Q: My 4-year old and I try to read together each night before bedtime. Many of the books we are reading we have read many, many times. I don’t want my child to become bored with the books and, worse yet, bored with reading. Do you have any suggestions on how to make reading more interesting?
A: Thank you for your question. It is great to hear that you have made reading a part of your child’s bedtime routine. Reading is an excellent way to settle down for the evening and spend quality time with your child — not to mention all of the early learning opportunities that reading provides.
Although children often enjoy reading the same books over and over again, it is important to keep books engaging for parents and children. It may be time to try something new during your story time. Have you heard about interactive reading?
Interactive reading, also called dialogic reading, is a way to engage your child during story time by creating a conversation about the book and the characters. To give you a better idea of what interactive reading is, let’s compare traditional reading to a child and interactive reading.
For traditional reading, the parent reads and the child listens. The goal is to get to the end of the story. For interactive reading, the child takes a more active role. There is more conversation between the parent and child. The parent follows the child’s lead and interests, and encourages the child to talk about the book. The goal of interactive reading is to let the story spark new ideas to talk about.
How does a parent create a conversation with his/her child? The parent asks the child questions about the book. Although asking questions may not feel natural at first, with practice it becomes easier. Remember to follow the child’s lead and interests about the book. One more reminder: this is not a quiz. If the child does not know an answer to a question, parents can help them out. If children aren’t in the mood to talk some nights and just want to get to the end of the story, that’s OK, too.
Here are some ideas for questions to ask a child while reading a book.
Use question words like “Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?” — “Where is the character going?” “Why do you think the character is going there?”
Ask about the pictures — “What is happening in this picture?” or “What things do you see in this picture?”
Ask about feelings — “How is the character feeling?” “Why you do you think the character is feeling that way?” “Have you ever felt this way?”
Ask the child to predict the story — “What do you think might happen next?”
Ask the child about his/her own experiences. “This character is at school. What do you like to do at school?”
Research has shown that this type of interactive or dialogic reading has positive results for children. “Dialogic reading works. Children who have been read to dialogically are substantially ahead of children who have been read to traditionally on tests of language development. Children can jump ahead by several months in just a few weeks of dialogic reading” (Grover Whitehurst, Ph.D. and Reading Rockets). Other benefits and reasons to try interactive reading with children include:
It is fun! It’s more interesting and fun for both the child and the parent. This leads to increased interest and increased frequency of reading.
Improved comprehension — Comprehension is the ability of a child to understand the story. By asking questions, parents are able to see if the child is able to follow the story and recall what has happened in the story.
Vocabulary development — The child practices using words and language. The child also practices new vocabulary and putting words together to form sentences.
Opportunity to teach different concepts such as feelings and emotions.
Keep reading time fun and light and be sure to show lots of interest in what children do talk about. Happy reading!