One of the vivid memories I have from childhood was of me snuggled next to my mom as she read me a bedtime story. After all these years, I still hear that soft voice and imagine her finger sliding across each word on the page. It didn’t matter what she was reading – I was hooked.
That may be a small memory for some of you, but it was one of the happiest times in my life. And unbeknownst to me, my mom was providing me a solid foundation of early literacy.
That brings me to the point of this blog post. If you want to help improve your child’s fluency, read them a bedtime story – every night if you can. I’m constantly giving my parents at The Reading Ranch® that advice whenever they ask me how they can get more involved. Not only will reading to your child help them read better on their own, but it will also help them connect to reading in ways you likely never thought possible. Some additional benefits include:
- Improving your child’s attention span
- Increasing their comprehension, vocabulary, and imagination
- Encouraging them to become better readers and writers
- Allowing for more bonding time (who doesn’t want more of that?)
What do I mean by “fluency?”
Bedtime stories aren’t just about helping your child learn how to read. Fluency is defined as the ability to speak or write smoothly, easily, or readily. Not only that, but a child who can read fluently understands what they are reading and can do so with better accuracy and proper expression.
Children who don’t have these fluency skills have difficulty understanding words, phrases, and context. They’re also not motivated. They see reading as a chore instead of something that’s fun.
So, next time you sit down to read to or with your child, try these eight steps to build fluency:
- Read aloud together while setting the rate (not too fast or too slow)
- Use your finger to track the words
- Give your child ample opportunity to read the book independently
- Raise and lower your voice as you read and emphasize important words or phrases, especially at the end of a question or in a sentence that ends with an exclamation point
- Explain to your child that reading should sound like talking
- Pause at each comma and at the end of each sentence
- Chunk or group words together in a meaningful phrase
- When done, ask your child to explain to you what they have read