As I mentioned recently, my daughter is celebrating her fifth birthday very soon. Though she is only in her second year of preschool, her reading skills are on par with those of seven-year-old nearing the end of first grade. When she reads aloud (even a story she has never seen before), she reads with inflections and sounds words out in her head.
We didn’t use Hooked on Phonics or any other program, though we have spent time (perhaps 15-20 minutes, once a week or so) at www.starfall.com since she was two and a half. When she was four and a half, I taught her to sound out words from this set of phonics readers. (“Dad Can Help” was her favorite.)
Less than six months later, my daughter is reading Level 2–and even some Level 3–books from the Step into Reading series with little to no help.
The only things my husband and I have done to develop our daughter’s reading skills have been (1) to read to her every day, and (2) to read ourselves.
These may seem like no-brainers, but in fact they require discipline and enthusiasm on the part of the reader. So my advice when reading aloud is to find a balance between stories the child wants to hear and stories you enjoy reading. I do not allow reading aloud to feel like a chore, but this also means that my daughter doesn’t always get to pick the book for storytime. It really is okay to refuse to read a given book for the fifteenth—or fiftieth—time.
Also, don’t feel stories ought only be read at bedtime. True, reading aloud has traditionally occurred before lights out as a way of winding down. But reading aloud can take place between putting dinner in the oven and setting the table, during afternoon snack, upon waking up from a nap, or even over breakfast. It’s a bit like exercise—it doesn’t matter so much when you do it; what matters is that you do it. So build storytime into your routine wherever it works best for you.
As for your own reading, remember that all reading counts, not just the classics or bestsellers. These days our lives are saturated with text, so make sure you call it what it is—reading email, reading articles on news websites, reading updates on Twitter. Let your child know that when you’re in front of the computer, you’re reading! And reading print magazines and newspapers counts just as much as reading books.
The point is, just read and your little one will too.
(You might also like reading this post on taking reading aloud to the next level.)