Read Aloud with Children

5 May

Recently I have been working with my son on reading aloud, because his reading test at school shows his reading speed is below average. I am not too concerned about his reading speed, since I know he can read fast when he doesn’t have to read aloud. But I do want to work with him on reading aloud as a way to improve his self-expression and story telling skills.

To do a good job in reading aloud, kids have to learn to coordinate multiple tasks into a smooth process: “read by eyes”, “process information by brain”, and “read out aloud”. My son is good at each single task, but is not so good at putting all tasks together.

What I have been doing is to find short stories for us to read to each other. One book my son has enjoyed is the FREE Aesop for Children from Libray of Congress. They are short and all are good stories. We will each read 1 or 2 stories. Because they are short, I can find time to ask him read the words that he did not pronounce clearly again.

Another thing I just started doing is to listen to professional read children’s books together. One good resource I found is Caldecott Literature Series from New Hampshire Public Television. It has many prefessional read children’s books. While watching the videos, I asked my son to pay attention to the rhythm and intonation, and try to mimic how others reading the book. I try to point out the importance of pause – where and how long do you pause for a comma or a period.

Do you have to work with your child on reading aloud? What would you suggest to use for a school age child? Any tips you would like to share?

293 Responses to “Read Aloud with Children”

  1. karenartal May 5, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    Unfortunately, they are grading on how many words you can read in a minute.
    As a retired teacher, I don’t believe this tells us anything. The students are concentrating on pronouncing the words and not on comprehension. Reading is communication through words. How can this speed test be important. Fluency and prosody are the most important thing you need to know. (Prodosy means true understanding of the content of the story…..true fluency and comprehension!)

    • iGameMom May 5, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Thank you so much! It is just a good validation of how I felt. I know he is a good reader. However, I do want to work with him on reading aloud, not so much on speed, but more on making it understandable and interesting for others to listen to. When you listen to his read, sometimes you would wonder what is he reading 🙂

      • Jilanne Hoffmann May 10, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

        I would use books that have lots of character voices, especially animal voices. That way, kids can practice using expression to show feelings and character traits. I do this with my son quite a bit.

        • Jilanne Hoffmann May 10, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

          Meaning something that is dialogue-heavy…

          • Rebecca White Body May 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

            I’ve recently discovered the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems and the Dust Bunnies books by Jan Thomas; these books are written as dialogues, are easy to read, and are just plain fun. I’ve been using them with my five-year-old son, the After-School Reading class I teach (mostly second graders), and two eleven-year-olds I tutor. All the kids have loved the books so far, and even struggling readers want to read them aloud. You’ve probably seen them before, but on the off-chance you haven’t, I figured I’d bring them up–they’re definitely worth reading with your son. Thanks for all the information you put on your blog, by the way!

            • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2013 at 12:52 am #

              Thanks for the suggestion! We’ll take a look at them. And thanks for taking a look at my blog. I really appreciate yours!

    • bloggingbyrgottier May 13, 2013 at 3:58 am #

      I have found that kids & parents in those that don’t take the time with their kids have problems more so instead of teachers & schools having to teach independently to each & every kid that is slow or isn’t able to get up to speed at home will get them to speed read in school so at least the kid & teacher aren’t always lagging when kids are having a tough time in class.

  2. Jill May 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    I’m a teacher and don’t have kids of my own so can only talk from a ‘professional’ perspective as opposed to one of a parent, but what I always say to families I work with is to chose books that your kids really love and to choose something a little below their actual ability so that the reading is ‘easy’ and they don’t get caught up with a challenging text, worrying about deciding words etc. if the book is easy (but not too easy) they will develop confidence in reading aloud. If a child is worried that the text is too hard then they will be worried they will make mistakes and get embarrassed. This, as you can imagine, does not build confidence in reading aloud. Hope that helps!

    • iGameMom May 5, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

      Good tip! I will keep it in mind when choose books for our read aloud time.

  3. karenartal May 5, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    To continue: If you want to improve is oral reading try Choral Reading, Paired Reading, Marking the boundaries, Tape recorded passages, Model Fluent Reading, Repeated Reading, Assisted Reading and Fluency Development Lesson, which is “Pick a short story and make copies for the students. The teacher reads the text while students listen and then critique the reading. The teacher and students read the text together. Pairs take turns reading the text to each other. Listeners provide assistance and positive feedback. Students perform the text for an interested audience.” This comes from the FOUNDATIONS OF LITERACY, Book 1, by Performance Learning Systems.

