Reboot Your Bedtime Reading Ritual

Reboot Your Bedtime Reading Ritual

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We all have a tendency to let family routines slip a bit during school breaks. Summer Break can wreak havoc on your family’s schedule, with its longer days and late nights. And Winter Break usually involves later bedtimes, lots of excitement and probably more sugar than usual!

The end of a school break is a great time to re-evaluate and re-establish your family’s bedtime reading routine. Doing this a few days before the break ends makes it easier to start implementing an earlier bedtime and creating a more structured routine before school actually starts up again.

Here are seven tips for rebooting your family’s bedtime reading ritual.

Create Buy-In

1. Ignite your children’s enthusiasm and create buy-in by treating this reboot as a big deal. Let your own excitement show when you announce this project, and involve the whole family.

2. Rummage through your family library, pull out a selection of familiar picture books, and let each child pick a few favorites.

Provide Fun New Books

3. Do a little research, and find out what new titles have been released for your children’s age ranges. Ask your librarian for recommendations, check out my Pinterest board, and browse Amazon to find new books that match your children’s current interests. (Remember that picture books are typically written at a third or fourth grade level, and are still appealing to older children.)

4. Broaden your search – if you haven’t already, it might be time to start introducing chapter books to your family’s bedtime reading ritual. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett are terrific first choices.

5. Let each child set aside a couple of books to look at or read in bed for a few minutes after you have read aloud.

Make It Cozy

6. Depending upon your children’s ages, provide a new plush friend or a soft throw blanket.

7. Snuggle up and enjoy! Reading aloud creates strong family bonds and memories your children will cherish forever.

Ease the Transition for Your Whole Family

Re-adjusting after a school break can be tough, but revitalizing your bedtime reading ritual a few days ahead of time can ease the transition for your whole family!

How to Quickly Explode Your Child’s Language Development

How to Quickly Explode Your Child’s Language Development

Did you know that oral language skills and vocabulary development are better predictors of reading success than a child’s IQ? This is good news for parents, because we have so much influence on these critical areas of child development.

In this post you’ll learn a powerful strategy for dramatically improving your child’s oral language and vocabulary development that you can start implementing TODAY.

How Oral Language Development Leads to Reading Readinessoral language development in babies

Humans begin to develop oral language skills in the womb before birth, when they hear and process the sounds of language in their environment.

Babies begin to develop language skills when they hear adults and older children talk to them, and they babble in return. When their efforts are celebrated, babies are encouraged to continue using sound to communicate. They memorize the sounds and patterns of sounds they hear, laying the groundwork for understanding and speaking later. Babies with parents who frequently interact with them develop better language skills by ages two and three, and better reading skills at ages five and six.

Babies begin to develop an expressive vocabulary of words that are important to them – for example, “mama,” “daddy” or “cookie.” Their receptive vocabularies are much, much bigger.

As toddlers hear words and spoken language around them, they begin to use words, phrases and sentences. When the people around them provide encouragement, toddlers rapidly improve their oral language skills. They begin to respond purposefully to what people say to them. A toddler’s vocabulary can often increase by several words each day.

Preschoolers can talk for longer periods of time, and begin to take turns in conversation. When they are encouraged and supported, they begin to use a wider variety of words and more sophisticated sentences. They often show an intense interest in learning new words.

Preschoolers begin to develop the ability to recount experiences to adults, and to talk in a coherent way about what is happening around them. They are able to listen to and understand books and stories, and they enjoy talking about them with others.

When this begins to happen, it is a sign of reading readiness.

The Easy Way to Explode Your Child’s Oral Language Skills and Vocabulary Developmentvocabulary development in babies

The easiest, best and most enjoyable way to explode your child’s oral language skills and vocabulary development at every stage is to read books aloud. Any time spent listening to stories read aloud is valuable for children. However, with a just little bit of planning, you can level up your read alouds and maximize the benefits for your child.

