Solving Problems With Reading Aloud to Young Children

Posted on December 13th, 2010 by Carolyn Hart in Teacher Resources


Almost every time I present Ready for Reading at least one very brave individual will explain that his or her child does not “cooperate” when it’s time for a story. Here are some common challenges that parents face when reading aloud to young children:

My child only wants to hear stories about Thomas or Olivia or My child wants to hear the same story every night

If your child is very reluctant to listen to new or unfamiliar stories, I would suggest the following…Arm yourself with some great picture books from the library. Read your child’s favourite bedtime story and then say, “I know we usually turn the light out now but, since you are getting older (or since it is Friday night), I thought you might like to stay up a bit later and hear this story. If you don’t want to listen to it, we can turn the light out and you can go to sleep now.”

Is there any child, anywhere who would rather go to bed early than enjoy an extra story? Of course, I realize this means an extra story for mom or dad to read but with any luck you will expand your child’s horizons to include some new characters (and relieve your boredom).

Another strategy may be to introduce some other stories about trains (or pigs) but, personally I favour the “stay up later” approach.

I have two children. They are aged two and five. Can I read the same stories to them or do I have to read different books to each? or My oldest child loves to listen to the books I read aloud but my younger child won’t pay attention. What should I do?

I hate to say this because I know how exhausting child-rearing is BUT, ideally you should read different books to each child. The five year old is ready for more text (longer) books and more sophisticated illustrations. He or she might even be ready to hear a chapter book read aloud. The younger child probably has a shorter attention span and different interests. At least some of the time, I would try to read books specially selected for each.

What do you think about audio books or books with accompanying CD or tape?

I think they’re great BUT keep in mind that the best ‘read aloud’ experiences include some discussion about the book: which character do you like best? what do you think will happen next? does this remind you of another book? Audio books don’t promote discussion or reading between the lines.

We are a multilingual household. My English is not great. Which language should I use when reading to my child?

I think it is fantastic that your child is able to speak more than one language. If your child is going to learn to read English, your child should hear English read aloud on a regular basis – even if you make mistakes occasionally and your accent is not perfect.

My child won’t sit still for a story

Hearing the story is more important that sitting still for a story. If your child won’t sit still, allow him or her to play quietly nearby. Your child could do a drawing, build something or even bounce a ball while you read. The read aloud experience is so important, be create in finding ways to share books with your child and don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t want to sit still for a book.

What do you think about ‘rude’ books?

There are some very popular books that don’t appeal to me because of the author’s choice of words. Walter the Farting Dog is a perfect example of an immensely popular book that just never made it onto my bookshelf. I don’t use the word, ‘fart’ so I never felt inclined to choose to read the book aloud to my kids. Would I have read it to them if they had asked? Yes BUT I would also have talked about the language and why it is not part of my vocabulary (and I don’t want to hear it in my home). Having said all that, we have several Captain Underpants books in the house. In my opinion, that series encouraged many young boys to move into chapter books and I am grateful it did. I just never read it out loud.

For further information about reading aloud to young children, check out our 10 FAQs About Reading Aloud to Children.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment on this post or send me an email. Best of luck!

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