Reading To Your Kids Is More Than Just Reading

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Being able to read to your kids is a matter of life and death! OK, not really, but I learned in my blog class that the writer gets a whopping three seconds to capture their audience. Thanks for giving me your attention.

Of course, reading to your kids isn’t a life or death proposition, but it does make a huge difference in whether or not they become avid readers themselves. That my friends, gives them a great advantage. If they like to read, there isn’t anything they can’t learn.

Reading to your kids seems like a pretty straight forward skill. All you need to be able to do is read, right? Sure, being able to read is essential, but there are some guidelines that I use when I read to my kids that I think are very useful.

Three Levels of Reading

I have six kid’s ranging in age from seven to eleven (hmm, suddenly I’m craving a soda and a bag of chips). Two of my kids are great readers and enjoy reading for recreation. I’ve actually seen them reading a book with their tablet turned off and lying by their side. Can I get a hallelujah?

I have two reluctant readers who know how to read but won’t, unless the books have lots of pictures and words like POW, BANG and BOOM in them. I’ll let you guess their age and gender.

Finally, I have two kids who struggle with learning to read. They would rather climb a tree than read and that’s OK, but I still spend most of my time reading with them. I’m happy to sat that beginning to pay off.  On the flip side, I don’t read to my oldest two nearly often enough and as I write this article, I pledge to fix that.

So, how do I read to my kids, given that they are all at different levels of skill and varying interest?


Pre readers are kids who don’t quite know how to read yet. The desire is there but the skills haven’t been developed. They ave not learned any sight words and have not yet learned any decoding skills.  All children pass through this stage.  None of my children are currently at this level, but when they were, I read to all six of them using the techniques listed below.

  • Read a book (or story) or two every day.
  • You should be able to read the entire book, or selection in 10-15 minutes. Don’t forget that your youngster has a limited attention span.
  • When you read to your children, try be animated.  Try to do voices and accents.  Bring that book alive for them. Watch this. You may not be an actor, but your kid’s don’t know that!
  • Be sure to read books or stories that have lots of illustrations, as their mind’s eye has not yet fully developed.
  • Give them time to thoroughly scan the illustrations.
  • Don’t be afraid to read the same book several times. Kid’s don’t get bored with repetition as quickly as you do.

Beginning Readers

Beginning readers know the letters of the alphabet and have the most basic decoding skills.  Most of the words they are able to decode contain two to four letters. Beginning readers should know several sight words.

  • Before reading to your beginner, make sure you know what words they are able to decode.
  • As you are reading, stop and let them read a few words. Read a few sentences or a paragraph or two and then ask them to read the next word or as many as you think they can decode.
  • By doing this, you are causing your kids to track with you. This is very useful because they hear you pronounce words as they are looking at them.


Readers know how to decode most words but may need help with longer words or words with an unusual spelling. Foreign names and places are the most typical example of this. Readers have a long list of sight words.  At this point, checking for comprehension becomes important.

  • Even kids who already know how to read, love it when you read to them.
  • Read longer with kids who can already read.  Thirty minutes is a good session.
  • Take turns reading.  Anywhere from one paragraph to a chapter.
  • Reading to your kids who already know how to read:
    • Gives them a chance to hear what it sounds like when a more accomplished reader reads to them.
    • They get a better sense of pace and cadence when they hear you read.
    • Because you can read faster than them, you can get through the book or story faster, thus allowing them to better comprehend the story as a whole.
  • My oldest daughter, loves to read books with foreign places and names (usually Japanese, Norse and Chinese).  When we read together,  it’s funny how many times she says “Oh, that’s how you pronounce that”.
  • Check for comprehension every few pages.
    • Make sure your kid is following the plot.
    • If they seem to be lost, go back and show them the textual clues that they might have missed.
  • Finally. If your kid wants to read to you, let them do it. Reinforce their love of reading. tell them how good they are, how cool their book is and how proud you are of them.

Developing The Mind’s Eye

At some point in the journey to becoming a reader you will notice that the books that your children are reading, have fewer pictures. This is because your child is expected to read the words on a page and create a picture or movie in their head. You can facilitate this by having your kid’s close their eyes while you are reading to them.  Here are a few of tips:

  • Pick a scene in the book that is very descriptive. Then ask them to open their eyes and describe to you what they see.
  • If there is an illustration, ask your kids to close their eyes and see the scene in their mind, as you read it to them. Afterwords, tell them to look at the illustration in the book. Compere their vision to the illustration but be sure to tell them that they are not wrong and that everyone’s mind’s eye sees something different when they read.
  • If your kids like to draw, have them draw a couple of the scenes from the book that you are reading together.

Finding The Right Books

There are several ways to figure out your kid’s reading level.  If they go to a public or even a private school, most likely their reading level has been assessed using standardized tests. In some cases the school will give you a report indicating your kid’s reading lexile.   All 50 states use lexile measures. This article explains Lexile framework. If your school provides you with your kid’s lexile, it will give you a framework for finding books that are at their particular reading level.

Even if you home school, you can determine your kid’s reading level. Here is a link to Sonlight homeschooling blog.

But Most Importantly

Read To your kids often and read books that they are interested in. If they prefer nonfiction, it’s OK to expose them to stories and novels, but don’t force a square peg. The most important thing is that your kids learn to read and love to read, as it is the key to learning nearly everything else.

How About You

Do you like to read to your kids?  What tips and tricks can you share, when it comes to reading to your kids? I’m really interested in what you have figured out and want to share.


I recently posted an article about what my kids are reading these days if you want to read it click here.

If you have reluctant readers in your house you can click here. This link will take you to my newsletter where I provided even more information about books especially for these kiddos.


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