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Houghton Mifflin Education Expert Provides Tips on Reading Aloud With Children

Houghton Mifflin Education Expert Provides Tips on Reading Aloud With Children

Shane Templeton, senior author of "Houghton Mifflin Spelling and Vocabulary" and author of "Houghton Mifflin English" and "Houghton Mifflin Reading", also Foundation Professor of Literacy Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno offers these tips on reading with your child.
The process of reading aloud has some specific educational functions that lay the groundwork for reading and language development. Your child becomes familiar with the basic concepts of words and books and begins to develop a basic vocabulary as he/she listens to and watches you read. You probably engage in one or more of these practices every time you read to your child.
* Language Development: You read Curious George, and your child listens. She/he hears familiar words like "hat", and unfamiliar ones, like "curious". At one page, your child asks why George is standing on the table. At another, you ask why the man in the yellow hat looks angry. As both of you react to the story, you are building your child's vocabulary, encouraging her/him to think about the meanings of specific words ("What is a restaurant?") and about the messages of the story ("Should George be punished for misbehaving at the restaurant?"). All the while, you are teaching your child that stories come in a many different styles ("That was funny!" "That made me sad." "Hey it rhymes!").
* Letter Recognition: Many children encounter their first 'literary' experience at the hands of a plastic or cardboard book. Not only are these thick pages colorful and easy to turn, but the simple pictures and individual words or letters they contain introduce children to the concept of books. Children learn that the letters are somehow connected to the words and the stories that they hear out loud.
* Concepts of Print: As children move on to more sophisticated picture books, they begin to learn the conventions of printed English. For example, they see that we read English from left to right, and from top to bottom. They become familiar with terms such as "letter" and "word". At first, they see that the word HAT corresponds to a picture. Later, they understand that the number of words they see in a line of print and the number of words they say out loud is the same. These are valuable insights that children learn to apply as they begin to read.
* Why is this so important? Because researchers have discovered that children who enter school with these prereading skills are more likely to become successful readers. Educators estimate that preschool children in 'literacy-rich' environments enter school having been read to for 1,000 hours or more. In contrast, preschoolers with little experience with books have been read to for only 25 hours or less. This second group of children tends to encounter the greatest difficulties as they learn to read in school.
What can you do to make a difference for your child?
* Keep Your Home Stocked With Books. This does not have to be expensive. Borrow books from the children's room at your local library. Yard sales are great places to pick up books at bargain prices. Some families like to swap books so that their children can share a broad range of stories.
* Read Aloud Often. Make sure that reading is included in your child's daily range of activities. When you pack for a trip to the store or the doctor's office, stuff a book in your tote bag. Reading aloud to your child can be a great way to transition from active to quiet play. But keep it fun if your child is busting with physical energy it might not be the best time to sit down with a book. Remember, books should never be used as punishment. And always try to talk about what you're reading; this is as important as the reading itself in developing prereading skills as well as vocabulary.
* Establish a Routine. Set a regular time for reading aloud. Children love books before bed or naptime. You may also like to sit down regularly at snack time or in the park. Establishing routines weaves books firmly into the fabric of your child's day; it gives them something to look forward to and teaches them to make reading a priority.
* Involve the Whole Family. Encourage older siblings to read to your younger child. Most children will jump into the process at some point by reciting their favorite words and phrases. Some like to "read" the whole book, telling a familiar story in his or her own words while turning the pages. And when the time is right, children can sound out certain words, then alternate reading pages aloud.
Shane Templeton is Foundation Professor of Literacy Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Templeton's research has focused on developmental word knowledge in elementary, middle and high school students. Dr. Templeton is senior author of "Houghton Mifflin Spelling and Vocabulary" and author of "Houghton Mifflin English" and "Houghton Mifflin Reading".
About Houghton Mifflin: Education publisher Houghton Mifflin is a market leader in reading, language arts, and math. The Company's elementary reading products are widely used, with one in four Americans learning to read from Houghton Mifflin reading programs. The research-based instructional materials meet the needs of state agencies, school districts, and educators alike. The Company's Web site can be found at

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