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It’s Read Across America Day!

A child’s ability to read has a direct effect on their future success. Reading with your child helps to increase their vocabulary and improve their reading fluency and comprehension. NEA’s Read Across America began in 1998 as a way to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Seuss by encouraging children to read.

Since its creation, educators, parents, caregivers and students have embraced Read Across America and helped turn it into the largest reading celebration in the country. Today, we encourage EVERYONE to pick up a book and read to a child.

Read alouds offer a chance to demonstrate good reading and critical thinking strategies to young learners. When this exposure to literature is coupled with engaging and supportive discussions, children extend their world view and develop important critical thinking skills — and have fun!

Our Insight team members have pledged to read to students in their classrooms today, and those of us with children have pledged to read to them.

Here are some of our favorite tips for reading aloud:

Preview the book before sharing it with readers
Read the book before you share it with a group so you can anticipate questions or reactions. Plus, practicing reading the book helps you decide where to pause for emphasis, and where to ask for questions and predictions from readers.

Plan enough time for a read aloud session (15-20 minutes)
It’s important to give yourself and the children enough time to read a story or piece of literature, and enjoy, then discuss, the information in the text.

Choose a story that is age appropriate and correlates to children’s interests and experiences
For very young children or new readers, books with vivid pictures, an engaging story line, interesting characters, and evocative language can make the experience interesting and memorable.

Introductions matter!
Often glossed over, the cover illustration, title, and author are things that can be used to incite discussion, even with young readers. Ask children what they think the book is about, and ask how the book might connect to other books they have heard of or read, or how it might relate to their own experiences.

Vocal expression
Use your voice to reinforce the personalities of the characters or the tone of the story. Make sure not to read too quickly. Pause for emphasis and vary your pace — you want to give children enough time to think about what’s happening or what might happen next.

Include time for listeners to respond along the way
To ensure children remain engaged, pause at appropriate places and ask children what they think will happen next. Encourage them to revise predictions as the story unfolds, and encourage many ideas and interpretations. To create a positive experience, don’t accept or reject comments or ideas as right or wrong, use phrases like “That’s a possibility, let’s see what the writer had in mind” or “What an interesting idea! How did you think of that?”

Save time at the end of the story to discuss
At the conclusion of the story, ask open-ended discussion questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no. Some examples: what did the child like (or dislike) and why. What did he or she think of the main characters, or how the main character approached and solved/didn’t solve a problem.

Encourage critical thinking and discussion by asking if the book reminded the readers of any experiences they’ve had or any other books they have read.

Most importantly: Have a good time!

What’s your favorite book to read to a class?