Do this by making sure that for at least some books, you and your child spend time talking purposefully about the story. Of course, many read alouds are just you reading the book and your child enjoying the story. This is wonderful, especially at bedtime when you are both trying to wind down from a busy day.

However, each day pick a book to approach in a more deliberate manner. A popular, effective way to do this is to use “Dialogic Reading,” which was developed by Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst.

The Dialogic Reading approach gives you a structure to use to make sure that when you read aloud, your little ones are getting the most oral language benefit and vocabulary development possible. Tons of studies have shown that dialogic reading dramatically increases the benefits of reading aloud.

How to Use Dialogic Reading to Level Up Your Read Alouds

To use Dialogic Reading, parents can use the PEER interaction with their child.

  • Prompt your child to say something about the book. (see specific prompts below)
  • Evaluate how your child responds.
  • Expand on your child’s response by rephrasing it and adding information
  • Repeat the prompt to double check for learning

Here is an example. When you are reading a book with your child, you might point to a character and ask (prompt) “who is this?” Your child might say “that’s Piggie,” and you would say “Yes!” (evaluation) “Piggie and his friend Elephant are getting in the car.” (expansion) Then you might ask “can you point to Piggie and Elephant getting in the car? (repetition)

You can use the PEER interaction model with books that are new or books that are familiar. The sample prompts below will work with almost any book you and your child enjoy together.dialogic reading

There are many ways to prompt children to respond to books. Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst suggests using the CROWD acronym to guide your prompting.

The CROWD model includes five types of prompts to use in Dialogic Reading.

  • Completion prompts: create a “fill-in-the-blank” sentence for your child. This works well with rhyming books and books with lots of repetition.  For example, you might say “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, ________” and help your child chime in with “Sam I am!” This type of prompt lets children experience the structure of language in a fun, natural way.
  • Recall prompts: ask literal questions with concrete answers that come directly from the book. You can use them at any time with books you have already read, or at the end of a new book. For example, you might say, “What did he finally eat?” Recall prompts are great for developing sequencing skills and comprehension.
  • Open-ended prompts: the very best open-ended prompt is “tell me what is happening in this picture.” This prompt provides endless opportunities for improving your child’s expressive language. Be sure to choose books that have engaging, detailed illustrations.
  • Wh- prompts: this category of questions expands on recall prompts.  Questions that begin with “what,” “where,” and “when,” are literal and usually have definite answers. Questions that begin with “why” and “how” encourage kids to make inferences, draw conclusions and describe at greater length. Easier Wh-prompts focus on the illustrations in a book. More difficult Wh-prompts focus on the story itself.
  • Distancing prompts: these are wonderful for helping kids see that books can be connected to every aspect of our life. A distancing prompt asks children to relate something in the story to experiences they have had in real life. For example, when reading a book about visiting grandparents, you might say, “Amanda and Oliver are visiting their grandma. Remember when we visited Grandma last week? What did you do at Grandma’s house?” Distancing prompts teach children to make text-to-self connections, text-to-word connections and text-to-text connections.

After using any of these CROWD prompts, be sure to follow up with the remaining steps of the PEER process: evaluate, expand, repeat.

oral language developmentDialogic Reading Works!

Kids who have regularly enjoyed Dialogic Reading with their parents are typically miles ahead in oral language skills and vocabulary development. In fact, if a child is behind in oral language development, Dialogic Reading is a powerful technique for helping them catch up.

Be sure to mix up the prompts, and keep the whole experience light and fun. And remember, you should never do Dialogic Reading with every book you read. Sometimes, just snuggle up and enjoy the soothing rhythm of an uninterrupted story with your little ones.

Oral language skills and vocabulary development have a monumental impact on reading readiness. Isn’t it great to know that adults can have a monumental impact on oral language skills and vocabulary development?

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How to Read Aloud to Children (Tips for Parents)

How to Read Aloud to Children (Tips for Parents)

You know all the reasons why reading aloud to children is important. You’ve heard it from your child’s preschool teacher, you’ve heard it from me, you’ve heard it from The New York Times, and you’re a believer! You’re ready to learn some strategies for reading books to kids in a way that is engaging and motivating, creates treasured memories, and provides all the priceless benefits of reading aloud.

