Thursday, November 08, 2007

Reading Aloud to Children: Reading the Montessori Way

NAMC montessori teacher reading aloud to children
So, when do I start reading aloud to my Montessori child? The answer is simple: as soon as possible! After all, Maria Montessori believed that the sensitive period for language development is between birth and age six.

What better time to start reading aloud to your child than when he is in the sensitive period for language acquisition?

Reading Aloud to Children: Reading the Montessori Way


Reading Aloud to Infants and Toddlers
  • Begin by having the baby sit on your lap, your arms around him. This full body contact promotes the positive emotional aspect and bonding of reading aloud.
  • Around 6 months of age, babies become less passive and more interested in mouthing or teething on the book. Offer him a small teething toy to keep him occupied during your reading sessions.
  • Around 8 months of age, babies become more active and enjoy turning the pages. Encourage him to do so when it is time. This helps develop active listening skills as he begins to anticipate the end of the page.
  • Around 12 months of age, babies are able to listen and point to objects on the page. They also begin to make animal noises (moo, oink, baaaa) on cue.
  • By the time they start walking, babies are constantly on the go. Choose your reading times wisely, perhaps before a nap, and enjoy snuggling up to this now quiet wonder.
  • Begin with picture books, with relatively few sentences per page. Then, gradually add books with more text as your child matures.

In The Read-Aloud Handbook, storyteller Jim Trelease offers these suggestions when reading aloud to children.

General Read Aloud Tips at Any Age
  • Remember, reading aloud does not come naturally to all people. It is a skill that needs practice and development. Babies and toddlers are a very forgiving audience, but you may need to practice if you will be reading to older children.
  • Read with lots of expression. Change your voice when reading dialog. Adjust your pace – slow down when it’s suspenseful or speed up when it’s exciting. It might sound silly to you, but children really enjoy a story with a lot of emotion and inflection. I’ve even had children tell me “that’s not the voice you used yesterday” for certain characters.
  • Don’t rush! Read slowly enough to let your audience form pictures in their minds.
  • Expecting children to sit still and be passive is not always the best choice. I used to get frustrated with my son because he’d be playing with his trains while I was reading to him, or he would get up and walk around. It wasn’t until he started asking questions pertaining to what I was reading to make me realize this kinesthetic activity was actually helping him listen actively and more attentively than if I had insisted on him sitting still. I frequently allow children in my Montessori classroom to color, draw, knit, or sew quietly while I’m reading. This keeps their hands busy and their minds alert.
  • Encourage older children to read to younger ones in the home or your Montessori classroom. This is not a substitution for an adult read aloud, however, since the adult is the primary role model.

Reading aloud to children facilitates their readiness for formal reading instruction in four areas: oral language, cognitive skills, concepts of printed words, and phonemic awareness. Development of these skills provides a strong foundation to support literacy development during the early school years (Allingtion & Cunningham, 1996; Hall & Moats, 1999; Holdaway, 1979).

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As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, November 8, 2007.

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