spoiling a child's taste
for them later on. Beverly Cleary, author of the Ramona series, relates, "When I was
a child, a relative gave me Ivanhoe to grow into. I was so disappointed that I still have
not grown into it."
Keep in mind that children can understand and enjoy listening to stories that are above
their actual reading level.
For very small children the main thing is to hear stories that are rhythmic and
repetitive. It's the sound of the language that counts most at this stage.
Be aware that myths, fairy tales, and folktales come in many versions-versions that range
from the sublime to the abysmal. For example, you wouldn't think that
"Rumpelstiltskin" could be rolled out flat as a pancake, but it has been done.
Another factor in choosing a version of a
book is the quality of the illustrations. While illustrations are not all important, they
do make a difference; look fo editions with illustrations that do justice to the text
ratherthan trivialize it.
When reading aloud choose stories that you, yourself, like. Reading should be enjoyable
for everyone involved. Practice when possible. Good stories deserve a good reading. Read
the story yourself before reading it to your
children. That way you'll have a better idea of it's plot and
rhythm and bumpy spots.
Be expressive. Learn when to slow down, when to speed up, when to pause. Create suspense
by lowering your voice, create a dramatic effect by raising it. You might try changing
your voice to fit each character. Don't be concerned that you lack the vocalization skills
of a professional actor; children constitute a forgiving and enthusiastic audience.
It is important to set the right mood when reading aloud. Allow time for your
children to settle down. If you're reading from a picture book you might spend some time
talking about the book's cover. Ask your children what they think the story will be about.
If it's a chapter in a novel, you might want to follow Jim Trelease's advice and ask,
"Let's see-where did we leave off yesterday?" or 'What's happened so far?"
Don't be tempted to explain the "moral" of the story. Let the book speak for
itself. Family reading time should not be confused with a class in interpretation. On the
other hand, it's fine if a story leads to conversation. Occasionally it might be
appropriate to ask a question or two about a character's actions or motivations. But don't
overdo it. It's better if
questions come spontaneously from your child.
Read-aloud time shoud be balanced with silent reading
time. Even prereaders should have time alone with picture
books. Try instituting a practice of silent reading time for the
whole family. Instead of gathering around the television at
night make the bookcase the focus of attention.