How to Read Aloud to a Child

Three Methods:Reading a Book Out LoudMaking Reading FunLearning Why It’s Important to Read Out Loud

Do you want to boost your child’s language skills and encourage their imagination? It’s as easy as picking up a children’s book and asking your child to come and listen. Make a difference in a child's life by reading to them while they are young so they can grow up to love books and reading, as well as have a better chance of succeeding in school.

Method 1
Reading a Book Out Loud

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    Read expressively. Your tone sets the stage for a story just as much as the words and images do. Determine to add inflection to your voice when you sit down to read a book out loud. Perform the voices of the different characters, too. Reading with expression means that you’re reflecting the tone of the story, and you should read slowly so that the child has time to think about what is happening.[1]
    • Adding voices can grab the attention of a bored or distracted child.
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    Pause to let the child study the pictures. Your goal in reading aloud to a child is to help them understand the story and relate to it. Pausing until it looks like the child is done studying the pictures is one way to make sure that they are understanding that the words you read are describing these images.[2]
    • If you’re sitting with a child in your lap or beside you, they may want to turn the page themselves, which can also indicate that they have finished studying it.
    • Pay attention to the child, and if they seem like they are trying to get you to move through the book faster without taking the time to study the images, ask them questions about the pictures or the story so far to help them connect with the story.
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    Pause to let the child predict. As children grow, they become more and more cognitively aware. If they are old enough, pause in the middle of the book to ask the child if they think they know what happens next. Tell them to guess what happens, and then confirm or correct these predictions as you work your way through the book.[3]
    • Don’t shut down predictions if you know they aren’t the “right” ones; encourage the child to think in terms of “possibilities,” affirming their guesses and referring to what actually happens in the book as “what the author had in mind.”
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    Adjust your reading based on the child’s body language. Pay attention to the way the child is behaving. If they are twisting in place and commenting on other things going on in the room, you know that they are bored or distracted. Adjust for such behavior by adding more inflection to your tone or asking questions to help the child engage.[4]
    • You may also just need to shorten how long it takes to read a book next time.
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    Be patient with a child new to reading. Being still long enough to understand what a book says can be difficult for a child who has not been read to very often. Children need time to develop interest in books. To help with this, begin reading stories aloud that are short and have bright colors. Pay attention to what they like and make sure this element is included in each reading time.[5]
    • For example, a child may like characters who are dogs; or they may like it when you read the mother character with a particular-sounding voice.
    • For children who are active, you may find success with giving them something to fiddle with while you read, like a ball of playdough or a crayon and paper.
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    Ask the child questions about what they read. When you finish the book, ask the child questions to help them remember what they just read. You can also ask them what they think happens after the story ends. Just try not to turn this questions into a quiz or drill, so that it doesn’t feel like reading is a task they “have” to do.[6]
    • Try asking, "What happened at the end of the story?"
    • You could also ask, "What was your favorite part?"
    • Even ask, "Who was your favorite character?"

Method 2
Making Reading Fun

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    Pick out an interesting book. There are potentially thousands of children’s books on the market today, and you can find plenty of them at your local library. Look through your personal collection or go to the library in order to select a book that will grab a child’s attention.[7]
    • Books that tend to be successful with young children include those with bright pictures, funny-looking (and therefore memorable) or familiar characters, and predictable plots.
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    Preview the book. You want to be able to anticipate the questions and reactions that the child will have to the story you pick out so that a reading session stays fun. It is good to flip through the story you have selected and make sure you understand the characters or plot—or both—so that you can answer the child’s questions as you read, instead of having to do this while you read, interrupting the story.[8]
    • If you are allowing the child to pick the book out themselves, you can distract the child and flip through it for a moment before sitting down to read.
    • Try making suggestions to the child if you see a title you are already familiar with.
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    Plan when and where to read it. Decide on a fun place for reading the story ahead of time and designate this area as the “story spot.” Repeating reading times in this same place will teach the child to associate that area with reading, allowing them to look forward to story time. Make sure that the area suits your needs for reading books aloud, depending on how you like to conduct story time.[9]
    • Set aside about 15 minutes at a time for reading out loud.
    • If you like to sit and hold the book up for the child to see, make sure you have an area wide enough for the child to get comfortable and see the book.
    • If you like the child to sit next to you and look at the book with you, turning the pages themselves sometimes, make sure you have a couch or bench long enough to fit both of you.
    • A comfortable chair like an easy chair or rocking chair is suitable if the child will sit in your lap as you read.
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    Introduce the book to the child. When you sit down to read, show the child the cover of the book and read them the title and author. Point out interesting portions of the cover art, and ask the child what they think the story may be about. You may even want to offer a reason why you selected this book in particular.[10]
    • For example, you may choose a book because you think it will be fun, such as having a character in it that you know the child loves, or because the story was one of your favorites when you were a child.

Method 3
Learning Why It’s Important to Read Out Loud

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    Decide to help children develop language skills. Reading is one of the most important keys for language development. Reading out loud teaches children what words are supposed to sound like: it teaches them to connect sounds with letters. The more words a baby hears, for example, the broader their vocabulary at age 3.[11]
    • Yes, you can simply talk to your infant to boost how many words they hear, but reading gives you words so that you don’t have to think of things to say, and it teaches the baby new words.
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    Try to create a positive view of books and reading. When you read to your child one-on-one, it adds to their perception of reading as a positive, nurturing activity. Not only that, it has been proven that reading out loud helps children cope with trauma. Reading out loud helps children return to reading later in life, both because it reminds them of happy times with parents and because it helped them through a hard time.[12]
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    Attempt to build a foundation for success in school. Difficulty reading leads to failure in school, which of course leads to problems later in life. Exposing children to reading even before they can read exposes them to words and experiences they would have never received in daily life, which lays the foundation for them to be familiar with concepts they will later learn in school.[13]
    • Failure in school leads to social problems like delinquency, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse.
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    Try to give a child social context and knowledge. Reading out loud familiarizes children with experiences they would not otherwise be exposed to, giving them knowledge before they ever enter school. It also teaches them to have a bigger vocabulary, which can help them get further in life.[14]
    • For example, teachers tend to pay attention to kids who have better reading comprehension than the rest of class, and often provide them with access to books at higher levels of reading, giving a child more knowledge than other students.
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    Be a role model. Reading to a child provides you with an opportunity for a child to look up to you because when you are excited about reading, a child will be too. You set the example for your child to become a reader, and when they engage with reading over time, they turn to you for help.[15]
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    Try to encourage a child's imagination. Reading out loud provides children with a world they can imagine, even when the book already contains pictures. Books give children ideas, characters, and settings outside of their experience, which they often will explore when playing “pretend.”[16]


  • Make sure that you are enjoying the story yourself as you read.
  • Take your children to the library for story hour.
  • Read slowly enough that the child understands you but not so slowly as to be boring.
  • Let the child hold the book after you finish reading, if you have chosen a position where you have been holding up the book so the child can see the pictures.


  • Make sure that you aren't too loud or aggressive when reading characters who are bad, such as monsters or dinosaurs, so that you don’t risk scaring the child.

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Categories: Preschool and Kindergarten