Here are my very best tips for making the most of your read alouds.

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Look for Rhyme and Repetition

Be on the lookout for books with rhyme and repetition. The rhyming is a valuable readiness skill, and along with repetition, it creates a rhythm that makes listening to these books soothing and enthralling for kids. I find that reading these kinds of books is pretty soothing and enthralling for me, too!


read aloud tips for parents of preschoolersPreview and Rehearse

When you find a book that rhymes or uses a lot of repetition, read it to yourself a few times before you read it aloud to your child.

Look for the parts that rhyme, and make sure that they sound natural when you read them aloud. It’s best to know when the rhyming bits are coming up, and being ready to emphasize those parts makes a huge positive difference in the quality of your read aloud.


Invite Participation

Once your child has heard the book a few times, pause just before the end of a line to invite your child to say the rhyming word with you. Know when the repetition is coming up, too, and after a couple of times, pause and look expectantly at your child just before you read the section that repeats. It won’t be long before your child is gleefully chiming in.

“…but the bear snores on.”

In a demonstration video included in my online course for parents, How to Raise a Reader – Reading Readiness Edition, I read the book Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson to my nephew James. Although it takes a few times and a nudge or two from me, when James joins me in exclaiming “…but the bear snores on,” his delighted smile lights up his whole face.

(THAT is why I love reading aloud to kids so much. In addition to developing reading readiness skills, it promotes bonding and its just FUN.)


Talk About Photographs and Illustrations

Good books for preschoolers have photographs and illustrations that are clear, colorful and engaging. Use these illustrations as an opportunity to talk about new vocabulary – label and explain any items or activities that might be unfamiliar to your child.

Doing this regularly sends a message to your child that discussing the pictures in a book is a natural part of reading. It won’t be long before your child is asking their own questions about the illustrations, which naturally leads to even more engagement and interaction. It’s a simple, powerful way to help your child’s vocabulary explode during these preschool years.


Improve Comprehension

Simple, fun plots with action that moves quickly will hold your child’s interest, and they let you focus on comprehension in a low-key, fun way. Reading books with straight-forward plots is a great opportunity to ask sequencing questions about what happened first, next and last.

You can also ask concrete literal questions about who, what, and where. If an obvious opportunity arises, start a quick conversation about how something happened in the story, or why a character did something in particular.

Picking relatable stories about everyday life with main characters (human or animal) who are your child’s age or just a litte bit older will set your child up for success in comprehension right from the beginning.


tips for reading to preschoolersHam it Up

If you feel comfortable using character voices when you are reading, do it! And if it feels awkward, jump in and do it anyway. Practice is the only way for it to get easier, and your child will appreciate any voice you come up with. Don’t feel like you have to give each character their own voice – maybe just use a different voice for the main character, and let it go at that.



Keep it Short and Sweet

Keep reading sessions as short as necessary, and if your audience is getting impatient or wiggly, quickly summarize the ending of the book and try again later. While some kids love to snuggle up while we read to them, others are not ready to do this during those active preschool years.

The entire year that my daughter was two, even for bedtime stories she would wander the perimeter of the room while I was reading. I could tell she was listening, and every now and then she would circle back to look at the pictures. Eventually she became as cuddly as her brother was during reading time, and could relax next to me for long read aloud sessions.


Explore and Experiment

Play around with these tips and see which ones work for you and your family. You may find that your kids love silly character voices but lose interest when you ask too many questions about the book. This is just fine!  Use the tips that work for you, and come back to the others later. ENJOY your read

aloud time with your precious little ones.

how to read aloud to kids


I’ve always loved reading aloud to kids, but years ago, The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease ignited my beliefs about why I read to kids. His stories about the power we have to improve children’s lives by reading aloud to them will get you fired up too.