  4. thedreamingbooks May 5, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    Im currently in school to be a teacher and they tell us one of the most important things is for him to hear you read, otherwise known as modeling, which you are already doing! It really helps for him to see you saying the words. Also, try reading books to him that might be a little lofty. I know my dad used to read the hobbit to me before bed and that is a huge reason why I’m such a big reader to this day!

    It sounds like you’ve already started some great habits with him. If he thinks its fun and enjoys what you’re reading then he will love to keep learning.

  5. Virtual_Momma May 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    We love acting out stories—costumes, props, and funny voices. My 6 year old loves to record himself, so we will set up the laptop and act out the story. Right now, he is reading the Junie B. Jones series and loves it. When I read to him, I read things that are a little more advanced and he has learned to stop me when he doesn’t understand a word or phrase. He keeps his dictionary handy and loves looking up words that he doesn’t know. I agree with someone else who commented here in that comprehension is more important than speed. I would rather have my children slow down and understand than vise versa. 🙂

    • Yoshiko May 6, 2013 at 6:50 am #

      Good idea, Virtual Momma 🙂

    • bloggingbyrgottier May 13, 2013 at 3:51 am #

      That’s a nice way to let a kid find out how to act & become who that character is. I used to have to use a dictionary a children’s encyclopedia of 20/set to find out more on that subject or topic in the books I read about. My dad & mom bought these in the 70s. I used them a lot when I had nobody to help me at times when I needed help to understand subjects in school too!

  6. BooKa Uhu May 5, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    I’m not a teacher but I have done teacher training and like to think I know my way with kids and books. My thought is that if you comprehend what’s happening in the book, it’s easier to add colour to your reading it aloud, since you know what’s happening and can react accordingly.

    Over here one of the big points for reading is ‘Reading for Meaning’, so teachers and parents are always encouraged to ask children questions about what it is they’re reading, as they’re reading it (or at the end of a small section, depending on flow). This helps them gage exactly how much a child is taking in of the story, or whether the child is just mechanically going through the motions of reading (over here we use phonics and decoding(ie. breaking down words into phonics and blending them back together), so some kids decode, but have no idea what word it is they’ve decoded).

    So, my thinking is if a child know he’s reading about the hugely terrifying and booming Ms Trunchball in Matilda and isn’t just mechanically reading, he can start to emphasise Trunchball’s words, make it clear when it’s her talking and when it’s Boris/Matilda/insert small child here, really enthuse his reading when he’s describing the chocolate cake eating etc etc etc because he knows what’s happening in the story and can make it sound as exciting as it is.

    I could be completely wrong though, just my tuppence worth 🙂 I just wonder if you can really put feeling into something you’re reading when you’re not actually reading it, if you get me.

    A great one to watch for an example of visual storytelling though and the importance of sounds and pauses is a tv series I LOVED when I was little. It’s Grim Tales, with Rik Mayall as the storyteller and it’s him basically doing Grimm’s fairy tales in his own eccentric manner. They’re on YouTube (probably worth looking through first yourself just in case I’ve forgotten something) but he is a FANTASTIC storyteller and he’s a great example of really throwing himself in to storytelling- body, voice, everything. Because his storytelling is so different, it’s easy (well, for me anyway) to see what it is that he does that makes you want to listen to him, like the way his voice changes, or the pauses he adds in etc. If nothing else though, it’ll be fun for your boy to watch anyway, even if doesn’t end up helping his reading much!

  7. markharwoodwriter May 5, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

    I spent a year with the SMART organization that pairs young students with adults and books. It isn’t formal – the aim is just to read to and be read to by kids, to spark their imaginations and interest in books. I’m sure there must be similar programs in other states and I encourage everyone to try it out – it was so fun!

  8. Robin May 5, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Great discussion. I have an 8 year old and he reads really well– at more of a 5 th grade level- we are reading the Mysterious Benedict books and the Secret Series before that as a family. Because they are long I have him read the first few pages of each chapter out loud to us and then either my husband or I read the rest. When my son gets monotone or “silly” with his voice- something he does often- I do that back to him when its my turn so he knows what it’s like for the listener. He hates that but it makes the point. He is starting to get much better with inflections, pauses, etc….its something we will work on for a while I’m sure….

  9. Coach Muller May 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    My wife is an elementary school teacher and she is also a reading specialist. We both agree…reading to children is an extremely important thing to do with our kids!

  10. booklovinggrandma May 5, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Thanks for liking my post! I have one suggestion. Trisha Speed Shaskan’s series of fractured fairy tales, told from the viewpoint of a different character, are marvelous. Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks! (told by Baby Bear) is one I’ve used that kids really like.

