Reading Aloud to Children

ChildrensBooksCollageRemember my spring quarter students and their life-changing small changes?

Of all my my students’ projects this quarter, this one was probably the nearest and dearest to my heart. A__ decided that for her one-small-change she would commit to reading aloud to her young children. Being a pretty serious English major, I’ve always read to my kids, but as I read her end of the quarter report, I found myself reflecting on when my husband and I decided to start having family meals–at the table–with our almost 3-year-old twins. I am here to tell you that it is very, very hard to change the routine of toddlers. A__ and her husband did not read for every one of the 40 days, but without checking her log, I would guess she made 45-47 of the days (which is awesome). It took some flexibility on her part (she had to give up her strict 20-minutes per day goal to begin with and go for “any” reading), but like my twins with family dinners, A’s children not only embraced this change, but began to love it. After the first week of logs, I suggested that A__ jot down the titles they were reading, and the whole class enjoyed this trip down memory lane. The project reminded me of that old axiom, “When you rock your baby to soothe her, you are rocking yourself, too.” So with reading aloud.

A__ shared “Mem Fox’s Ten Read Aloud Commandments” (Fox is an Australian writer and educator), which I hadn’t seen before. I want to share them with you.

  1. Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud.
  2. Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read.
  3. Read aloud with animation. Listen to your own voice and don’t be dull, or flat, or boring. Hang loose and be loud, have fun and laugh a lot.
  4. Read with joy and enjoyment: real enjoyment for yourself and great joy for the listeners.
  5. Read the stories that the kids love, over and over and over again, and always read in the same ‘tune’ for each book: i.e. with the same intonations on each page, each time.
  6. Let children hear lots of language by talking to them constantly about the pictures, or anything else connected to the book; or sing any old song that you can remember; or say nursery rhymes in a bouncy way; or be noisy together doing clapping games.
  7. Look for rhyme, rhythm or repetition in books for young children, and make sure the books are really short.
  8. Play games with the things that you and the child can see on the page, such as letting kids finish rhymes, and finding the letters that start the child’s name and yours, remembering that it’s never work, it’s always a fabulous game.
  9. Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books.
  10. Please read aloud every day, mums and dads, because you just love being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.


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