More recently, I read The Read Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie and it made me happy that we are such a reading family. MacKenzie emphasizes the power that reading aloud has to create a shared family culture, and that is something that we have seen so much in our home.


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How to Fit Reading Aloud Into Your Busy Day

How to Fit Reading Aloud Into Your Busy Day

Reading aloud to your kids is one of the very best gifts you can give them.  With our busy schedules these days, it can be difficult to find time to read every day.  Here are some of my favorite tips for fitting reading aloud into your family’s busy schedule.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, A Family of Readers makes a small commission.

When to Read to Babiesreading to babies

Snuggle up close, and read several times a day for 2-3 minutes each time.  As your baby becomes more content listening, extend the amount of time that you read.

I always loved to read to my babies and toddlers during or after each feeding or meal, and of course before bed. I wanted my son and daughter to start anticipating book time, and for it to be a completely normal, expected part of our lives.

When to Read to Preschoolers

With preschoolers, you can read aloud after breakfast, after lunch/before nap-time, and during an afternoon snack.  If your kids go to a sitter or daycare, squeeze in a quick book in the morning before you leave, and send books along with your children.

Let your caregiver know that you want your child to hear a book read aloud at least once during the day. In the late afternoon or early evening, sharing a book and a snack together can ease the transition home, taking the edge off that dreaded “witching hour.”  This was a hard one for me to stick to, but the benefits were undeniable – the rest of our evening was much calmer when I managed to slow down and re-connect with my preschoolers over a story soon after we arrived home for the day.

Create a Break During Homeworkreading to kids

For school-aged children, you can squeeze in a quick read aloud during breakfast, and then again right after school during snack-time, before kids run off to play or start homework.

Reading aloud to kids is also a great break option to offer during homework. When tackling homework gets to be too much and your child needs a break, read aloud a favorite book for five or ten minutes before continuing.

Tame a Tantrum

For children of any age, reading aloud can be a great way to soothe crankiness, diffuse a tantrum, or distract and divert from mischief. Pull out a family favorite and start reading out loud any time you need to lift the mood or tame the chaos in your home.

Keep Books Handy

Keep a selection of books available in the car, for children to flip through on their own, or for you to read aloud while someone else is driving.  Take them along to doctor’s appointments and read aloud while you are waiting, rather than relying on your phone to entertain your child.

Use decorative baskets to store books throughout your home.  Easy access makes it much more likely that you’ll reach for a book when you want to spend some quality time with your kids.  Make books as common as toys in your home, and turn to them as much, or even more than you turn to screen-time to entertain, sooth, or divert your kids.

The Bedtime Read Aloud

With children of any age, make reading aloud an expected, treasured part of your children’s bedtime routine.  Ending the day by enjoying books together is a wonderful way to create and strengthen family bonds.

Gather everyone in the house – all adults and children of any age – for this evening ritual. Bringing together everyone in the house at the end of the day to experience the same book is a powerful tradition that sends a clear message – this is a family of readers! Maintained over time, this ritual can knit your family together in a way that few other activities can match.



How to Choose Great Books for Kids

How to Choose Great Books for Kids

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What is a Great Book?

A great book pulls kids in, and then holds their attention.  It has clear, engaging illustrations, or uses language that makes it easy to visualize the story. A good book might be comforting and familiar, or new and exciting. It might be an award winner that comes up in your Amazon recommendations or on Pinterest, or a simple board book you pick up in the checkout line at the grocery store. The bottom line is, a great book is any book that your family enjoys.

How to Choose Great Books

Take look at current favorites. Do your kids love silly rhyming books with whimsical illustrations? Or do they gravitate towards non-fiction books with realistic photography? Is there a chapter book series they enjoy? Consider current interests.  Has your child recently become obsessed with buses or garbage trucks?  Or do your kids settle right down when you reach for a book that depicts warm cozy family or school situations? Ask your kids for input – what would they like to learn more about?  What is their teacher reading out loud right now? What books do they see their friends reading? Involving your children in this process will skyrocket their buy-in and excitement for reading.