  11. Taiwanda May 5, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

    Well, I’d say that the more he practices, the better he will get. Try to get stories about things that he likes. For example, if he likes trucks, try to find stories that encompass trucks in some way. He will be more interested and into it to find out what’s happening next, being less focused on how he sounds which could help improve his fluency reading aloud.

  12. cindy0803 May 5, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    My daughter had a “fluency” problem as noted by her teacher last year (not awful, but needed some work). The problem, as I saw it, was that our school district does not stress phonics, and instead uses primarily sight words. The teachers had them looking all over the page at pictures when they got to a word they didn’t recognize. The last in a long list of tools was trying to sound words out.

    I am homeschooling my daughter this year, and I took a different approach by having her read books that were more challenging out loud (we take turns). One which I chose this year was Johnny Tremaine because we were studying colonial history. This gave us a chance to practice phonics (plenty of words to sound out) and vocabulary. Then when it came time to read easier books, the fluency had improved.

    One thing I discovered when comparing pages my daughter read to herself and then read out loud to me (even age appropriate books) was that she was skipping words or pronouncing them incorrectly to herself. Her comprehension was good before (which tells you just how adept kids can be at compensating for gaps) but now it is even better.

    Spelling has also improved with teaching more phonics and teaching how to break a word into syllables. This is a skill which atrophies (or never develops) when kids are learning sight words. You can’t just look at supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and know how to say it as one chunk.

    I agree with others here that speed is overrated. My opinion is that reading out loud is for the benefit of the listener (even while there are some residual benefits to the reader while they are learning). The purpose is to communicate a story to one or more other individuals. If the fluency is not there, the listener has a hard time following the story.

    But as mom, you should follow your instincts when something isn’t working and just be willing to try something new. Good luck.

  13. Todd Fuller May 5, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    The thing that I love to see/hear is that there are people that actually care about their students academic success enough to be involved in it. Too many parents feel that the teacher should be the sole “teacher.” I abhor parents that want to blame the teacher for their students lack of success and not hold the student accountable for their part. Bravo!

  14. Sam Joines May 6, 2013 at 12:29 am #

    Hi, I didn’t read all the comments so I hope Im not repeating. What I do with my son is we go to the library and we pick out these books called “read along” or “read together” They are in the juvenile section and the child reads one page with small words and sentences, then the parent reads a page…all the way through. I think its an awesome way to teach about pauses and everything you talked about. In child development in college we learned about something called “scaffolding”. it might be helpful for you to read about it and use those methods of teaching. Be blessed!

  15. cbnwali May 6, 2013 at 3:41 am #

    We developed a course here which runs in schools, it is called the read aloud course. It encourages children to read aloud and helps to resuscitate the dying reading culture. I really agree it would be quite helpful if parents took the lead in reading aloud to their children. It helps the children develop a love for reading.

  16. Author Ashley Howland May 6, 2013 at 6:36 am #

    My daughter is a really strong reader, but she gets distracted by the picutures so can sound like she’s hesitating. She’s just doing something else. It took me a while to work out what was going on, because she read chapter books really well (no pictures) yet is slower on her readers. That’s my girl through and through! I just figure as long as she enjoys reading then it’s all good!

  17. Call of the Siren May 6, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Another fantastic, helpful post — and comments thread. thank you

  18. abbyjreed May 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    My mom read aloud to me growing up. We started with Little House in the Big Woods, moved on to The Chronicles of Narnia, and finished with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. All of them. Before I was 12. And we loved it! It’s ok to read heavier books to your kids–you’ll still make memories 🙂

  19. Dasman May 6, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    We read to my son everynight. We started before he was one, and he absolutely loves reading now. It is very heartwarming to see

  20. Wendy May 7, 2013 at 5:37 am #

    Hi, this is a very good article. I would like to reblog this article, of course, with your permission. Let me know if it’s ok to reblog. Thanks a lot.

  21. Dagmara Almand May 8, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    thanks for sharing!! so true…
    i have a six year old and sometimes she likes to read poetry… great sense of rhythm and pauses 🙂

  22. ioniamartin May 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    I like to sit my boys down with each of us having a book and take turns reading a sentence each. Sometimes the combos of what comes out of reading three different sentences are quite hilarious. Also, the child doesn’t feel as intimidated by onely having to read a short passage out loud. It is pretty fun:)

  23. ioniamartin May 8, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    only lol

  24. Wendy May 8, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    Reblogged this on Joyful 阅 and commented:
    This is a good post for parents to read together with children. Parents can do the same for Chinese Language too.

