Do you read to your kids every night as part of your bedtime routine? I just figured out a trick that will help you and your child not only enjoy your reading time, but also learn something from the books you are reading.
I discovered this trick quite by accident. I recently finished reading Nim’s Island to William, my 7-year-old, and I was shocked by how little of it he actually comprehended. This is my smart boy, but at the end of the book, he was asking basic questions about the main characters in the book.
He has always read more fluently than he comprehends. He can sound out any word you put in front of him, but getting him to understand a long, complicated story is a different endeavor.
I realized two reasons behind his lack of comprehension during bedtime reading. 1) It’s always late and he’s tired. There’s nothing much we can do about this other than supplement our reading time during the day. I still think bedtime reading is important. 2) I always read too fast! I read at a pace that’s more suitable for myself than a 7-year-old, and since I’m at the end of a long day, too, I want to read and be done.
What an epiphany! Just by reading more slowly, he’ll get more out of our reading time.
When we finished Nim’s Island and were ready to start a new book, I pulled out my Kindle and let him choose from 3 books I already had loaded. They were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Alice in Wonderland. He immediately chose the latter (partly because he has a cousin named Alice). Well, since it’s an older book, I didn’t expect it to go very well. But with my new idea to read slowly, we were going to give it a try.
He is really enjoying the book! And not only is he enjoying it, he’s learning some fantastic vocabulary words. Just in chapter 3, which we read last night, we came across these words: consultation, familiarly, anxiously, usurpation, conquest, accustomed, melancholy, advisable, insolence, adjourn, offended, and despair. Even Shakespeare is mentioned. All this from a children’s book!
The more slowly I read, the more likely it is that he will pick up on these words (either by asking their meaning or taking them in context). Plus, William has always been able to spell at the same level he can read. So not only is he being exposed to this rich vocabulary and learning the meaning of new words, but he is likely learning to spell them. (It helps that he reads over my shoulder as I read.)
In The Read-Aloud Handbook Trelease talks about the importance of reading slowly:
“The most common mistake in reading aloud—whether the reader is a seven-year-old or a forty-year-old—is reading too fast. Read slowly enough for the child to build mental pictures of what he just heard you read. Slow down enough for the children to see the pictures in the book without feeling hurried,” (p. 76-77).
One of my favorite homeschool bloggers has discussed the idea of savoring books. She says:
“Instead of reading a book or two a week and then going on to the next one, my children started several books at the same time but read them slowly over a 10-week period or longer.
I began to notice that my children were talking at the supper table about the characters and episodes in the books they were reading. They were acting out those stories with each other and including them in their playtimes. They even began to write their own stories, without my prompting, by copying the main idea and style of the book they were reading. Wow! My children were enjoying their books much more since they had time to ruminate and live with the characters and ideas expressed within the pages. Not only that, they remembered, and still remember years later, little details about those beloved stories. I realized that deep and lasting learning was taking place in a delightful, non-hurried manner.”
I love this! I’ve also read that we should leave our kids wanting more. Read a chapter and be done. Let them sit with it for a day before moving on. And rather than reading many books quickly and considering it a source of pride, we will now be reading slowly and savoring, enjoying, and learning from every page we read.
If you haven’t read my post on raising a voracious reader, go check it out. It’s full of tips on how to improve reading time with our children.