In an earlier post, I wrote about the value of reading aloud to your child. I have been asked how reading aloud can help a child learn to read especially when he does not even look at the words you are reading. This is often the case when you read a picture book – you will find your child studying the pictures while you read the text.
This is a common mistake adults often make regarding a child’s learning ability. We assume that children learn the same way we do when in fact they do not. Young children, especially, learn differently due to the dominance of their right brain. That means that young children do not need to look directly at an object to learn about it. The photographic function of the right brain means that they can learn through their peripheral vision as well. Even if your child does not appear to look at the words in the book, he can still see the words in his peripheral vision and he will make the connection between the written words and the words that you read aloud.
Some parents feel a need to point a finger as they read each word aloud. Doman disagrees. It is not necessary for your to point to each word as you read it because your child will be able to follow. I tend to agree with Doman. When I was younger, I used to sit by the piano and listen to my cousin play. Although I couldn’t read the music score as she played it, I could still follow where she was at any part of the song and help her turn the page without her prompting me. I believe that it is similar for a child learning how to read. When you’ve read enough books to your child, he will eventually get a feel for the cadence of the words and be able to follow where you are in the jumble of words on the page.
Another thing that Doman mentioned was that once a child learns the significance of being able to read a few words, he will be hungry to learn how to read more. I have found that to be the case for Gavin. He practices reading by himself by reading aloud while pointing to the words. Although he bypasses words that he cannot read, I find that he is learning more new words every time I read aloud to him. I have also noticed that he has begun to pay closer attention to the words as I read them because they mean something to him now.
At this point, I feel a need to highlight the importance of not forcing your child to read aloud to you if he does not want to. The primary goal of reading aloud should be to inculcate a life-long love for books. By insisting that your child read aloud, you are making reading a stressful activity which may put your child off reading. The key is to unlock the magic of words to your child by reading aloud to him and he will take himself the rest of the way.
What if my child can’t sit still?
The fundamental principle of learning is that if you make it fun, learning is easy. Therefore, if your child cannot sit through the entire story of a book, pick a shorter book or one with engaging pictures and few words. Alternatively, forget about reading the words. Just talk about the pictures and point things out to your child. The idea here is to teach him that books are interesting. As his attention span increases, you can begin to read some of the words and progress accordingly.