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Story time means more when adults read 'with,' not 'to' kids

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Kevin Wolf/AP Images for Macy's

(Read caption) Story time: Washington Redskins' Leonard Hankerson, right, and Jay Brown, a representative of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) host story time at Macy's Metro Center in Washington, June 29, 2012.

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While we discourage kids from interrupting in general, letting kids engage in discussion while we’re reading with them may be the key to raising a reader while providing more positive family experiences, according to a new study from Kansas State University.

Reading the study conducted by Bradford Wiles, an assistant professor and extension specialist in early childhood development at KSU, I came to the conclusion it may be time for librarians and parents to put away the bag of “Shhhhh!” and find ways to channel that effervescent curiosity.

The study on emergent literacy draws a distinction between reading “to” a child and reading “with” a child.

“Children start learning to read long before they can ever say words or form sentences,” says Professor Wiles. “My focus is on helping parents read with their children and extending what happens when you read with them and they become engaged in the story,” Wiles is quoted as saying on the KSU website.

Reading “to” is just simply reading the book and a whole lot of shushing from the reader, according to the university's website. However, reading “with” means having adult readers pick up these cues from children and using them to ask them questions to fuel discussion.

As a children’s book author who has read aloud “to, with, for” and sometimes “at” children in schools all over the country for the past 14 years, many a child has raised a hand, bouncing up and down with enthusiasm begging to ask a question in the middle of a tale.


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