What Grandparents Can Teach Us About Reading Aloud

National Grandparents Day is right around the corner (September 8th)! Raising Readers is celebrating grandparents everywhere and the role they play in helping their grandchildren fall in love with books and reading. Here’s more from guest blogger, Lindsay Barrett. 

Like many Mainers, I’ve chosen to raise my children in my hometown so they can enjoy the same community spirit and connection to nature that I did as a child. Of course, being home also means my children have the benefit of growing up close to their grandparents! Grandparent-grandchild relationships are so special; even though my professional background is in child development and education, I have to admit I’ve learned more about the power of letting go of my own agenda and patiently following a child’s lead by watching my parents interact with my kids than from any course I’ve taken or job I’ve held.

Grandparents’ life experiences make them experts at so much, including, at least in my family, reading aloud. For new parents, or those not yet fully comfortable reading aloud to their children, watch a grandparent share a book with a child. Here’s what you might learn:

Slow down.

It’s easy to feel rushed as a parent. There’s always so much to juggle. Grandparents are wonderful at being present and savoring a moment. I always notice how calming it is to my children with one of their grandparents takes the extra minute —even when bedtime is looming — to find just the right book, get cozy on the couch, notice the cover and book title (and maybe find reading glasses, too). Starting a read-aloud this way sets a lovely tone.

Make it a conversation.

Children’s books have so much to enjoy beyond the words written. It’s through our invitations to notice details in the pictures, join in with key phrases, discover new words and ideas, and connect content to their own lives that children learn how to engage fully with a book. My children are always enthralled with how their grandfather can turn any book, regardless of format or topic, into a playful dialogue.

Appreciate what excites children right now.

Many young children get stuck on certain topics or request to hear the same book again and again. This can feel tiring to a parent! With their broader perspective, grandparents tend to be more aware that each fixation, whether it’s fairies, airplanes, or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, is really just a short season. Indulging children’s pleas for “Again!” helps lay a foundation for a lifelong love of reading.

A book is a special gift.

Grandparents are famous for enjoying being generous towards their grandchildren and books are some of the most meaningful tokens they can give. My children always want to pause to read inscriptions from their grandmother in books that she’s gifted them. Knowing that a book was a thoughtfully-chosen gift elevates it beyond compare.

Indulge in the experience.

Reading aloud is about exposing children to the words and ideas in books, but it’s also about connection. Whether it’s funny voices, masterful storytelling, or simply providing the coziest lap, grandparents seem to be naturally skilled at making read aloud a delightful event to share. It’s a treat to witness, even if it does sometimes extend well past bedtime.

Lindsay Barrett is a teacher, literacy consultant and parent of four book-loving children. Find out more about her work at https://lindsay-barrett.com.

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