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Raising Needham: Let's Get Ready To Read

There is so much a parent can do to create a foundation for a lifelong love of reading before a child even steps foot into a classroom.

We all know reading aloud to even the youngest child is beneficial, but it goes so much further than most of us realize.

I was lucky enough to sit down with a co-author of an insightful book every caregiver should own. Susan Marx and co-author Barbara Kasok created "Help Me Get Ready To Read" as a practical guide for reading aloud to children from birth to age five. 

Before I met with Marx, a Lexington resident, I thought about my own experience reading aloud with my children and wondered if there was really anything I could do to make it more stimulating and educational. I also thought about the education gap our country is struggling with and how caring parents can help teachers before children even take one step into a classroom.

After meeting with Marx and reading the book, I now know that there is more I can do to help my kids get ready to read. The good news is this inspiring book is available at most libraries, along with the 275 books that are recommended.

First things first: "Help Me Get Ready to Read" starts with a chapter on understanding what exactly early literacy is, and then gives examples of how to apply the concepts or “talkabout points” to a children’s book. Later—and this is my favorite part of the book—the authors take six favorite books and outline the “talkabout points” for each. They then guide you through each of the six books with the stages: Before you read, as you read aloud, positive parenting praise and finish reading tips.

Once you get a sense of what the authors are trying to get out of the reading aloud, you will be able to think of these prompts on your own, and your children may even chime in before you do. That is what happened with my two children. They have turned into reading aloud experts.

I have to admit, when I met with Marx I had some burning questions on my mind. (I guess I am not the only one, because all of my questions were answered in the section, "Questions Parents Often Ask.") My biggest question was for a friend who struggled with her child who wouldn’t sit still long enough to read aloud. My own dilemma was reading aloud to two children with completely different reading skill levels and keeping them both engaged.  

My biggest surprise of the book, however, was that my kindergartener's reading challenge—reading comprehension—was addressed.

Sure, I would ask my children about the book after we read it, but as Marx’s book suggests, asking questions during the reading might be more powerful. I joked to Marx that doing so could make for a very long read aloud session. She laughed back and told me that sometimes she doesn’t even get off the cover of the book with her grandchildren.

I used this technique the next time I read aloud with my kids and, boy, were they engaged! My questions prompted excitement and laughter, and when I asked my kids the follow-up questions I normally ask to test this theory, they recalled details of the book much easier and with much more enthusiasm. They even went on to add to the story to make it their own.

My point is, the techniques discussed in "Help Me Get Ready To Read" can be used beyond the preschool years and into the elementary school years when reading is taught in a more technical way.

As we wrapped up our chat, Marx said something to me that really struck a chord. She said, “Quality parenting is taking time with your children and connecting with them." When you think about it, reading aloud does that on so many levels. From the moment your child is born (and, for some, even sooner), they just want your time and to know you stopped everything to be with them—stopped checking emails, stopped looking at your iPhone and stopped all of the hundreds of other things parents do every day and just be with your kids.

Reading aloud doesn’t have to cost a dime. Your library has all the tools you need, including "Help Me Get Ready To Read," and the children’s books that are recommended. All you have to do is make the commitment to read aloud to your children every day. And if you wish to take it a step further, the co-authors have a great website, www.readaloudguide.com, and offer workshops to caregivers, teachers, librarians and preschools. They also present at professional conferences.   

Happy reading aloud!

Susan Marx July 26, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Thanks for the great article on "Help Me Get Ready To Read" and the importance of reading aloud to little ones. "Reading aloud during the first five years of children's lives opens their ears to the sounds of words, their eyes to the wonder of pictures, their minds to new ideas, and their hearts to a love of books and learning." What better gift can we give to our young children. Happy Reading Aloud! Susan Marx Co-author of "Help Me Get Ready To Read: The Practical Guide For Reading Aloud to Children During Their First Five Years" by Susan Marx and Barbara Kasok

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