  25. maureenjenner May 12, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Above all, remember that what is learned with pleasure will remain with you forever. First and foremost, read with your child so you both enjoy the experience. Reading is like happiness, we catch it from one another. Worry not for now. Life and reading at six should be fun.

  26. shereadstoomuch May 13, 2013 at 12:31 am #

    I like your blog! I nominated you for The Liebster Award.

  27. bloggingbyrgottier May 13, 2013 at 4:07 am #

    Not only are all these ways great ways for kids & their parents, but have seen what teachers have done in Denver, Colorado schools which is taking the kids to a library & letting some librarian be a teacher for a 1/2 hour to an hour I think. They have to listen & learn as this librarian is speaking different languages including English which gets all nationalities that are in that class to learn about each & every language after he or she has read to them of a book & then asks them about it later on within that time frame. This really helps all kids to really pay attention when there are parents who are working so much that have no time for their kids. You might get your school to see about a way of getting a librarian at a local library to interact with the children to help when you as a parent can be educated as well. I am not saying that to hurt you, but when run out of ideas, there are at least ways that maybe even you as a parent can get ideas from a librarian if they are interactive with kids a lot & their books as well. Hope this helps as well!

  28. bloggingbyrgottier May 13, 2013 at 4:09 am #

    Thanks for taking the time to read my blog as well which helps me to help others, too like yourself.

  29. Redo You Project May 14, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Very well written! Keep up the good work.


  30. unsolicitedtidbits May 15, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    I don’t have children, but I can say that I have lovely memories of my father and I reading together. He would buy two copies of a book, we’d sit on opposite ends of the living room couch, and then we’d take turns reading out loud to each other. The activity is great for learning, of course, but it also builds relationships.

  31. janyll67 May 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Mary Ann Hoberman has several books in her “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” series. This is a fun way to read with your son while taking turns throughout the book. She has color coded sentences for taking turns and reading together. This is an excellent opportunity for you to model fluent reading in an exciting way. He will want to read them over and over again…which is exactly what is needed to build his fluency! Have fun!!

  32. ruthrumack May 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Great ideas! Another way to use of character voices is using “Readers Theatre” scripts, where each reader has a role in a script. Some can be acted out, which encourages multiple readings to make sure you’re “performance-ready”. I use these with students and then film the final production with an iPad so that they have incentive to practise, and can hear themselves afterwards. They also love hamming it up for the camera!

  33. War Department May 16, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

    If your son is just starting to read, “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” was one of my daighters’ favorites. They’re teenagers now and I can still quote it. So can they 🙂

  34. hannahcanavan May 17, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    Great post- over in the UK we have some great celebrities who read kids’ books, like Stephen Fry. It’s a great way of encouraging kids to read if they’re not normally inclined to pick up a book 🙂

  35. ushapandit May 17, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    Good blog and great comments on reading. I think it is important not to put any stress on the “reading” but to enjoy it as a warm companionable time together. Begin early, surround the child with colorful books, be a reader yourself. Let reading be a snug cuddly activity at first, going on to become an experience that opens up a world of imagination. Early associations with reading are very important. For the child’s own reading offer books at reading level, but always read to him/her books that have excellent vocabulary and a variety of stories because the child’s understanding is always greater than his/her literacy. And thanks for reading my blog.

  36. Victoria May 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

    A very nice exercise…and a great way to spend time together!

  37. Mary Gilmartin May 19, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    Thanks for the link to the Caldecott Literature series. “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” is a great story and one of my six-year old grandson’s favorites. He is learning to read by himself now. I’m encouraging him to read aloud which I believe will turn him into a great reader.

  38. tiptoebay May 20, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    It’s a great thing to encourage children to read aloud. When they’re using expression and intonation then it shows they are aware of the listener as well as themselves, the reader. It also shows a better understanding of the text, I feel. (Thanks for the ‘like’ by the way!) 🙂

  39. Melanie May 23, 2013 at 1:51 am #

    Hi, and thanks for the like over on my blog!

    I was raised being read to every night – and learned to read very early (I was 3) without being ‘taught’, so this teaching kids to read thing is totally alien for me. Still, we’re managing. I read to my son (he’s now 7) every night, and now, he reads a bit to me too.

    He’s supposed to read in French every night for school. As well, all English instruction is up to the parents – he’s in early French immersion, so all school instruction is in French. So he gets a double dose of reading! Which is not at all how I really want to do things, reading because he /has/ to. I want it to be fun. Interesting. Something he chooses to do.

