In this fast paced world we live in, one thing I refuse to give up is read aloud time. I have often accomplished this by reading the same book, at the same time to both girls. This was simple when one was a toddler and one a baby but things are definitely getting trickier as the girls grow older.
Recently, I wrote an article for Maritime Family in which I reminded myself just how to read the same book to all your children.
You can find the link to the article here and I have posted the article as I wrote it (there are some editorial changes in the published version) below.
Read the Same Book to All Your Children
Parents know they should read aloud to their children but not all parents have time to snuggle up with their little ones and a good book, especially if they have children at different reading levels. The seven year old loves chapter books, the two year old wants picture books and the parents are too frazzled to set up different read-aloud times for each.
As one child runs in from a play date and the other jogs out the door to soccer practice, parents must be more efficient with their read aloud time. It’s hard to imagine an active pre-schooler and a studious elementary aged student sitting and listening to the same book. But not only is it fun, it is educationally beneficial as well.
To participate in multi aged read alouds, families must banish the belief that picture books are simplistic. In truth, the reading level of most picture books exceeds that of early readers and many transitional novels. In addition, authors today are tackling more and more complex topics in picture book format. It is not uncommon to find a picture book that tells the story, for example, of war, alcoholic parents or death.
When older children listen to picture books they activate visual thinking. In our visual society, children often struggle with creating a visual image from the text they read, a skill necessary for higher level reading comprehension. Having so often been given images, children can face a challenge when asked to create these mental pictures on their own. Continued reading of picture books can foster this skill.
Listening to picture books read aloud can remind the older child that reading is fun. Older readers can become frustrated by the length and complexity of books they read in school and forget that reading is enjoyable. Sitting with a loved one at home and relaxing in to the reading experience can be just what children need to re-ignite a weakening love of books.
To participate in multi-age read alouds, families must also believe that young children are capable of listening to chapter books before they are able to read them independently. A child’s reading and listening comprehension do not converge until the eighth grade. Until that point, a child is able to comprehend stories read aloud that are two full grade levels above those stories they can read on their own.
Betsy Carter, a kindergarten teacher at The Covenant School in Charlottesville, VA often reads the same books to nine year old daughter and seven year old son. She says, “We have great book discussions! For example, the Harry Potter series easily worked with both but their comprehension and enjoyment were on different levels.”
If listening to chapter books is new for a young child, they may initially appear to be uninterested, playing and moving about the room. In fact, they are paying attention and building up stamina for longer bursts of listening.
There are enormous educational benefits for the younger child who listens to chapter books. They build both their background knowledge and vocabulary while learning important story structures and language available to them only through books. They also listen to fluent, expressive reading which provides a model for their own later independent reading. Simultaneously, younger children can begin to develop the important skill of holding a plot line in their heads over multiple reading, a skill crucial for later reading comprehension.
Saving time, by reading the same book at the same time to multiple children, is a win-win for today’s busy families. Parents spend quality time with all children while giving an educational boost.
Tips for reading aloud to all:
Treat all literature the same way. Snuggle, laugh, read expressively whether you are reading board books or novels.
Allow smaller children to move and play while you read. They are still listening and growing.
Share time equally among different types of literature. Children will grow to appreciate what they hear.
Use reading as an opportunity for siblings to learn about each other’s loves. Chose topics that one may love that the other doesn’t. They will come to appreciate each other.
Encourage discussion and questions. It is through this opportunity that younger children are able to enjoy books above their level.
Chapter Books to be enjoyed by all
Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie- Julie Sternberg
Marty McGuire- Kate Messner
Clementine- Sara Pennypacker
Gooney Bird Greene- Lois Lowry
Picture Books to be enjoyed by all:
I Want my Hat Back- Jon Klassen
Bear Has a Story to Tell- Phillip Stead
Perfect Square- Michael Hall
Blackout- John Rocco
Me..Jane- Patrick McDonnell