How To Read Aloud to a Child: 10 Tips for Reading to Children

Last Updated on 4 November 2022 by Dr. Sandro Cantoni

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Reading aloud to children is an incredibly rewarding activity, both for the child and the reader–whether they’re parents, friends, or teachers. Besides helping stimulate the child’s mind and imagination, it can create an opportunity for you and the child to connect. 

So, are you wondering how to read aloud to a child to keep them engaged? This article will break down everything you need to know, from suggestions on choosing a book to ideas for approaching the situation with the right attitude.

Why Reading Aloud Is Effective

Experts suggest that reading to children in their first few months of life can be incredibly beneficial for their language acquisition. Reading introduces new vocabulary and builds crucial social skills.

By reading to a young child, you can encourage them to become accustomed to the sounds of language. Doing so will help them develop an ability to distinguish between meaningless sounds and meaningful new words.

But the benefits don’t stop there. Reading aloud to older kids can offer various advantages, from giving them foundations for independent learning to stimulating their social and emotional health.

10 Tips on How To Read Aloud to a Child

If you are concerned about reading aloud to a child, our article’s ten tips will help you navigate it.

1. Choose a Good Book

Before you can sit down and read a book with a child, you have to handle the first step–picking a good book! Every good reading experience goes back to choosing a good book.

There is no one way to pick a book for a child. If the child is old enough to have things that excite them, find something that might appeal to them, as it will help them get interested in the book.

If the child is young enough to have no particular interests yet, you can still engage them with an appealing book. Pick out a book with attractive illustrations, a positive message, and rich language that’s easy for you to read–reading time works well when you can read well!

2. Make Reading Time an Enjoyable Time

The next thing to know is that you should always make reading time fun, engaging, and positive for the child. Children are great at following an adult’s lead, which means that if you seem negative, aggravated, or anxious, the child will have a hard time, too.

But, if the reader expresses lots of positivity and makes the child feel that you’re glad to be there with them, they will feel cherished and excited to be there with you. 

In concrete terms, this means smiling, making eye contact with the child when appropriate, laughing when things are funny, and comforting them if they seem anxious.

3. Read Slower Than You Usually Would

When you’re reading aloud, speak slower than you might expect for a simple reason: your audience doesn’t know what’s coming! When you read, you can make sense of the words because you can scroll your eyes back up or down to preview what’s coming next. 

Someone listening to you can only follow along from your oral reading. Keeping it slow while doing read-alouds will help your audience keep up with the story’s concepts.

Second, keeping it slow can get the child involved in the reading. If you speed through, they won’t have any space to take part, but by reading slowly, they can react, jump in, and ask questions.

4. Describe the Images on the Page for Context and Added Fun

Describing pictures can help develop visual comprehension skills, give the story context, and build up a whole world. Older children trying out nonfiction books will appreciate the extra information as they process the book’s content.

Plus, you can add more fun to the story by injecting your personality when you describe the picture. If your child speaks multiple languages, describing images can also be a useful way to make multilingual connections between words.

5. Don’t Try To Be Theatrical if It’s Not in Your Nature

You might think you should give an over-the-top performance or play different characters when reading to a child. But that can’t be further from the truth. While children are young, they aren’t completely oblivious, and they can tell if adults are talking down to them or being inauthentic with them.

If you aren’t theatrical, don’t feel you need to create a fake persona to read for a child. Be yourself, using natural facial expressions and body language, and you’ll be able to bond with them as you are.

6. Be Interactive To Incite Responses

The next step to reading to a child is to read in an interactive way. This strategy is also called dialogic reading. Don’t feel you need to limit yourself to the written print on the pages when reading. 

If there’s something mysterious, discuss with the child what they think is happening. If there’s an exciting moment, get them to participate in the action. If the characters are celebrating, encourage them to celebrate too.

7. Incorporate Props From Around the House

Bringing props can make things even more exciting for your young audience and serve a few different purposes in your reading. 

For example, you could use a toy like dolls or puppets to represent characters. You could use a toy car to reflect a form of transportation. You could even use items like cups and keys to represent parts of nature, like birds or mountains. Just make sure to use familiar props so the child won’t get distracted. 

8. Remember That You Can Choose Books With No Words

If you prefer, you’re free to choose wordless picture books when reading to a child.

Choosing this style of book is useful when reading to babies and toddlers. It trains them in visual literacy, engages them with exciting abstract sounds and bright pictures, and gives lots of space for interactivity.

It can also apply to older readers. If you want to read a graphic novel or book of art with a child, they’ll reap the same benefits as reading picture books with print words. Plus, they’ll still get to spend time with you.

9. Ask the Child To Help Think About What Could Happen Next

As part of interacting with the child, you can pause your reading occasionally to ask them what they think might happen next. It will also create opportunities for imaginative play. These skills will apply later in your child’s life when they develop active reading skills.

But more than that, it shows the child that you care what they have to say, which might be the best benefit. When a child feels that you genuinely value spending time with them, they will feel safer, more secure, and more ready to try new things.

10. Don’t Worry About Choosing a Book You Might Not Finish

Younger children don’t necessarily need the structure of a finished storytime–it’s more about the process of spending time with you. Similarly, older children can engage in more stories if you spread your reading across many sessions. 

The important thing, though, is to set up proper expectations with them. They should know that you’ll come back to finish the story later. It’ll help them feel more secure and get them excited to read more.

Final Thoughts

The suggestions on this list are simple ways of making the process of reading aloud to children easier on you. One of the most important things is to be engaging and interactive. Doing so will help create meaningful bonding time for you and the child. It’ll open a new world of imagination to them.

So now that you’re more confident in knowing how to read aloud to a child, it’s time to pick a book. So what are you waiting for? Get reading!