Books for Infants and Toddlers

Look for:How to Choose Books for Babies and Toddlers

  • Books with big, bold, colorful pictures of familiar or everyday objects or activities.
  • Sturdy books made of heavy cardboard, washable cloth, or plastic.
  • Small books that are easy for little hands to hold and turn the pages.
  • Stories told in short, simple sentences with pictures that explain the text.
  • Poems and rhymes that make the book fun to read aloud and fun to listen to.

Books for Preschoolers (Ages 3-5)

Look for:

  • Books that highlight basic concepts, such as colors, shapes, letters and numbers.
  • Rhyme and repetition.
  • Photographs and illustrations that are clear, colorful and engaging.
  • Simple, fun plots with action that moves quickly.
  • Stories about everyday life and familiar events in a child’s day-to-day life.
  • Main characters (human or animal) who are your child’s age or just a little bit older.

Books for Elementary School Kids (Ages 6-11)

Look for:

  • Books that reflect your child’s interests and passions.
  • Other books with your child’s favorite characters, or by favorite authors and illustrators.
  • Illustrations and photos that directly support the text and give clues to the meaning of unfamiliar words.
  • Project, craft, and recipe books with clearly worded instructions and supportive illustrations.
  • Picture books your child enjoyed hearing when they were younger. Most picture books are written at a third or fourth grade level, and are terrific to revisit when your child becomes a more independent reader.
  • Chapter books that your child can read independently, or higher level chapter books for you to read aloud.
  • Fact books, such as world record books, trivia books, and almanacs.

Books for Adolescents (Ages 12 and Up)

Look for:
How to Choose Books for Adolescents

  • New genres – biographies, mysteries, spy thrillers, classics, historical fiction, and mythology.
  • Books about places in the world that interest your child, or that they are studying in school.
  • Novels that depict characters dealing with the daily challenges of growing up.
  • Graphic novels that re-tell classic stories.


Involve Your Child

Perhaps most importantly, involve your kids in choosing new books.  Encourage them to join you as you look for new titles, and model your thought process as you consider new books to add to your family library. Learning how to choose great books is a reading skill that your child will use forever.




3 Tips for Reading to Your Baby

3 Tips for Reading to Your Baby

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A friend recently asked me, “how do I read to a baby?” and it really got me thinking.  I read aloud to school-age children every day, and occasionally to preschoolers.  But its been years since I took Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny to the hospital with me when I went into labor with my oldest child.  Like my friend, you may have learned about the benefits of reading aloud to your child, and be fired up to get started.  Use the tips below to help make the most of this experience.

Choose the Right Books

The best books for newborn babies have rhyme, rhythm, and repetition.  Your baby loves to hear your familiar voice, and books that rhyme, follow a rhythm, or repeat phrases and words are soothing to your little one. Mother Goose nursery rhymes are always a good choice. For older babies, add books that feature daily routines such as eating, playing or sleeping. Find books that illustrate concepts such as inside, outside, under, after, or next. Your older baby will love books with colorful photos or pictures of everyday objects. Board books are wonderful because they are tough to tear and can take some chewing.

Make it Comfortable and Cozy

reading to babies

Cuddling up to read aloud is cozy and relaxing for both you and your baby. Pick a time when your baby is fed, changed, and rested. You may want to offer your baby a toy to hold and chew while listening to you read. Find a comfortable place to sit, use a soft voice, and don’t go too fast. Make this experience as gentle, soothing and relaxing as possible.  The goal is for your baby to associate reading and books with comfort and pleasure.  If your baby fusses, stop and try again later.

Keep it Short and Simple

At the beginning, read for short periods of 2-3 minutes, several times during the day. These short periods of time will get longer and longer as your baby’s attention span develops. Read the same books over and over again so that they become very familiar to your baby.  This enhances language development, helps build reading into a routine, and lets your baby start to anticipate the experience.