    So French reading is separate. It’s school work. He’s good enough at it that I don’t push it too hard, but we try to do it every night. There, he has good flow and intonation, but doesn’t have the vocabulary yet. Comprehension is his challenge. We haven’t yet found books that he’s actually interested in … that’s my summer challenge.

    For English reading, I find that we have the most success with any book that he enjoys. If he doesn’t WANT to read it, if he’s not curious about the what-comes-next, it’ll just be work for him. I try to not jump on him if he mis-reads a word … but if he doesn’t realize it himself I’ll go back and point at the word when the sentence or paragraph is done, give him another chance at it. That way I’m not interrupting the flow of reading, distracting him from what he’s doing, or frustrating him. Also, I allow pauses. He’s not yet perfected the art of skimming ahead while reading so he knows what’s coming up. That’ll come with time probably. He’s also got some funky eye tracking issues that the doctor thinks will go away with practice and exercise. So the pauses allow him to scan ahead and read a few sentences, so he can read with flow, intonation, and comprehension.

    His favourite books so far are the Bad Kitty series, and Boy Vs Beast.

    Now, I know that my take on things is kind of counter to what I’m hearing of expectations in schools lately. Speed of reading, pushing ability, and all that. Thankfully my son is in a school system where the kids aren’t pushed like that, and enjoyment and interest (plus a good dose of social skills) are the main lessons in primary levels.

    I love the idea suggested above, of acting out stories. I’ll give that a try for sure!

  40. Lloyd Lofthouse May 24, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    I like the reading program you are doing with your son. If all parents did just this with their children, there would be no crises in the public schools. The most important skill a child can have is literacy. In addition, the great quality time a parents spends with her child is priceless.

  41. iBall United May 25, 2013 at 9:22 pm #

    My son has just begun to read. But his case is somewhat different. He was born in Spain and now he is five and will move to the U.S. to begin school in the fall. This post and thread has already blessed me with some real jewels, but is there anything I should keep in mind as now he will be learning everything all over again in a different language? Thank You in advance!!!!!

  42. sanensatisfied May 28, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    I’m 34 weeks pregnant now but we’ve already decided that we will homeschool our child. And your blog will come in very handy. I hope you are still writing in 3 years 🙂 I can’t wait to read out loud with my little girl.

    Also, thanks for liking my post on Sane & Satisfied Blog ( I appreciate it 🙂

  43. crazymama83 May 29, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    I am a teacher and also a mother of three school agers. I used to not care about speed either until I realized why teachers focus on speed- fluency. Fluency is an important skill because until a child has good fluency, they have difficulty reading with expression because they are still trying to focus on processing individual words. The key to building fluency is having him read aloud as much as possible. Keep doing all that you are doing, but realize that expression in reading comes with practice and hearing others read as well. 🙂

  44. Geoff Kitching May 31, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

    I agree that the foundations for comprehension lie in fluency, but there is a difference between fluency when reading silently and fluency when reading aloud. As a teacher I find that I have had to practice developing my read aloud strategies in order to read with expression in order to read for the benefit of the listener. I still have to model fix up strategies because reading out loud requires a different strategies, and focusing on those strategies often causes my own comprehension to suffer. For instance – try to focus on your son’s expression and then go back and come up with the important ideas in a text. It’s difficult isn’t it? In my opinion, string readers use a variety of strategies to construct meaning when reading a variety of texts. So focus on a variety of strategies and teaching him to make connections and inferencing as he reads.

  45. momohyeah May 31, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

    My 3yr old is very concerned about children who don’t have books. He often gives away a book if he feels the chid needs a book. Each nite before sleep we read at least two story books. Books in south africa are expenssive and we don’t have a lot but each one is treasured and even when a book is given away its because he treasures it and not just because he no longer likes the book.

  46. Brianna Boes June 1, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    I use They have books that can be read to your kids, you can read them, or your kid can try to read it. My daughter is only 4, but I love the suggestions you made when listening to a book being read. Thanks! I think that will help us!

  47. Esraa Ibrahim June 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us, and it is too important to read with our childrens and choose good books to read with them 🙂

    And thanks for your liking my post on Computer Science Geeks Blog 😀 (

  48. kyrian777 June 2, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this post!


  1. Game4Learning and Reading Aloud | Booka Uhu's Book Nook - May 5, 2013

    […] logged on today and lo and behold, this interesting article popped up in my blog […]

  2. Angels, Neruda, Odom’s poetry and more: a roundup | Call of the Siren - May 10, 2013

    […] mine grow older and I realize that I can share more of my book interests with them. There’s a great comments thread that you might unspool at Games4Learning and gain some helpful ideas to try at […]

Leave a comment:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: