Parents and the 3 Rings to Reading

In case no one has told you today, we’d like to take a moment to do so.
Mom, Dad: Your child thinks you are amazing. There is no one more important than you.

That’s why every moment spent nurturing and communicating with your child is so meaningful. The fact is, you are your child’s primary role model, and your example leads the way. It’s so important for you to leverage this incredible role into activities that help your child flourish. Reading aloud is one of those activities, and perhaps the most fundamental of them all.

One of Read Aloud America’s central philosophies is the 3 Rings to Reading. And you are at the center of it! Take a look at why.

The 3 Rings to Reading

Role Model

You set the example. When you let your children see you reading, they learn that reading is enjoyable.

Read Aloud

When you read aloud to your child daily, you let your child experience the simple joy of reading a great story.

Reduce Electronics

When you limit device usage to specific timeframes, you set clear expectations and open the rest of the day for wholesome activities like reading.
role modeling advice

Role Modeling Advice

Sometimes you might have a reluctant reader or a baby who loves to squirm instead of sit still. These are common struggles, and we want to assure you – it’s normal! Plus, we want to encourage you to relax and rely on your own self. Role model reading and you’ll begin to see a desire and curiosity in your kids.

Take it from our experts, who answer common questions like the ones below. Jed Gaines is the Founder of Read Aloud America; Marion Coste is a children’s book author and co-creator of RAP; and Jim Harstad was the English Chair at the University Laboratory School.

Marion: Read aloud to your daughter as often as you can. Let her help you pick out picture books that appeal to her interests. Look at the pictures and talk about them as you read the story. Try reading a chapter book with a wonderful story, such as Charlotte’s Web, or Stone Fox. Try funny stories, such as Sideways Stories from Wayside School or Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon. When you read aloud, you are the role model for reading. Show your daughter that you enjoy the stories you read, and she will “catch” your enthusiasm. As your daughter listens, she increases her vocabulary, expands her imagination, and learns new concepts. If you mispronounce a word now and then, don’t worry — it lets your daughter now it’s okay to make mistakes.
Jed: Read aloud to your child as often as you can. The more you read to children, the more comfortable they become with books, and the more likely they are to read on their own. The more they read on their own, the better they get at reading. This takes a great deal of patience. Many children are not readers right away. But don’t give up! Do it as many days a week as possible. Remember, one day a week is better than not reading at all.
Jim: It’s a good idea to develop a rhythm or pattern of reading times. If you read every day, set a certain reading time every day. If you read three times a week, set particular days of the week and times of the day. If you read once a week, try to do it on the same day of the week and the same time of day. This builds expectations and assures that your daughter will be “ready” to be read to.
Jim: It counts, but I would not want it to be the heart of any child’s reading environment. Its strongest asset is its ability to promote verbal fluency, the sense that it’s just as easy to read and write as it is to listen and talk. In that respect, I think exchanging email with friends and family is an excellent way to promote fluency in reading and writing. I don’t think, however there’s anything like books to inspire wonder, to promote an appreciation for stylistic excellence, and to provide intellectual challenge and emotional satisfaction.
Marion: All reading counts! I don’t think reading on the Internet, though, can qualify as pleasure reading. It’s hard to imagine curling up on a cold, winter afternoon with a good computer… There’s something satisfying about holding a book and turning the pages, being able to see how much you’ve read and how much you have left to go. People who think computers will replace books have forgotten what it feels like to get so involved in a book that you can’t put it down, or to love a story so much that you don’t want it to end.
Jed: It counts, but not that much! I talk about electronics usage in my presentations and if I should forget, the audience always has a few questions about it. The computer has to be one of, if not the greatest, invention of the 20th century. But, it cannot be compared to reading a book. I feel the main use of a computer or other electronics is for finding and accessing important information. For the most part, it doesn’t teach children to think or to get their minds to create. I try to keep my own electronics usage to about an hour a day, and it is usually for business or communication. I strongly recommend that electronics usage in the home should be saved for school related assignments only during the week.
Jed: Yes! Even though your daughter is an avid reader and one who comprehends well, it is still not the same as listening to a good book. Remember that one’s listening level is 2 to 5 grades higher than one’s reading level. Reading aloud expands vocabulary. If you’ve never heard a word, it’s going to be difficult to read it, write it, say it, or understand it. I know from personal experience that reading aloud to an older child creates the environment to communicate better. I feel it’s so important to get our teenagers to talk more. It clears up many of their questions, even though many are not asked.
Jim: Especially if you too are an avid reader, you might try sharing books with her. For example, she might read her favorites to you and you might read some of your favorites to her. Such sharing might create a very healthy bond between you. But if she is already an avid reader and does not readily accept the notion of your reading to her, I wouldn’t push the issue. By the way, you don’t say how old your daughter is or what kind of books she actually reads. If she is relatively young and reads unchallenging materials, you might want to try to stretch her intellectually by reading books slightly over her comfort zone but well within her ability to understand and relate to. In any case, if she resists, don’t push. But again, if you are an avid reader yourself, you are probably already doing a lot to role model to her the importance and pleasure of reading.
Marion: Yes. Being read to is a pleasure all its own. We get comments all the time at RAP sessions about how different a story seems when someone reads it aloud. When you role model reading aloud to your child, you can read higher level books and stories, and discuss them as you go along. Expose your daughter to some of the masterpieces of English literature and some unforgettable authors. How about Dickens, or Robert Louis Stevenson, or John Steinbeck? Read Lois Lowry’s The Giver together and talk about what the author really meant, or explore the old west through Mark Twain’s short stories. If your child is an avid reader, she is going to read with or without you. Reading aloud will be an extension, and enrichment, of the reading she does on her own. It will also be an opportunity for bonding and sharing quality time.
Marion: Look for fun books at the library and share them together. You might be surprised to discover how many clever, funny children’s books are on the market these days. Ask your daughter what she’s interested in and try to find a book on that subject… Animals and dinosaurs are favorites with beginning readers, second and third graders love riddles and mysteries, and most fourth graders and up love adventure, fantasy or science fiction, and biographies of famous figures. Lose the stress and just relax and enjoy the stories. As author Jane Yolen says, let yourself “fall through the words into the story.” No matter what you say, it’s what you do that counts. Children are the world’s best copycats. If you don’t read, your child won’t either. Try to set an example and let your child see you reading, whether it’s books, magazines, newspapers, or whatever. Show your daughter that reading is important as well as fun.
Jed: I feel if you find some fun books, such as the ones on Read Aloud America’s book lists, and you start reading them aloud to your daughter, I think you’ll be amazed at how you both might start enjoying books. Also, many of the librarians at our public libraries can be of help selecting interesting stories.
Jim: If your daughter does not know you don’t like to read, perhaps you can conceal the fact by putting yourself into reading orally to her with great enthusiasm. Perhaps with time your fake enthusiasm will become real and both of you will become pleasure readers. On the other hand, if your daughter already knows you don’t like to read, perhaps you can overcome the negative signals you have probably been giving by simply having a heart to heart talk that addresses why you want her to like to read even if you don’t. You want her to have the opportunity for life experiences, such as higher education, that may have been denied to you because you did not read or write comfortably. You might want to talk about how much easier it is for readers to perform effectively in school and business. Readers are almost always better writers than non-readers and usually have a larger information base.

Recommended Books

Now it’s time to read! Become your child’s reading role model, by finding some of these great stories in your at home library or your local public library!

The age and grade levels indicated below are only suggestions. Choose what works best for you and your children!

Infants and Toddlers (Birth- Age 2)

Preschool (Ages 3-4)

Kindergarten - Grade 1

Grades 2 - 3

Grades 4 - 5

Grades 6 - 8

High School - Adults

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