Watch for signs that your baby is responding – you may notice them quiet down, start to focus on bright pictures, or wiggle their arms and legs. Older babies will make noises to try to “join in.” Respond to these noises as if you are having a real conversation about the book with your baby! The benefits of reading aloud are priceless, and its never too early or too late to make it a treasured part of your baby’s childhood.



Why Reading Aloud is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Kids

Why Reading Aloud is the Best Thing You Can Do for Your Kids

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The benefits of reading aloud just can’t be overstated. Reading books to kids is easy, it’s enjoyable, and it is so, so worth it.  Discover the magic that reading aloud to children can bring into your home!


why reading aloud children is important why reading to your child is important why reading to your children is important the benefits of reading to childrenListening to stories and being surrounded by books teaches kids how to love books and reading, right from the start.

A child who loves to listen to stories will see books as a source of warm, positive experiences, and will keep coming back for more.  The first time a toddler or preschooler hands a book to you with an expectant look on their sweet little face, you will know you are well on your way to raising a child who loves to read.

Reading with a baby or a toddler creates cozy bonding opportunities that you’ll cherish forever.

The warmth, safety and comfort of your lap are just what your baby or toddler needs to feel secure and happy.  Add reading aloud to talking, singing and playing peek-a-boo, and you’ll build a strong foundation of trust and love.

the importance of reading aloud to children why reading to your child is important why reading to your children is importantReading aloud enhances your child’s early language development.

Reading to babies exposes them to the unique sounds and patterns of language during a time of explosive brain development. Take advantage of this opportunity!  Babies, toddlers and preschoolers who listen to books and stories have richer language development and a deeper vocabulary. You’ll be tickled pink when you hear your preschooler correctly using a fancy word that you recognize from a familiar shared book.

Reading aloud develops specific reading readiness skills that children need before they can learn to read books on their own.

At the most basic level, reading aloud teaches children how to hold a book, and how to turn pages.  Reading aloud develops crucial phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear individual sounds in words and orally manipulate or “play with” those sounds. For example, saying a word slowly and being able to hear each sound individually “C—A—T” requires phonemic awareness.  (This sounds easy, but it’s not!)  Reading aloud also fosters the ability to rhyme, another important part of phonemic awareness.  Lastly, reading aloud helps children develop print awareness – the idea that those little black marks on the page are letters, which make words, which mean something!  This can be a thrilling realization for kids, and it is the most fundamental concept of reading.

Reading aloud fosters strong family relationships by building shared interests and providing topics for lively discussions.

Nothing is more fun than having the whole family fall in love with a book and share the excited anticipation for the next chapter.  Choose books that have some connection to your family – a place you have visited, a challenge you have faced together, or an activity you have shared – and then enjoy the conversation that naturally results.

why reading aloud to your child is important the importance of reading aloud to children why reading aloud to your children is importantReading aloud builds the background knowledge and enriched vocabulary that are key predictors for success in school.

Hearing books read aloud exposes children to more complex language and more sophisticated vocabulary than we use in everyday conversation. Reading aloud also builds crucial background knowledge to help children better understand what they see, hear, and read at school.  Consider this…it’s much easier for your child to understand a science lesson about the cocoons the class is hatching if they have heard you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar countless times.

Kids who have been read to have better listening skills, deeper concentration, and a longer attention span.

They are well equipped to adjust to the structure and routine of instruction during a typical school day.  And thanks to listening to mom or dad read aloud, this probably doesn’t feel hard, because they associate listening, concentrating, and paying attention with positive experiences!

Children develop critical thinking skills as they listen to stories and notice how characters solve problems.

Sequence, cause and effect, and comparing and contrasting are naturally part of stories and books. Read aloud experiences provide low-key exposure to these concepts long before formal comprehension strategies are taught at school.  A child who has been read to will invariably have excellent comprehension and thinking skills.

Pull out some old favorites, or choose a new book from one of our recommended Book Lists, and start creating the priceless legacy of reading aloud in your family today.  You won’t regret it.