Reading to Two: A Double Challenge
By: PBS Parents
parents understand the importance of reading to children, it is often a
struggle to read to two. How can parents negotiate the "book wars,"
when one child only wants to read chapter books and the other insists on
reading picture books? What can parents do when one child wants to read
about dinosaurs and the other wants to read about ballerinas?
to two can be a challenge, there are strategies that do work. The
strategies that follow can help you make the family reading experience
meaningful, while helping your children to develop their abilities as
readers and writers.
Choosing the right books for two
The first and most critical step is selecting the right books. Consider these tips as you try to find the right books for two.
Choose topics that appeal to both your children
Look for interesting books that both children can "read," such as, Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boynton or Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
by Eileen Christelow. Preschoolers can count and name colors, while
toddlers will be enchanted by the colorful illustrations. Moreover, the
catchy beat and refrain will help both your children become aware of the
sounds of the language, while laying the foundation for reading and
Consider the complexity of the story as well as the topic
If your older
child thinks a book is too easy, he may lose interest. At the same time,
your younger child can become frustrated with long, complex books. Try
to select books that "stretch" your younger child, while appealing to
your older child. You may even be surprised by how attentive your
younger child can be.
Choose books that have characteristics of good read-alouds
read-alouds can appeal to children of different ages. Good read-aloud
books have action, strong characters, interesting dialogue, and a clear
story line. Colorful illustrations can also help your children follow
what's happening. Folktales and fairytales with colorful illustrations
can enchant young and older children alike. Wordless books are also good
choices because children of all ages can read the "story" in their own
Read different kinds of books together
children may prefer certain kinds of books, try to expose them to
different genres, or kinds of books, including poetry, non-fiction, and
stories. Different kinds of books will help broaden their knowledge of
the world and increase their vocabulary. Involve your children in taking
turns choosing the books for the day.
Establish a special time for family read-alouds every day
One of the most
effective ways to encourage a lifelong love of reading is to make
reading part of your family's regular routine. Reading daily will
increase your children's vocabulary, their knowledge of the world, and
their understanding of stories.
Find time to read one-on-one with your children, too
read-alouds can help your children learn more about books, about
sharing, and about each other. But children also need some alone time
with you, when they can choose the books they like, ask as many
questions as they like, and read aloud themselves.
Adapting book reading for two
As you read
aloud, take your cues from your children to make the book reading
experience meaningful. Consider these tips as you read to two.
Find ways to engage both your children
children memorize portions of favorite books, so you might suggest that
they "read" the story aloud. With your younger child, point out the
pictures and talk about what they are. You and your older child can also
create challenges for the younger child. For instance, ask her to find
all the pictures of dogs or all the pictures of babies. As your child
gets older, you can involve her more in the story, by encouraging her to
think about what the baby is doing and what might happen next. And
don't get worried if your children seem distracted. Even if they play
with toys during book reading, they may be taking in every word you say.
Make book reading an enjoyable experience
To make stories
more interesting, you may want to change words or substitute the names
of your children for the characters. Take cues from your children as to
when to simplify the language, or when to talk about what is happening,
or when to involve them in retelling the story themselves. Older
children can even add new twists and turns. What is most important is
that you and your children have fun as you explore the world of books
They are part
of the learning process. When a child asks for clarification, he is
actively engaged in making meaning out of the story. But too many
interruptions can interfere with the story. If one of your children is
getting frustrated with all of the interruptions, explain that you will
read the story first, and then discuss their questions later.
Talking About Books
the stories you read together will help your children develop an
appreciation for literature. At the same time, you will gain a deeper
appreciation for how your children think, what interests them, and what
they care about. Consider these tips as you "talk books" with your
Stop and chat
children to name objects or to predict what will happen next or asking
them what they think about a character are simple ways to stimulate
discussion about stories. By discussing the story, you help your
children develop language skills and story comprehension.
Ask questions based on your children's interests and ages
If you have a
toddler, you might ask her to label objects or point to the "Nanna" in
the story. If you have a preschooler, you might help her to think about
what happened in the story or to link the story to her own life by
asking, "Does the Nanna in the story remind you of your Nanna? How?" Ask
your older child questions that encourage him to read beyond the plot.
Instead of asking, "What happened?" try asking, "Why do you think the
author used that word?", "What part of the story made you think that the
dog would be safe in the end?", or "What makes him a character you
Use stories as a springboard for pretend play
will delight in taking on the roles of favorite characters, whether it's
Winnie the Pooh or Strega Nona. In addition to acting out favorite
scenes, they can create new ones of their own. Play will help your
children develop skills that are fundamental to reading by stimulating
language development and the creative use of words. Moreover, as they
create new worlds, they begin to acquire an understanding of characters,
the structure of stories, and point of view.
*Reprinted from the Reading & Language section of pbsparents.org