Read Aloud Today

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'No. Too tired.'

The refusal never had the desired effect. The older one somehow mistook that as, 'Of course, just get me another book.'


At two years of age, the alternative he shoved in front of my nose was his favourite book on dinosaurs. The next few minutes were spent reading tongue-twisting dino-names. He would sit with rapt attention, hang on to each picture, and try to blabber out the names that were mostly longer than his name put together with the entire family's. One such night, he jabbed his finger at a page and said, "Giganotosaurus." He hadn't said 'mama' till then. That's the magic of reading aloud.

As the boys grew older, I got wearier - of being a referee by the day and the storyteller by the night. At that point the hi-tech grandmother came to rescue. She would read out stories, record them, and podcast them for the little ones. Hence, on most nights, I was excused from bedtime stories. But every now and then they would pounce and corner me with a book. 'No escaping! ' They'd holler and listen with the same wide-eyed wonder that we had left behind with toddlerhood.

Soon the fledglings sprouted wings, and took to reading by themselves. I was mostly relieved. But sometimes, I missed sounding ridiculous, rolling my eyes, changing voices, and watching them dissolve into giggles, and eventually get soothed into sleeping. They had grown up. 'Reading aloud is for babies,' they would sometimes say. Yet, somehow their voice lacked conviction. I mostly ignored that. It suited me fine. They were reading on their own, which meant I could read my own without a sound.

Months turned into years and soon they didn't have to tilt their head back to look at my face. They were seeing me eye to eye, almost. Then, last year, out of the blue, the older one came up to me and asked, 'how come you don't read to us anymore? It was so much fun!' This was right after one of the storytelling sessions I had done for middle readers, and a handful of older, freshly minted teenagers who insisted on being a part of it. The first day we were all shuffling around after a round of introductions. I had told the younger lot stories, but older kids? It was unnerving. What if they didn't like being read to? And what do you read to children, some of whom are avid readers, and others who hate the whole idea of reading. We tested the waters with Lafcadio. Over the next few days, what I witnessed completely changed my notions about reading out aloud. The children would arrive on time, grab hold of the book, and urge me to start from where we had left off the previous day. These kids were not toddlers, they were fluent with the language, and they could definitely read independently. Yet, they loved the idea of being read to. The haters reluctantly gave in too. And soon they were fighting for the best seat in the library. I saw non-readers turning into readers, and bookworms listening for the pleasure of it.

A few months later, we collected some books and took to mum's place for her helper's daughters. They had just started going to school and barely knew Hindi or English. To see their eyes light up at the sight of books was a treat in itself. I read out to them, and a few days later I was told they were spotted buried in books trying to make sense of the words. Every now and then mum reads to them and she sees the same spark that I saw years ago in my younglings. That is the power of reading out to children, irrespective of their age or educational background. Every time a story is read out aloud, a reader is born, and with every new reader the world becomes a better place. So read to your child irrespective of the age, reading interest or complete lack of it.

From picture books to chapter books, read them everything. I have read labels and weather reports in absence of books to my ever-eager toddler back when unplanned vacations meant leaving behind the bag of books and toys. As long as I sounded convincing, the weather report sounded like a mission to save the world from chocolate bunnies and candy stealing dragons.

I am still made to read aloud. Ten minutes and a child is all it takes for one to become a storyteller. I am a storyteller for my boys. 'The best there is,' they say. While I narrate to them, I see their faces change. The teenaged frown and aloofness melt away, and are replaced by smiles and sparkles in the eyes. The books picked by them for me to read out are mostly way below the 'expected reader level.' The older one specifies, 'Age is a number and books are too big to be bound by numbers.' So we march on, reading some quietly in a corner with a mug of hot chocolate, and listening to others amidst loud giggles and squeals. Some books have pictures, some do not, but all of them have a voice, waiting to be heard, and hear them we shall.

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With the passing of time we have found our kids are also very fond of books not for reading but for watching the beautiful pictures on it. Therefore in children's books we have found different types of pictures, images and art which is easy to learn and understand; instead of reading passage and novels our children are used to prefer books with good image and pictures of animals, cartoons, foods, vehicles and many others. They used to read these books in their loud voice; through which they are able to learn or remember quickly.

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Help kids develop automaticity first so that they aren't scared of words.
Automaticity or automatic word recognition is the ability to look at words and read without thinking. Even mild difficulties in automatic word recognition affect a reader’s ability to comprehend text. It diverts attention, reduces reading speed and creates the need to reread the text to grasp meaning.
According to ASER’s 2014 report on status of education in India, about 25% of 8th graders and about 52% of 5th graders can’t read 2nd grade level text. It is embarrassing and devastating to read with difficulty in front of peers & teachers. According to the research conducted by NICHD ( National Institute of Child Health & Human Development) in America, children who read well read at least 10,00,000 words per year and children with reading difficulties read less than 1,00,000 words.
Their difficulties understanding what they have read occur because it takes far too long to read words. Leaving little energy to remember and comprehend what was read. Inability to read and comprehend text makes children feel less motivated to read to learn which in turn impacts their overall academic performance. It affects their self-esteem.
They just do not read! They avoid reading to learn and avoid assignments that require reading. In simple words, if they are not able to learn to read they won’t read to learn.

Learn about readmyscript outreach program. It is the best program world over to teach children spelling & pronunciation. It's a research based program on English spellings & pronunciation. 

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