https://amzn.to/30yvIxqBefore we get to this new way of reading with kids, let me start with a little back story.
Once upon a time, I would read little picture books aloud to my little girl. Like any child, she would look at the pictures wide-eyed. That little face lit up with wonder with every sound, every shape and every colour. Sitting all comfy in my arms was a little inquisitive soul, discovering a new world.
Her enthusiasm would encourage me to find new books to read to her and before I knew it, she began to read along as she grew. I could see that she inherited my bibliophilic traits as she devoured one book after the next, and reread them many times too.
So, I introduced the Dr. Seuss series. Some of the books were:
- I’ll teach my dog 100 words by Michael Firth and Illustrated by P.D. Eastman
- The Shape of Me and Other Stuff by Dr Seuss
- Fine Feathered Friends by Tish Rabe and Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz
- Fox in Socks by Dr Suess (An absolute tongue twister and our all-time favourite)
- Sleep Book by Dr Suess
As I read these books, it turned into a read-along session with her reading along with me to a point where I had to keep silent so she could read. So much so that I ended up listening to the stories rather than reading them. It’s an amazing feeling to be read to just before bed…talk about role reversals. And the Sleep Book still knocks me out. The beginning itself ‘This book is to be read in bed’ gets the yawns going.
So, What is Co-reading?
I always knew about either reading to and just reading a book by yourself. But reading WITH kids was something new. And I mean a collaborative effort to read a book together, understand it together and enjoy it together. Something like a book club for two.
Co-reading a book was something where we both were reading the book together and talked about the story as we progressed. And it did make for some meaningful, fun, animated conversations.
Over the years and a variety of genres completed, it has broadened our horizon and made for some amazing fun moments together. But co-reading was a happy accident for us.
This Book Started it All
Visiting bookstores is one of our favourite pastimes, and one place we really love is the Bargain Book Hut at Viviana Mall in Thane.
This is a cosy little shop with a separate nook for children’s books. We would explore the many lovely books and find some really unique ones. One such book was The Finger Eater by Dick King-Smith and illustrated by Arthur Rollins.
I knew that this may be a bit advanced for her owing to her age (5 years at the time) and the level of language used, but nonetheless, we bought it. Thinking back, I was pretty excited about this 64-pager.
Come bedtime, we began reading this book together and she really got into the story as I did. We have reviewed this book too, and you can check it out here.
We decided to take things slow and did just the first chapter. But I had to pause every now and then to answer all her questions. It was very different compared to all the nice and goodie stuff we were reading until then. This was the first book that introduced a terrorizing anti-hero who had to be stopped. It was a closer take on reality that introduced characters and built the story up. Not unlike the novels, we read as adults.
The next day, all she could do was talk about the book and the story so far. I must admit I was fascinated by it as well. Little did I realise that I too started discussing the story with her. It felt like I was at her level and she was at mine, we both were on the same level talking about the terrible troll Ulf. We both couldn’t wait for the next chapter.
This carried on every day until we finished the book. And later, we reread it. Well, this time she took the lead and decided to read to me. I, of course, helped her wherever she got stuck.
And that’s how we discovered co-reading books – a fun new way of reading with kids.
Read with Kids <Evolution>Co-reading
We began with books that had enough pictures to keep things interesting but with each book, we kept increasing the text content.
Once at a layover at the Hyderabad airport, we visited the bookstore and bought our first Geronimo Stilton book – Valley of the Giant Skeletons. We read that during our wait time, loved it and went on to buy many Geronimo Stilton books over the years. The series happens to be one of the largest adventure series for kids.
As she grew older, we graduated to various books and authors like Sudha Murthy, Ruskin Bond, Roald Dahl and even R.L. Stine. In fact, she reviewed the book The Angry River by Ruskin Bond at age 8, which you can check out here.
Some of the Latest Co-read Books
At age 9, we challenged ourselves with Salman Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories. A childhood favourite of mine, this was one book she decided to read entirely to me.
Once we completed this, there was no stopping. The following became our favorites along the way:
- Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: Books 1 & 2
- The Usborne Illustrated Odyssey
- The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint Exupéry
- The World’s Greatest Space Cadet: Poems by James Carter
- The Complete Philosophy Files by Stephen Law and Illustrated by Daniel Postgate
- Victory Song by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
And many more.
We still read our separate books but always make time to read together as well because we love obsessing over a common story.
The Benefits of Co-reading Books with Kids
In my experience, when we read with kids:
- It helps in increasing knowledge for both of us. Many times I had to research something to give an answer. And the same goes for children as well.
- It improved our vocabulary. We learned so many new words, and I relearned many myself. We would use the dictionary to find meanings rather than just go to the phone. Thus, making the reading experience more engaging. Not to mention, diction improves as well.
- Because we read so much together, we were able to discuss and talk about a lot of things in conversations we had in our respective social circles.
- It helped us sleep better at night. This is because we were reading together just before bed. So, the last-minute TV or phone’s blue light was absent.
- It taught us patience. We still stick to one chapter per night. So, we know how to savour the story and delight in our conversations.
- We become better listeners. Because we talked-to-converse, we learned to listen to each other. This helped us to improve our listening skills and our empathy.
10 Tips on How to Begin Co-reading with your Child
It’s really simple:
1. Pick the right book
Pick a book with some pictures but more text. It can be a book with no more than 100 pages.
2. Read one chapter a day
3. Encourage questions
Allow the child to ask as many questions as they want. If you don’t have an answer, search for it to reply. But never leave any question unanswered. Also, ask your child questions about the story just like how they would. Ask them their opinion on certain ideas and what they think about the character. Get them to talk more.
4. Keep a dictionary
For difficult words, keep a small pocket dictionary handy. Not the app but the actual dictionary. Look for the words together with your child.
5. Always keep a fixed time for reading together
This could be during the day or at bedtime. But stick to that time.
6. During the day encourage conversations on the book, story and characters
7. Research more on the book
Look up the author’s biography and under what circumstances the book was written. And talk about this.
8. Allow your child to take over the reading
When we read with kids, it’s best to encourage the child to read to you. You can do this by alternating sentences or paragraphs or even chapters. They will want to read more in time.
9. Keep at it
How often should you read with your child? As often as possible because it is actually fun. Keep reading more books together. You can gradually increase the difficulty level of the books.
10. Enjoy the process of reading with kids
This is precious time you are spending with your child. Treasure it and enjoy the wonder, the inquisitiveness, the cuteness and all the love. You will surely look back on these moments in the future. Just as I am as I write this.
I love to read. My daughter loves to read. I just let her take the lead when we are co-reading and become the audience. Books are a way to travel across places, space and time. It’s a wonderful journey, especially when your travelling companion is your little one.