The Chicago Cares Read-with-Me program is one of our most popular education programs, and it takes place in locations all across the city. At this program, we strive to achieve a small student-to-volunteer ratio, allowing individualized reading attention for children.

Considering all of the literacy activities happening at our sites, as well as the importance of literacy skills, we want to offer some ideas on how to read with a child in an engaging way. Below are some tips we find helpful when reading with various ages of children.

  • Introduce the concept of a book to the child. Some students are still learning what an author is and what the illustrator does, so go over these ideas before you start the story to reinforce the concepts.
  • Ask open ended questions. Questions like “What color is the dog?” won’t give the child an opportunity to share ideas about the story. Instead, ask “What do you think the dog is doing in this picture?” to open a dialogue about the story.
  • Use illustrations. Illustrations are a great tool to use with children, especially those who are still learning to read. When you turn the page to a new illustration, ask the child what he or she thinks is happening next. You can even ask the child to tell the whole story based on what he or she is seeing in the pictures.
  • Take turns reading. Some students are great readers but might be intimated by the amount of words on the page or have too much stage fright to read aloud. Try taking turns reading paragraphs to help them feel more comfortable and give them an opportunity to just listen to the story.
  • Retell the story. When time allows, try reading the story twice to reinforce comprehension. You can also ask the child to retell what happened in the story or have students act out the story to strengthen understanding.
  • Don’t make assumptions. You might be partnered with an older student during Read-with-Me and become nervous that the student won’t want to participate in group reading. While some kids maybe seem resistant at first, give it a try. Listening to a story is something kids of all ages enjoy, so you may be surprised by the student’s response and participation.

We encourage you to keep these tips in mind whether you’re reading with a young family member during the holidays or reading with a child at one of Chicago Cares’ many Read-with-Me programs.

Today’s post is from Education Coordinator, Martha Renken.