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3 Surprising Ways to Jumpstart Your Child’s Reading Life

Here are three simple yet surprising ways to change the way your child thinks about reading and to connect their reading to the tech tools available to them.

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By Pam Allyn and Monica Burns

These months have been confusing and overwhelming for us as parents, grandparents and caregivers. There have been moments of joy and relief and also moments when the worries we carry are heavy on our hearts, especially when it comes to our children’s learning lives and how those must continue, even in these hardest of times. We are asking how we can make sure our children will continue to grow as readers when their academic experiences have been happening mostly on screens with their teachers and where independent reading may have fallen to the wayside. Before Covid times, our teachers nurtured students in so many ways that depended upon the community of readers in the classroom: enjoying the times when self-selected reading gave way to a community experience and where children naturally shared books and ideas together.

Of course we can still do all of this on screens, but it’s not as easy for our teachers to reach every individual reader and so it’s more important than ever for us as parents and caregivers to help our children tap into themselves as readers and to instill a desire in them to practice reading and to want to do it each and every day, on and offscreen. The digital tools of today’s world can really help us to build ways to jumpstart our children’s reading lives more fully and more vibrantly than ever before. Having these months to both wrestle with the digital world and to belong to it even more are opportunities to help our children grow, thrive and flourish as readers. Here are three simple yet surprising ways to change the way your child thinks about reading and to connect their reading to the tech tools available to them. 

Read Aloud with Music

When reading aloud with your child at home, introduce music to this experience. Choosing music to accompany your reading experience might be as simple as a search on YouTube for a song or soft music that connects with the theme or mood of the book. For example, if you are reading a wintertime story with your child, try a search for videos with blizzard sounds and winter storms. If you are reading a book that takes place at the beach or in the forest, you might search for sounds on YouTube that match the crashing waves or birds chirping in the setting.

Another great option for adding sound effects to read alouds with your child is the app Novel Effect. The Novel Effect app follows your voice as you read aloud and matches the spot in the story with sound effects. If technology sounds too good to be true, we highly recommend you try it out with one of your favorite picture books to see it in action. Your children will be amazed when you read a sentence in a book about fire trucks and they hear sirens played in the app at the same time!

Keyword Search Activity

Building vocabulary doesn’t have to include introducing a long list of new words to your child. Instead, involve your child in keyword searches in your favorite search engine so they can see how you search for information, scan the results, and make a decision. Try a keyword search activity with your child when you have an “I wonder question” and want to find the answer together.

For example, you find yourself chatting over breakfast or during a morning subway ride about blizzards and the biggest snowfall you’ve ever seen. You might say, “Let’s try to figure out when the biggest blizzard in New York was and how much snow actually fell, what should we type into Google?” Together you might decide to use keywords like New York’s biggest blizzard or most snow in New York. Together you can talk about how to refine your search to find the answers to your questions.

Listening to Podcast Together

Although picture books and novels hold a special place in our heart, you might decide to introduce your children to a family-friendly podcast. There are lots of podcasts that are perfect for sharing listening experiences including Circle Round and Storynory. The great thing about a podcast is that just like slipping a bookmark between pages, you can pause an episode that you want to listen to over multiple days.

If you know that your child is excited about a particular topic or wants to learn more about a concept or career, you might use Google Podcasts to conduct a search or head to a favorite podcast app like Spotify or Apple Podcasts and bookmark a podcast. You might bring in a podcast to your nightly winddown routine or listen to an episode while running errands together!

These tips and strategies (along with many others) can be found in our new quick reference guide Engaging Students in Reading All Types of Text (ASCD, 2020).

Pam and Monica are frequent and happy collaborators on the intersections of literacy and tech. Visit Pam Allyn at pamallyn.com and Monica Burns at classtechtips.com

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