September 1, 2017

From Charlotte Mecklenburg Library: Here’s what you need to know about the power of Active Reading

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By our Smarty friends at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

We all know that reading is important for children’s development. Studies even show that babies benefit from reading with their caregivers well before they can even grasp language. But, there is something simple you can do to significantly improve the language and reading skills of the children in your lives. It’s called Active Reading.

What is Active Reading?

Active Reading is a different way of reading a children’s book. It involves reading a book WITH a child rather than reading a book TO a child. This proven approach improves children’s language skills, vocabulary and ability to understand what they read on their own.

Active Reading works for children from as young as six months through sixth grade. (For younger children you’ll want to focus more on talking about the pictures.) In Active Reading, an adult shares a picture book with a child and provides the child with multiple opportunities to talk about and engage with the pictures, new words and ideas in the book. The idea is to use the book as a tool to talk with your child, asking questions, teaching new words and getting the child thinking and talking about the book.

Why is Active Reading so important?

In 2013, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 40% of Charlotte’s third graders were reading on grade level – important because third grade reading is a strong predictor of both high school graduation and college enrollment. Community initiative Read Charlotte was formed with a bold goal: to double third grade reading outcomes by 2025. In collaboration with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, Read Charlotte is working to achieve this goal through programs designed to have an impact on children and families in our community.

Active Reading is one of these programs. It is a proven way to build kids’ language and vocabulary, preparing them to be lifelong readers who love books. With 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurring before age 5, it is crucial to develop literacy skills during this period.

Get started with Active Reading today!

Here are a few ways to get started with Active Reading today!

1. Sign up for an Active Reading Workshop

Read Charlotte and the Library have partnered to offer hundreds of Active Reading workshops in the community. These 4-part series of workshops teach caregivers fun ideas and activities that can be used to support early literacy at home. Attendees learn how to use the ABCs of Active Reading one-on-one with their child. Workshops are geared towards parents and caregivers of children ages 2-5, but older or younger siblings are welcome to attend. Registration is required, and workshops take place at many locations and at various times of the day in an attempt to provide access for all.

2. Remember that Active Reading is as easy as A-B-C

Ask questions. Ask questions that start a conversation about the book – ones that begin with words like what, how, who and why. You can start before you even open the book by asking what the story might be about based on the cover art and title. And once you are reading, ask about what is happening on the page, and what the child thinks might happen next. Open ended questions engage children in books and get them thinking and talking.

Build vocabulary. Learning new words helps children become stronger readers. You can help them identify new words by asking what the words in the book mean. You might ask about a word in the book and then connect those words with ones they already know. Demonstrating words by using facial expressions, sound effects and movements also helps children understand what words mean. Don’t just read “whisper,” actually whisper as you read it.

Connect to kids’ worlds. Relate the book to things children already know to help them learn more about the world around them. If you are reading a book that talks about the weather, relate it to what the current weather is like. If the book mentions a trip to the store, recall a memory the child might have of a recent experience at a store.

3. Make Active Reading a part of your day

Active Reading for 15 minutes, just three times a week makes a huge difference in children’s language development and reading ability. Find time within you schedule, you don’t have to add to it! Active Reading can take place anywhere: riding the bus, during snack time or school drop off, waiting for food to be delivered to the table at a restaurant or before bed time. When you make Active Reading a part of your day, it becomes a fun and rewarding habit that you and the children you care about enjoy and look forward to.

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