Beyond Reading Aloud

Early reading books can be used to enhance children's language and literacy development in several ways.

Listening to a story being read is a passive activity for a child, but discussing a story together involves active participation. Asking questions about print provides opportunities for children to make connections that are extremely valuable in developing critical thinking skills.

Parents and other caregivers can ask questions about any story that will encourage the child to think about the details and begin drawing inferences. The following are examples of the types of questions that can be developed from almost any children’s book.

After hearing a story, children can also be asked to retell the story in their own words. This can be done from memory or by using the pictures as a reference. Research has repeatedly shown that retelling a story helps children to develop memory and sequencing skills and is a powerful component in fostering comprehension.

Early Reading Books Change as Children Grow and Mature

As children grow, it is important to match early reading books with their stage of development. Reading to children is recommended beginning at birth as a way of introducing patterns of language. When children can understand speech, books take on meaning. At the point where they acquire speech, children can begin to engage with books in a variety of ways.

Learn more about the importance of Early Literacy from our other resources on the subject.

Pretending to read is a developmental step in a child’s journey toward becoming a reader. Children often retell a story by matching the pictures to what they remember or memorizing enough of the words that it appears that they are reading. These activities should be encouraged because research by Burns, Griffin, and Snow (1999) concluded that children who pretend to read at an early age are more likely to become successful readers later.

The use of rebus books, where pictures or symbols represent words, is an engaging way for emerging readers to begin to understand concepts of print and to connect print to speech. As they follow along and interact with the text, children are acquiring knowledge about how reading works and begin to view themselves as a “reader”.

Rebus books also provide a positive first experience with reading and help to develop confidence as children rapidly identify the words that can be associated with the pictures.

The content and words in early reading books change from simple to more complex as children develop. Dr. Seuss books have been extremely popular for decades because they are engaging and incorporate literary features like rhyming and repetition. Find a list of Dr. Seuss books that are developmentally appropriate by grade level here.

Early reading books are an important tool in a child’s literacy development. From listening to books read aloud to talking and thinking about print, children build their language and reading foundations in important ways. Creating an early appreciation of books is yet another valuable reason for reading to and with children as they begin a lifetime of reading enjoyment.